TOKYO - Affectionately called "Aiba-chan", Masaki Aiba is beloved for his goofy personality as a member of pop group Arashi. The protagonist he plays in his latest TV drama, Yokoso Wagaya E (Welcome To Our Home), is an equally soft-hearted character, and it looks as if the role he is playing is a reflection of his own personality.
"It's as if I'm bringing out the weak part within myself when playing this character," Aiba said, adding with a laugh: "I feel like I've definitely seen some unlucky guy like him before."
Born in 1982 in Chiba prefecture, he has enjoyed success in the entertainment world since his debut in 1999. As an actor, he has appeared both on TV and the silver screen, including the TV drama Mikeneko Holmes No Suiri (Deduction by Calico Cat Holmes) and the film Miracle: DeviClau-kun No Koi To Maho (Miracle: Devil Claus' Love And Magic).
The new drama revolves around a timid designer named Kenta. After he scolds a man for cutting in line to get on a train, his family are harassed in their home. With help from his father Taichi (played by Akira Terao), reporter Asuka (Erika Sawajiri) and others, Kenta begins to fight the invisible enemy.
Terrified by the shadow of a stalker, the bonds of the family are put to the test. At the same time, Kenta sometimes feels frustrated with his father, who is a somewhat weak character himself.
"This was a very difficult part, which made me feel at a loss (about how I should perform)," Aiba said.
But he sensed the protagonist is feeling a bit guilty about still living with his parents at age 29.
"I thought that even if he feels (guilty about it) somewhere in his mind, this is not the usual way people express such feelings. I hope I'm expressing his complex feelings properly," he said.
Aiba said he received great advice from veteran actor Terao.
"He's teaching me a lot, like what he felt at my age and how I should go about acting," Aiba said. "I'm learning a lot about life from him. He acts like my real father."
When asked about the most terrifying experience he's ever had, he said he had some scary experiences when he was sent to haunted places for TV programmes.
"I had so many psychic experiences at such sites, such as the cameras' batteries dying or a stone flying towards us," he said. "I really hated it."
In the TV drama, the protagonist has a younger sister, played by Kasumi Arimura. If he had a younger sister, how would he treat her?
"I'd probably dote on her," he said. "I love my own younger brother, but if I had a sister, I would always worry about whether she had a stalker or some other horrible problem. I would probably be overprotective."
Last year, Arashi celebrated the 15th anniversary of their debut.
"Apart from concerts, I'd like to act at least once a year," Aiba said. "I'll concentrate on acting so that I'd be able to bring out my best each time I perform."