POPULAR GIRL: KAREN FUKUHARA
Sep 4, 2020
Popular Girl Karen Fukuhara first sliced her way onto the big screen as the fierce Katana in 2016’s Suicide Squad, fighting for justice. More recently, however, she’s tearing up the screen as ‘The Female’ aka ‘Kimiko’ on the Amazon Original ‘The Boys’ which returned for their second season today!
Killing it on the small screen as well, the actress is featured on Netflix as the voice of the eponymous hero in Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts and ‘She-Ra and The Princess of Power’. In the titular role as Kipo, her character explores a world in a post-apocalyptic society, overrun by mutant animals, to find her father. The show is adapted from the 2015 webcomic and is produced by DreamWorks and animated by South Korean studio, Mir. Also on the heel of its second season, the show is notable for its LGBT+ representation and diverse cast!
Prior to serving looks and wielding swords on the screen, the Japanese-American actress and Los Angeles native first made waves as a host on the Disney Channel mini-series ‘Movie Surfers’. Karen is a graduate of UCLA, where she was a part of their a cappella group, UCLA Medleys, and served at a reggae themed sushi restaurant.
Popular TV caught up with the actress to chat about her film training, and how she tackles tough scenes.
1. Tell us about your character ‘The Female’ in the Amazon Original.
The Female is a young assassin with blistering fighting skills who happens to have superpowers and uses them for explosive evisceration. She enters the picture when Frenchie, played by Tomer Cappon, rescues her from captivity. Her need for survival is even harder to achieve because she has lost the ability to speak.
2. How is it being ‘The Female’ on the set of ‘The Boys’?
She’s The Boys’ face-tearing, eye-gouging, bone-crunching muscle. In Season 2, we’ll see another side of this silent killer – her search for her family and self-expression reveals that she’s not just a super-powerful weapon to be activated at their whim. I hope everyone will be able to see her humanistic side, even more, this upcoming season as Kimiko, and not just “The Female”.
3. Whether it’s voice acting or theatrical you always tend to lean more towards action-packed roles. Is this done on purpose or do these roles naturally just come?
Actually, it’s a total coincidence that my career has leaned towards action-packed roles! I absolutely love the genre and feel incredibly lucky to be welcomed into the community. I hope I can continue down this path, but I also have a long list of genres’ I’d love to work on. Recently, I’ve been drawn to family comedies and rom com’s (The Parent Trap, Sleepless in Seattle) that stand the test of time. I’d love to be a part of something that can stand the test of time!
4. From Suicide Squad to The Boys, what does training look like for getting in shape for roles like this as well as what your fight training looks like
Both projects have been incredibly generous in providing me with whatever resource necessary in order to create the look, strength, and ability of the character. There are usually 3-4 people that I work closely with – my fitness trainer, stunt coordinator, stunt double, and expert. In the same order, for The Boy’s: David MacInnis, Tig Fong, and Irma Leong. Each person on this team helps create The Female, and I mean this quite literally. Tig choreographs the stunt scenes, then informs my trainer David who spends weeks to months helping me build the correct muscles so that I am strong enough to play those scenes. Although I attempt to do as much as I can, I have to give credit to my kick-ass stunt double, Irma, who makes all of the difficult dangerous action beats look incredible. She has been with me through 2 seasons of The Boys and Suicide Squad, and she’s now a great friend and rock to me on set. In Suicide Squad, I had to learn how to wield a sword, so I trained several hours a day with Richard Norton, our fight coordinator. I love and miss him so much! As you can tell, I get very excited about this topic because I think anything physical brings people together. If you think about it, that’s why team sports create deep, long-lasting friendships!
5. Aside from fight training, you also trained/learned sign language for the upcoming season! What were the challenges you faced with that?
One of the challenges with Kimiko’s sign language was that it was completely made up. It’s a secret language between her and her brother so it didn’t leave room to do any improv. I worked with Amanda Richer, who was also the sign language coach on Shape of Water, and I truly believe I owe a ton of my connection with Kimiko in Season 2 to her. Not only did she create the made-up language, but she also shared her own experiences as a deaf/hard of hearing individual in a speaking society. Her stories opened up my eyes to the privileges I take for granted day-to-day. It’s the small instances that I glaze over because I am the majority. What is it like to be in a crowded room? How would I pick up the phone? What does it feel like to be at someone else’s mercy, every single time, because if they choose not to listen, you are truly silenced?
6. What does a day of prep look like for voice acting vs acting?
The prep for acting can vary per scene, but for voice acting, I always do warmups in the car before going into the recording booth. The vocal cords need to be prepped in case I need to call out for Bow or scream my way down a cliff!
7. What was life like as a UCLA Medley?
Life as a UCLA Medley consisted of rehearsals 3 times a week in addition to performances. Medleys A Cappella is a community service-based a cappella group, so we performed at hospitals, retirement homes, charity events, etc. We had a whole mix of students come together to share our love for people & love for music (our motto) – we’ve had pre-med sopranos to English major beatboxers!
8. Do you approve of Catra being Adora’s partner?
YES!! I was screaming at my TV during the final season. I knew it was coming (obviously, we recorded it) but it was still such an iconic moment.
9. How will you deal with Hordak? He has wreaked havoc for so long, but his memories are sort of gone. Do you trust him?
You’re right, Hordak has wreaked havoc for a really long time. He’s caused Glimmer a lot of pain and normally in the real world, the trust would be hard to build there. But what’s great about the world of Noelle’s She-Ra, is that every character has a chance to redeem themselves. Personally, as soon as we discovered Horde Prime, I started to sympathize with Hordak. Everyone deserves a happy ending.
10. How did you get involved with ‘Off Their Plate’ and what can you tell us about it?
When the world began self-isolating, I felt I needed to step up for our community. This is ironic because we were all physically socially distanced, but at this point, there was this sense of “we’re in this together”. It didn’t matter what ethnicity you were, or what your political beliefs were. We were fighting against the same evil and this banded us together into this unwavering force. I started thinking about what I could do for other people. Many of my friends work in healthcare and seeing their Instagram stories about the reality of their days got me thinking about what I can do to help our front line workers. I got in contact with the emergency and ICU of LAC + USC Hospital to see if I could donate supplies or food. That same week, I got a call from my friend who I hadn’t really spoken to since middle school. She asked if I was interested in working with an organization called Off Their Plate to do a meal delivery to hospitals. I kid you not, I was so shocked and happy to hear from her, I mean…the stars just ALIGNED! This was especially exciting because, in addition to their meal drop-offs to front line healthcare workers, OTP provides economic relief to restaurants, fed BLM protestors in Seattle, and now provides meals to food-insecure populations in our 9 markets. I had been feeling like I wouldn’t be able to make a big enough impact, and working together with them has allowed me to give more. I pitched the idea of a fundraising video and this just came out August 2! It’s in collaboration with Chef Kenji Lopez-Alt, Miki Ishikawa, Olivia Sui, Adrianne Ho, and moderated by yours truly. Link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2od6BAnpCU
11. As an actress, how do you keep your skills sharp while at home?
That’s been difficult especially without a scene partner at home. I’m currently taking online classes, but virtual lessons don’t live up to doing scene work with a partner.
12. What is a question you wish you got asked more in interviews?
What is your dream role? Christopher Nolan directed an epic film scored by none other than Hans Zimmer…or Ryuichi Sakamoto
13. What does popular mean to you?
When we were younger, I think popular meant mainstream. But today, the definition has evolved. Popular means you possess a trait that someone else admires – whether it’s Jack Quaid’s ability to make every person he talks to feel comfortable in their own skin or my best friends’ abilities to be extremely intelligent A+ members of the workforce but also total comedians by night.
14. Are there any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
We’re renewed for Season 3 of The Boys! I can’t wait to be filming with the cast of course, but also the Toronto crew. We’ve become one big family – I miss the everyday banter and delirious weirdness that comes out during night shoots!
You can watch “The Boys” on Amazon Prime and it’s a great plan for the weekend :)