Before True Believers became enamored with ‘Jessica Jones’ on Netflix earlier this month, they first traveled to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Hell’s Kitchen with the Man Without Fear in ‘Daredevil’ back in April. Since its release, the series has been praised for a number of things such as great characters, intense action, and interesting villains. But now in our latest exclusive interview for ScienceFiction.com, we talk to someone that brings all three of those things together.
During the recent Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, our very own Ben Silverio moderated an intimate panel discussion with ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Falling Skies’ star Peter Shinkoda. Following his appearance on the Asian Americans In Television panel the day before, the actor took the stage in front a nice crowd to discuss his various projects, his experience in the entertainment industry, and his hope to see a larger presence of Asian faces in film and TV in the near future. But naturally, the conversation led to his time with Matt Murdock, Wilson Fisk, and that memorable sequence where his skillful ninja adequately kicked the crap out of the hero before meeting a rather fiery fate. Though we only share two questions from the event here, the answers are definitely filled with plenty of information including Peter’s long history with Marvel Comics, the casting process that lead him to the role of Nobu, the movie magic surrounding his battle with Daredevil, and the part on the third season of ‘Arrow’ that he turned down to join the MCU.
ScienceFiction.com: Well, now that we’ve mentioned it a couple of times, let’s talk about ‘Daredevil’. How did your journey as Nobu begin? Was it an extensive audition process? And were you a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe before you joined it?
Peter Shinkoda: It wasn’t extensive as far as how much input in the process. There wasn’t that much effort put into it. It wasn’t that hard. Just reading a lot of times. I’ll get into that in a second, but as far as Marvel Comics, I was a huge, huge comic fan. I spent all of my allowance growing up buying Bubblicious and comic books. I was buying ‘Star Wars’ making of books with little pictures. Making of ‘Back to the Future’. Making of ‘Jaws’… ‘The Jaws Log’! I had all those books. I was quite immersed in pop culture, specifically movies and comic books and I was absolutely a Marvel fanatic. Spider-Man was my favorite superhero and then it was Daredevil. Now that I’ve appeared on ‘Daredevil’, I thought about why I chose those. Spider-Man was obvious because he was funny and witty, but Daredevil had The Hand presence there. Subconsciously I gravitated to that. I noticed in my collection of comics that I accumulated from when I was a kid that I had Godzilla in there, I had lots of ‘Master of Kung Fu’, I had ‘Shogun Warriors’, and I had a lot of ‘Daredevil’ in there. Anything with Asian content in it, I had it. I know that it was because I was Asian, but I didn’t know that I was struggling to relate to something. So when I got the gig, I’m not suggesting that I was The Hand, but that was definitely the starting point for me. I suspected that they’re going that way with the Nobu character, so I have previous information and a lot of ideas that existed since I read those publications as a child.
As far as getting the role, to tell you the truth, they were casting out of New York. I read for a character named Wesley. I didn’t know what it was, but they said it was a new Netflix show. I got the material and it was about five pages. It was long and wordy. Long, long, long, long. I already knew about the Netflix deal that they had with Marvel. That was already news. There were big press conferences out in New York. But as I read it, I realized after a few minutes that it was ‘Daredevil’ because I knew who Wesley was and he was talking legal stuff with two guys. They changed the names of those two guys, but not Wesley. This was Wesley from the ‘Daredevil’ comics and he was talking to Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson. I knew that, so I called my reps and they did some digging to find out that it was indeed ‘Daredevil’, but it was called ‘Bluff’ at the time. ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’. Get it? Clever. So when I found out that it was ‘Daredevil’, I put in 110%. I read pages and pages and pages and pages, then I went in for my audition. Maybe 48 hours later, [casting director] Julie Schubert’s office got back to my reps. They said that they loved what I did, but I had to read again. They forwarded me two more pages with new material and this time it said Hachiro. It was a very cryptic scene where Hachiro sits beside a cop in civilian clothes in a park and he subtly threatens him. He has a computer and he shows this off-duty cop his daughter in a park and an assassin watching her. Hachiro can off her by just making one call to this assassin, so he ends up blackmailing the cop into killing Deborah Ann Woll’s character Karen Page in her cell in the middle of the night. When I read for that, I did my little cryptic Nobu thing reading for Hachiro and then that was it.
Two or three days later, they gave me a call and they were pretty much ready to give me an offer and were asking my availability. But in that two to three day delay, I went to read for ‘Arrow’ over in Burbank for [the part of Maseo Yamashiro, Oliver Queen’s Hong Kong handler and Katana’s husband, which] my friend Karl Yune ended up getting. When I read for them before I got any feedback about ‘Daredevil’, they start to ask my availability to fly to Vancouver. My reps told them that I was highly considered for something else. When they asked if it would conflict, we said it was Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ in New York and it was shooting at the exact same time and they were like, “Whoa jeez hey…”. Everybody festered on it for about a day. We started looking at the finer details like pay and time and how many episodes. [There was] my love for Marvel and the character. Two or three days before that, Rosario Dawson was added to the cast. Vincent D’Onofrio was cast two weeks before. It was shooting on location in New York. A lot of factors went into my decision. I knew that Marvel doesn’t drop the ball. This is an A-list cast and to be amongst them would be huge huge for my career. I weighed all that against going to Vancouver, Canada and acting with a bunch of really good looking people. It was very attractive too. It was a big episodic contract, but in the end I decided that professionally and personally it was the best choice to go ‘Daredevil’.
But I didn’t know who this Hachiro was or what he was going to be about and I only found out about two or three days before shooting. This is a good story. I finally got a script. I’m in New York and I got the pilot script and I’m flipping through it. I have a long history of playing characters that don’t speak much but are great men of action. I would love to do monologues, but they just want me to shoot people or kill people all the time and be killed. So when I got it, I get to the scene where I’m introduced. I’m on the 30th floor of this incomplete building in the Meat Packing District or Hell’s Kitchen somewhere and we have this big villain summit up there. I’m reading that and I’m looking for Hachiro through the whole thing. There’s no Hachiro, but I finally see this Nobu. The physical description is exactly me, but there’s no Hachiro. It just says that he’s grimacing, he’s pissed, he hears everything, he’s looking around. This is Sunday night and we’re supposed to start shooting on Wednesday. I called my reps livid and said, “I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to be doing in this show, but I don’t think I’m Hachiro anymore. We need to get to the bottom of this. There’s a character that seems like he’s me, but he’s not saying shit anymore. I have a case here. I can back out of this deal. I’m not playing this grimacing Asian guy again.” The production got back to me personally that night and they explained to me that it’s going to develop into something more with more material. They said that they were playing it close to the chest, but it’s going to be pretty cool, especially episode nine. I took it with a grain of salt and showed up on the day.
Even then it got a little funky because I’m standing up there with this guy Phil Abraham, who’s directing it. I’m standing there with Wai Ching Ho, the lovely classy woman playing Madame Gao, and the two Russian fellows and some other actors. We’re all standing up there and I still had no information about my backstory. All I knew was that I was a Japanese guy that worked with Gao. I didn’t know if I liked her or hated her or if I was plotting against her. I don’t know if I like the Russian guys. I don’t know what kind of dealings I’m having with the Wesley character or Leeland Owlsley. I don’t know where I’m coming from. All I know is that he’s pissed and he hears everything. I actually asked because this was a weird way to work. Lots of times people like Daniel Day Lewis will get all this information one year beforehand. I had nothing. I didn’t know if I was good or bad. These are the things that you need to perform any part. I go to Phil and ask what I’m doing and he goes, “You’re doing great. You look slick. You’re like Yakuza and you’re pissed. ACTION!”. I kinda felt like an idiot but I had to trust them. This is when you put your utmost trust in a director that they know what they’re doing and they’re somehow deceiving you into the right performance. You hear those stories where a director will say some shit to fuck you up and they’ll roll the camera and get the performance. It was one of those times, so I just trusted fully. This was one of those things where an actor’s performance was made in the editing room. They took all the clips of me snapping my head and looking around all the time even though I didn’t. They made it look like I was hyper-sensitive and hyper-attentive to everything that was happening around me. They made that whole scene. I knew enough to pull it off. The rest was in their hands and they pulled it off.
SF: One of Nobu’s most memorable scenes was the fight against Daredevil in the warehouse. With a background in martial arts, what were some of the most challenging parts of filming that scene for you? And how much of that scene was you and how much was a stuntman?
PS: It was pretty good, right? I thought it was pretty epic. When I read it, it read really well because of the way it was staggered throughout the episode. I thought it was brilliantly written, so I was very excited to go there. I had a few other scenes in that episode and we shot those early on. But for the last five days of the eight day shoot, I’d have to show up at five or six in the morning. I’m gonna give away some movie magic here. I hate to do it, but honestly I went in and did as much as I can. One of the days there was me and three other guys dressed as ninjas. These three specialists were brought in. I would do as much as I can like all the dialogue when we’re circling and a bunch of the hand stuff with a couple of kicks, but they brought in three other guys to do certain things. One guy was a tricker, the kind of guy who could do tricks and tumbles and stuff. This guy’s like a monkey jumping around and doing flips off walls and tables. Then there was a couple of big arial kicks launched off tables or pillars. The stunt coordinator Phil Silvera did those. I probably could pull them off, but I probably couldn’t land them. I’d sprain my ankle or break a rib or something. And finally there was a third stuntman that burned up. They flew him in from LA. He actually holds the record for the longest full body burn. It was incredible to watch. To answer your question, I did as much as I could. There’s some dialogue while I’m fighting, a lot of the hand work, the up close and personal grappling, and a couple of kicks, but there were specialists brought in [for the rest]. There’s no shame in admitting that because those guys are amazing at what they do.
The PAAFF ’15 crowd certainly loved Peter Shinkoda and the energy that he brought to the events that he appeared at during the festival. They really enjoyed the stories that he told and his insights into the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, he didn’t talk about the details regarding his top secret upcoming projects, but he did mention that he would be appearing in an indie western sometime soon. However, if you’re looking to check out Shinkoda’s work, you can always revisit Marvel’s ‘Daredevil’ on Netflix. After all, you probably need something else to binge now that you’ve finished ‘Jessica Jones’.
What did you think about Peter Shinkoda’s stories about playing Nobu on the popular Marvel Television show ‘Daredevil’? Do you think that he made the right choice in turning down DC Entertainment and ‘Arrow’ in favor of taking on the Man Without Fear in the groundbreaking first season Netflix series? Let us know in the comments below.