Interview: Naoko Mori chats to us about Torchwood, Everest and the Torchwood Musical that never was

As part of the Supanova Pop Culture Expo we’ve already interviewed her co-star Burn Gorman; but now we sit down with one of the leading ladies of TorchwoodNaoko Mori. Though our interview happens to take a few hilarious and spontaneous curves when her co-star Gareth David Lloyd decides to, on occasion, interrupt our chat.

Whilst the hustle of the convention is going on, we pull up a pair of chairs near the autograph tables for a sit down to discuss Torchwood as well as her recent film Everest.

“This is my very first time to Australia, I’m so excited to be here but I didn’t realize how far it was. It’s crazy how long it is but very worthwhile, I’ve got a lot of Australian friends, one of my ex-boyfriends is Australian, I’ll be catching up with him later. It’s ridiculous, all my friends had no idea I’d never been to Australia. So I’m *finally* here and I’m *so* excited to be here.”

Although Gold Coast it has a bit of a reputation as a tourist town. It’s all about the beaches and relaxing. Melbourne you’ll find is different, foodie capital, really good coffee.

“I love coffee, I used to drink it from morning to midnight. And I actually gave up coffee just before I went to start filming Everest. I was the only female cast member doing the trek to Everest, and also there are no facilities. So I was like well I have to give up coffee, which was the hardest thing to do and that’s nearly been 2 years. So I think once I get to Melbourne I might get back on it, I miss it so much.”

You mentioned Everest, from a filming perspective what sort of challenges like physically getting into shape, did you have?

“First and foremost the two biggest challenges I think is it’s based on true events so you have a huge responsibility to make sure that person’s story is told. However with Everest there’s a lot of people involved so there’s only so much you can tell of everyone’s story within a 2 hour 90 minute timeframe. But I think at the very least what it’s done is it’s made people very interested and they’ve gone to read the books and find out more about the characters. So research was a big challenge, and also the training.”

“I came onto the project a lot later than all the other guys. They were going to New Zealand and climbing mountains and doing a whole ton of trekking and climbing training. I just worked out with a personal trainer friend of mine. I spoke to Guy Cotter who is the original guide and he was saying just walk long distances, uphill with packs. So I’d put dumbbells and anything heavy from my house into my pack, so I did a lot of that. We had a week’s rehearsal where we all went into an altitude chamber and experienced that. It was just phenomenal from start to end.”

“And we knew it was going to be tough, but we didn’t realize how tough it would be because we had the elements to contend with. The altitude was very interesting but amazing. Life-changing scenery. 8 weeks or so we had in the Italian Alps, it was crazy, it was so cold and running away from avalanches every day and everything was frozen. And what you see in that film is actually real, we did go there, we did those things.

There were no chauffeurs, no heating, no bathrooms. The suffering you see, a lot of is real, no acting required. That was phenomenal, it’s a bucket list moment. I never thought in a million years I would have the chance or opportunity to go to somewhere like Nepal and Everest. And also to work with those amazing guys, Jason Clarke, Martin Henderson, Josh Brolin – who is one of my all-time heroes who I’m dear friends with now. Also it’s like being here, life is amazing, I’ve been so lucky, never thought in a million years I’d be here (in Australia), doing this, have an action figure. I mean, thank you whoever up above.”

So you’re here with the Torchwood crew, it’s been awhile since you’ve done the show, what are some of your fondest memories?

“You know we were just like family, and I think it was such an adventure for us. It was a brand new show, everything was organic, and we just got on. You hear of actors always saying “oh we had such an amazing time” but we really mean that. Even to this day we see each other and it’s just like we’re back there.”

Gareth David Lloyd: Shut up Naoko

Naoko Mori: Apart from that Gareth David Lloyd, Gareth Lloyd David, yeah *starts laughing*

GDL: I’m trying to work here, there’s this massive line *gesticulates to a completely empty queue* and I can’t concentrate with your twittering in the background.

NM: See, see what I have to contend with?

GDL: I had to put up with you for 7 years and now you’re here. *sarcastically huffs*

Is Gareth the younger brother or older brother?

NM: Gareth is like the adopted son, the foster.

GDL: The abandoned son

Switching from positives to negatives now, what were the challenges for you on the show?

NM: Oh we had this one actor who was in the show who had a double-barrelled surname, oh he’s not even listening now *starts laughing at Gareth

GDL: *muttering something inaudible behind us*

We always hear of actors say there’s long hours, but from a performance point of view, for you as an actor you were playing a scientist, did you ever trip over the terminology?

NM: I’m very good at tripping over, both literally…

GDL: She would trip over everything. Terminology, steps…

NM: Anything, anything, honestly, I’m very good at tripping over nothing. I’m very good at tripping over lines. I had a lot of technobabble. The other guys were very supportive in the sense they would laugh in my face, every time.

“I think of course yeah long hours but that’s to be expected on jobs like this. But there were intense times, especially when we were in The Hub. It’s like cabin fever, it’s a 360 set so you are in an actual Hub. And you’d be in there for 12 hours and sometimes you’d be like I just need to get some air. But all that I think translated on screen, and I hope that the joy we had and the fact that we all got on came through on the screen.

Torchwood was a team thing, it was a family thing. And with any kind of family you go through tough times, you go through bad times, you go through great times but we stick together. And we still do.”

Through the show there was an on again / off again did it / did not happen with Tosh and Owen, do you think their characters got closure and redemption in the end?

“Yeah, completely. I think I speak for a lot of girls, obviously Tosh was a bit of a late bloomer. She was very studious and academically driven and brilliant at her job. It was an interesting one with Owen, because I think she did have feelings for him. But it wasn’t just feelings of love or romantic love. But it was really because they were team-mates too, so she cared deeply for him and he cared deeply for her.”

“I love the fact that they didn’t get together, didn’t physically get together, and in a way that makes it more interesting viewing as well. I remember that it was incredibly hard for both of us, it really tore us up that we were leaving, and people were saying “I can’t believe their killing characters off”, but that was good as well because it just showed how dangerous it was and that the stakes were high.”

Gareth told us about an awkward moment with John Barrowman’s snot dripping into his face. You had your moment of dying in Captain Jack’s arms, you didn’t have anything awkward like that happen to you?

“All the time. Every day. It’s amazing what you get used to, and you kind of miss it after a while. But John is a very special man, and what’s lovely about him is he is exactly who he is, and what you see is what you get.

He is a great man, with a lot of energy. I’ve known him for a long time because I’ve worked with him before. He’s never changed but he’s very naughty, he has a very naughty side. I couldn’t possibly share it with you. It would be unprintable. It’s one of those things, you get used to it, and it’s the camaraderie and anything goes in a way.”

During the panel on Friday night you mentioned you’d done an audiobook called Zone 10, can you please tell us about it?

NM: “OK so it’s called Zone 10 …. *starts giggling*

GDL: “*in the background holds up a piece of paper at us that reads “Just Shut Up”*

NM: “OK that’s Gareth being incredibly rude as always. We’ll talk about Gareth, lovely things about Gareth, he’s nodding. Uhhh what was I going to say?”

“Oh yes, It’s Tosh going on a little adventure. I believe it’s a standalone audio-book-story. I believe it came out last week, I think it’s available here. You just need to go to the Big Finish website and download it. And I think you can buy it in CD form as well with a cover – but yeah it was so interesting to do it.

I’d been told about it a long time ago. I got incredibly nervous actually because it had been a while. And I do love Tosh, and I was nervous that maybe I might not find her again. But the minute I started getting back into it, it just snapped back. But I really hope we can do it as a cast, because these were just stand-alone ones with individual characters.”

From a performance perspective, because there’s no visual, how do you change your style?

“There are certain things you have to remember, there is no visual like you said, so you just have to paint a picture for everyone. Obviously you have the foley and sound effects guys, but you just need to use your voice a bit more. It is a strange thing, I’ve done a couple of radio plays quite a few years ago, and it’s always slightly odd.

You only realise when you do radio plays that you do use your face and hands to express – body language – and you’re robbed of that in a way. So it’s always an interesting exercise.”

You learn from the other actors that you work with, what would you have learnt from being with the Torchwood team?

NM: “I think I learnt more from Gareth, because he really is, he is the master of acting.

GDL: “I’m a chameleon.”

NM: “A comedian?”

GDL: “A CHAMELEON.”

NM: “You do, you always learn, and you learn from the characters too which I love. But it was such a joy working on Torchwood.”

It would be safe to say that if you had the opportunity to reprise Torchwood you would do it again, though it’s a bit hard considering your character has died off.

“Oh absolutely. Well there’s ways of bringing her back, there’s prequels …We used to joke about doing Torchwood the musical.”

It’s a very musical bunch, Gareth’s in a band, Burn plays drums, and we all know John is basically a triple threat. Would that have been something that you would have considered had the show not been so dark?

“Oh my god. We used to joke about it all the time and we would actually kinda write songs and have such a laugh doing it. It would’ve been great but it would’ve been very very difficult – but hey, they did make Titanic The Musical.”

They did a Buffy The Vampire Musical episode there’s a lot of shows that have done it, they don’t necessarily do a whole series, but they do an episode. So what would you have done?

“Tapping away at the computer and singing my inner thoughts, my love song to Owen. My inner monologue in song, maybe pining after Owen. Have maybe a row of Weevils tap dancing behind me. But we used to come up with silly songs like “Let’s go to The Hub” where we would come up with silly re-naming and re-writing songs.

Tosh, I think it would’ve been nice to see her inner side, you kinda saw a bit of that in the episode “Adam” where there was like a role reversal, a thought experiment kind of thing which was fun. That would’ve been funny.”

It sounds like you had so much fun on that show, it’s always hard to come off a project like that and move on to other things.

“It’s very rare, I’ve done series before, and you come away with if you’re lucky a handful of good friends. But this one we’re all still a family, even the crew.

We have a crew member living in Brisbane, Keith who was on the camera team who has now moved and living in Brisbane and we were in touch the other day. We’re all still in touch. It’s like a big family!”

Naoko Mori will be appearing as part of the Supanova Pop Culture Expo this weekend at the Melbourne Showgrounds Friday 15th, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April.

For more information visit the Supanova website, to buy tickets click here.

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Carina Nilma

Office lackey day-job. Journalist for The AU Review night-job. Emotionally invested fangirl.

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