After an eight-year hiatus, Erika Sawajiri is back on TV as a leading character in a serial drama.
Titled “First Class,” the drama is about the fierce rivalry among women working for a fashion magazine. Sawajiri plays a woman who starts as a part-timer but gradually pushes her way up.
“I feel like I’m finally back in my favourite place,” Sawajiri, 28, said with a broad smile. “I really enjoy the filming, too.”
She was away from show business for some time following a series of scandals, including her much-criticised behaviour at a premier and troubles over her divorce.
But this year, her career is back on track. In addition to the TV drama, she now appears in TV commercials and is scheduled to star in a film titled “Shinjuku Swan,” to be released next year.
“Now, I feel so positive about doing anything. I’d like to repay my fans with my acting,” Sawajiri said.
Sawajiri’s performing skills have long been recognised.
Last year, she was named one of the five best actresses in a leading role at the 36th Japan Academy Awards for her performance in the 2012 film “Helter Skelter.”
Yet, given her acting in the 2005 film “Pacchigi!” (We shall overcome someday) and the superb performance she gave as a girl struggling with an intractable disease in the 2005 serial drama “Ichi Rittoru no Namida” (One liter of tears), her fans and others had the feeling she is an actress who can do more.
The new TV drama is expected to give her the chance to fully show her potential.
In “First Class,” Sawajiri plays the role of heroine Chinami, who is hired as a part-timer at a fashion magazine’s editorial office. It portrays the process of a woman pushing her way up, challenging the magazine’s despotic female editor and other colleagues.
“Though Chinami is interested in fashion, she doesn’t have much money [to spend on clothes] because she works as a part-timer,” Sawajiri said. “But there must be ways to dress up simply yet fashionably without spending much. I want to rack my brains [on how to do that]. I want the viewers to enjoy watching her become a gorgeous woman.”
What drove Sawajiri away from the centre stage was her terse attitude in a premier showing for the 2007 film “Closed Note,” in which she played the leading role. During the event, she continually answered “Be-tsuni” (I don’t care), to any questions directed at her, which drew a huge media backlash. This led her agency to terminate its contract with Sawajiri.
“There was no reason [for my behaviour],” Sawajiri said. “I was simply in a bad mood. Looking back now, I think I was just being childish. Back then, I was too overwhelmed to think about my responsibilities. I was not being a professional when I caused so many problems for those around me. But looking back, I think it was a good experience [that helped me grow]. I was immature.”
Coupled with troubles over her divorce from a man she married in 2008, she stayed away from show business for a few years. After an extended stay overseas, she tried to make a comeback then but failed. But she never forgot acting. In fact, her passion for acting grew increasingly stronger day by day.
“I swore to myself I’d be back [on the centre stage] no matter what,” she said. “I thought I would be able to put up with anything and do anything in order to act again. This zeal supported me. Now, I don’t care whether the roles I play are leading or supporting ones. I just want to act. I’ll take any roles that I’m asked to take. Or, rather, I’d love to do anything now.”
“First Class” airs on the Fuji TV network on Saturday nights.