If Sylar were around, he’d surely covet Miko Otomo’s power: The flashiest new “Evo” on Heroes Reborn can transform into
a videogame character. Kiki Sukezane, who plays Miko, isn’t intimidated by all the stunts and motion-capture work. After all, the Kyoto, Japan, native has been practicing the “tate” style of sword fighting — in which participants spend hours honing their movements before ever touching a blade — for six years. The samurai-inspired style resonated with Sukezane, who has samurai ancestors. (The surname “Sukezane” can be traced back to swordsmiths from the 13th century.)
“Fighting is hard work,” she admits — but performing in English is even tougher, especially when Miko heads to America to join the rest of the drama’s threads. Sukezane moved to L.A. in 2012 and scored an audition for Heroes Reborn, practicing her English by watching the original series. Acting isn’t Sukezane’s end goal, though: She wants to raise her profile in order to do humanitarian work.
For now, she’s just glad Heroes is offering a way to get there—either in human form or as her virtual alter ego. Sukezane spoke with EW about landing the role, the technical challenges of playing Miko, and what the Heroes Reborn cast does in their spare time.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you hear about the role?
KIKI SUKEZANE: I was going to samurai swordfighting classes in Santa Monica, and I didn’t have an agent or a manager but there was boy, a student, who comes to take the class. His mom was a friend of an NBC casting director, and the casting director was looking for a Japanese girl who could do swordfighting. And then the boy’s mom asked me if I wanted to audition. They asked me to send an action reel, and the casting director really liked it, I guess [laughs], so they invited me to audition a couple of days after that. They sent me two scenes and so I went in to the audition. And then they said, “Can you wait, like, 20 minutes?” And then I waited that long and they called me in again. But then there were five more people there — there was Tim Kring and all of the producers.
That must have been nerve-wracking.
Yeah, I was like, “Whoaaaaa!” [Laughs] Because that’s so rare! I mean, I’ve been auditioning, but that was the first time that happened. Usually, they just let me go home.
What did you do when you heard you got the part?
I cried, I was so happy. And then I ran around my apartment screaming and jumping around.
What were you doing before Heroes Reborn? Did you always want to act?
Well, I started to go to acting school in Japan when I was 21. After I graduated high school, I was working a lot of jobs, not acting, like bartending and working at convenience stores … But what I really want to do is humanitarian work. Actors and actresses do humanitarian work and inspire people, so I just want to do the same.
You come from a samurai family. What does that mean?
Oh, it’s my father’s ancestors. There are many samurais in my bloodline.
Is that why you decided to study swordfighting?
Yeah, I started six years ago, and the swordfighting was really fun for me. My teacher at the time, Takashi Kora, he was in The Last Samurai, and he was really good. It’s cool. I love swordfighting, I love the sword more than any other weapon. I feel powerful.
Your character in Heroes Reborn is certainly powerful. Do you have to do stunts and motion-capture work for her videogame form?
Yes, she’s really unique. I do motion-capture for all of the moves in the game, except the flipping. There’s a stuntwoman who does the beautiful kicks and flipping. I try to do all of my action, but I can’t really do flipping, it’s too dangerous. But I do all of the swordfighting and I do wire action for the show.
What is doing all that like?
It’s really weird, but at the same time, it’s such hard work. I don’t only do the voice, you know [laughs]. They put a lot of dots all over my body and there are hundreds of cameras going around to read my face, my expressions. But honestly, the first time I saw [my videogame avatar], I felt really cool, but I asked [the animators], “Does this look like me?” I was kind of worried about that.
What’s harder: the stuntwork or the acting?
Everything is pretty new for me, but my challenge is more the acting part than the stunt part. I get bruises every time I do the fighting scenes — last time, I had like 17 bruises on my body. But I’ll keep learning through what I can do right now, I just want to keep going and going. The acting in Japanese is okay, but the acting in English, I still have problems … Miko goes to America to track down her father, and so for my character, I have to speak English when I meet the rest of the cast.
How did you prepare for that?
When I was in Japan in high school, I was watching Heroes, so I knew what it was and I really liked the original Heroes. I only watched season 1 when I was in Japan, so when I got this role, I watched everything, just in case! [Laughs] It was fun. I mean, I don’t really know why people say that season 3 and 4 are bad …
I’m sure watching the original show also helped you connect with the rest of the cast in the U.S.
Yeah, we’re close. They’re so nice — Jack [Coleman], Robbie [Kay], Ryan [Guzman], all of them — we’re all really good friends. We go out a lot, to eat, or to the movies together. We even do poker night! [Laughs]
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Heroes Reborn airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.