Here’s part 3 in our SFAF series with an interview with Gaku Space who plays Young Gouki, the Ansatsuken student of Master Goutetsu. An up and coming talent from Japan, he’s co-starred in well known TV shows such as “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS) and “Shake It Up!” (Disney Channel). His movies include, “The Passion” (2009), “It’s Jennifer” (2011) among doing other stage plays and notably will soon be working with another “Street Fighter” legend in his own right – Sonny Chiba!
We found Gaku to be quite a reflective and refined individual as he reveals the important role he undertook laying the foundation for what he’s eventually to become: the mysterious, formidable Akuma! Let’s read on!
Hi Gaku nice to meet you, tell us when you were born and from where do you originate?
Hi Raj, thank you! I was born on the 7th of July, 1979 , in Tokyo, Japan.
What is your height and weight?
I am 5’10” (177 cm) tall and weigh 76kg.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
When I was young, I really wanted to be a professional baseball player because my dad played for the Tokyo Giants, so he made me practice a lot from 6 until about 18 years old. When I was 15, I was selected for the Japanese All-Star Team and went to the US to play baseball, however, in my latter teens my interest in it began to decline.
So how did your acting career develop, did you do much physical training?
Sometime after baseball, I travelled around the US, marvelling at just how big the US really is and when I visited Los Angeles, I found I really loved it so I decided to stay, been here 11 years now! I’ve been in the movie industry for 8 years now, having taken acting classes and studying English intensively.
I did a play here in L.A. about samurai called “Katana” with the IKI production company and we invited one of the choreographers, (Keiya), from the movie 13 Assassins to assist. He’s choreographed a lot of movies now. So, I got into Japanese sword fighting, which is similar to baseball in that similar muscles are used, I’ve been doing that for a good few years now, when I go back to Japan, I train under Keiya, he’s attached to the Gocoo Stunt Team of Japan. I’ve also done some boxing-type training before.
Which figures in the martial arts have inspired you?
Recently I must say, I’ve been impressed with Joey, Chris, and Mike. Jean Paul Ly (one of the stunt guys in the movie) has got some amazing skills too, I was kicked in the back of my head, full contact, by accident though! I know some Japanese actors who do action as I did stunt training in Japan, but Joey, Chris and Mike and are on a different level. I also love the movies Jackie Chan did in Hong Kong movies, (not so much the American ones) for example, the original Drunken Master.
Now onto Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, how did you become involved?
Joey had a stunt-coordinator friend in LA and asked him if he knew anyone that might be suitable for his Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, to play the young Gouki. I was contacted and sent in my video which showed my acting skills mentioning that I also could box and do sword fighting, and speak both English and Japanese, then shortly after, I landed the role!
Had you been a “Street Fighter” video game fan prior to your involvement with “Assassin’s Fist”?
I always played Blanka or Guile. I would just put the opponent in the corner, and repeatedly do the special leg move and destroy my opponent so I guess they’d get pretty annoyed with that tactic!
What are your views on the two previous “Street Fighter” movies?
Hollywood changed the story! For example, I don’t know how Guile ended up being the lead, the leads have to be Ken and Ryu. Those films may be entertaining, but they don’t tell the story properly.
In the series, you play the role of Gouki, who later becomes the darker character of Akuma, can you tell us more about your role?
Gouki is pure in his intent to be strong. He was traumatised that his mother was killed, and he was always worrying that he couldn’t protect her this is why he wants to be strong to protect the person he loves. Then Sayaka appears in his life, so wanting to be strong to protect her, he has to leave her to be able accomplish his single-minded purpose.
What can you tell us on becoming Akuma?
You can see Gouki struggling with his own internal weaknesses; mentally and emotionally he’s fighting himself. With all the compounding hardship and sacrifices he elects to go through you can get a sense of why and how this happens, resulting in Akuma…
What did you have to learn or train specifically for the series?
I had to really learn how to kick and Mike Moh (who plays Ryu) actually helped a great deal in teaching me. I’m not flexible at all, so you don’t see me doing high kicks, but I’d do regular daily stretching. I also had to learn the Ansatsuken kata, so I did that thoroughly as well as training kicks and punches on the heavy bag. The early 20’s Goki that I portray in SFAF is more about power, so you’ll definitely see the punches. I’m getting into kickboxing these days, I’d like to take more lessons, though I might not reach the level of Mike, Chris and Joey, as they’ve been trained from very young.
By the way, I must mention that I got a real boost from Togo Igawa, he guided and mentored me giving a lot of advice along the way. He helped to get the most out of my acting resulting in an improved performance. I respect and admire him; he’s amazing and one of the most successful Japanese actors around. I’d like to follow in his footsteps.
What can fans expect from “Assassin’s Fist”? How will it differ from past adaptations of the “Street Fighter” series?
I think it’s true to the real story regarding the several layers of character for instance behind Ken, Ryu and Gouki. Many fans probably don’t know much about Akuma’s background and it’s great to highlight those elements. So, it’s not just an action film, it’s got a good story, action and drama combined with a revamped soundtrack!
What other Street Fighter character would you fancy playing?
Imagine me playing E. Honda, I’d need to gain about 300lbs though! (laughs)
Which actors would you like to work with in the future?
Hopefully, we’re going to make a film with Sonny Chiba! He’s in his late 70’s now and he’s still really energetic and still loves talking about the history, honour and royalty of Japan and the Japanese spirit! (laughs). Denzel Washington and Jason Statham -he’s really professional down to earth always on time, doesn’t drink and stays focussed.
What is a typical workout for you?
For me, it’s a combination of shadow boxing, weight training, kicking and punching the heavy bag, running and swimming. I’ve been a certified personal trainer for 7 to 8 years now. As mentioned, I also practice sword fighting, I do enjoy working out!
What do you like to do to recover from a particularly strenuous period of physical activity?
Sleep! I need to sleep 9 hours a day, if I don’t, I’ll need to take a nap. I think that also helps me keep a youthful appearance, eating fish also helps.
What kind of diet do you follow?
I have a pretty balanced diet actually, I eat almost all Japanese food. I can’t eat fast food like hamburgers and fries! I take protein yet I don’t cut carbohydrates too much as I need the fuel. If you cut the carbs you lose water, so yes, weight goes down, but you don’t necessarily lose fat. If you exercise and eat properly, that’s more balanced and I only drink on special occasions.
Which foods do you find help you remain at your energetic best?
My favourite food is Japanese curry. You can cook everything together, rice, meat, vegetables, it’s easy to cook as well. I also drink protein smoothie-shakes.
What’s one geeky thing that people don’t really know about you?
I don’t do any social media, no Facebook or Twitter. I only do phone, email or Skype. I don’t like people who exaggerate themselves through social media. I neither like doing or seeing that. People can definitely find me on IMDB, there are some details there.
If you could be a superhero, who would you be?
I would be the Japanese cartoon character Goku from “Dragon Ball”, and in the west, Superman!
I just listen to the radio when I’m driving. I like daydreaming and using my imagination, I think that it’s good for actors 😉 I like observing people’s behaviour and the way they conduct themselves.
“Braveheart”, “Slumdog Millionaire”, “The Family Man”, “Notting Hill”, “Love Actually”. I think many English films are awesome! All the actors are amazing because they’re well-trained, two of my teachers are from RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in England, so my acting I think, is more in the English mould.
What in life do you really:
I love my family, including nieces and nephews which I try to see as often as I can. So family, that’s the most important.
War, conflicts over nationality, race and religion.
What would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?
Well, when I first came to the USA I couldn’t speak English, I had no acting experience, no money and no friends. With hard work, now I feel very fortunate to make a living for myself as an actor.
What are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I would like to work internationally, perhaps get an agent in London and even start producing films. I’d like to pave the way for other good actors, Asian or otherwise as I know what it was like to struggle and many foreign actors who perhaps don’t speak perfect English, don’t get the breaks. If I can create opportunities for them to get into the industry that would be great!
What special message would you like to share with Kung-fu Kingdom readers and your fans around the world?
I’d like to say thanks so much for following us and I hope you enjoy watching Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist. I would also like to say, whatever dreams and goals you’re most passionate about, keep pursuing them and you’ll get results – just keep on going!
Is there a quote or phrase that has helped you become what you are today?
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity, always be prepared and disciplined.
Thank you Gaku it was really interesting speaking with you, we wish you massive success with SFAF and can’t wait to see your performance in it when it’s released this Friday! We look forward to your movie with Sonny Chiba, please convey our greetings to him!
Great Raj, thanks for this and we’ll keep in touch!