Among the many things to get excited about when it comes to John Wick: Chapter 4 is the film’s cast, which features not just the iconic Keanu Reeves but experienced action legends like Donnie Yen and Hiroyuki Sanada, who find themselves in the middle of the titular assassin’s quest to challenge the mysterious High Table for his freedom.
It also features a newcomer to the world of action, but not the global stage: Rina Sawayama, whose ascension to pop stardom began in 2017. Prior to John Wick, Sawayama had made a small appearance in the Idris Elba-starring Netflix comedy Turn Up Charlie as a recording artist. Playing Akira, the lethal daughter of a retired assassin, though, was a different level.
“She has great talent and is of course a great singer, famous singer,” Sanada, who plays her father Shimazu, tells Consequence. But she also impressed him with her work ethic: “She learned a lot quickly — a great learner, and then very humble.”
Sawayama told Billboard that her casting in the film was “honestly like a Hollywood dream situation”:
“I’d been doing self tapes in the background for a couple years. I’ve never actually landed anything. I came very close, though, actually getting The Matrix, which is a whole different story. I actually got a called out of the blue from Chad Stahelski, the director. He said, ‘I’m trying to find this role and I’ve seen your music videos, and I see that you act and I can see that you do dance and choreography and fight scenes… What are you doing for the next three months?’”
When first asked about working with Sawayama, Sanada calls her “my daughter,” referring of course to the relationship between their two characters. But, he adds, “We tried to spend time [together] as much as possible, to create the father and daughter bonding.”
Fortunately, the rigorous training involved in bringing the film’s epic fight sequences to life gave them plenty of opportunity to get closer. “Every day we had stunt training together,” he says, as well as a daily reading session for the dialogue, where they would “try different approaches for each scenes… ‘Let’s stand up, move freely or, okay, next time, [faster], or next time, slower.'”
This meant, he says, that “when we were on set the first day, we already felt like a real father and daughter” — a vibe you can feel, watching the two of them together on screen. “She was, you know, a great Akira herself. And she’s done very well in this movie, so I hope she’s going to continue acting in the future.”
And that might be a possibility even within the John Wick universe (no spoilers, except to say… stick around for the film’s post-credits sequence). As director Chad Stahelski tells Consequence about the franchise, “I could watch a Common one, I could watch a Halle Berry one, I could watch a Shamier Anderson one, I could watch a Hiroyuki Sanada one, I could watch a Donnie Yen spin-off. I could watch any of those movies.” And with at least two spin-offs on the horizon already, anything is possible in Wick-world.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is in theaters now.