EXCLUSIVE: Hiroyuki Sanada (The Twilight Samurai) and Cosmo Jarvis (Lady Macbeth) have been tapped as two of the three leads in Shōgun, FX’s limited series based on James Clavell’s bestselling novel. Sanada and Jarvis will play the male leads, Yoshii Toranaga and John Blackthorne, respectively, in the project, which tells the story from both a Western and Japanese perspective.
Written by Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo, Shōgun is set in feudal Japan. It charts the collision of two ambitious men from different worlds and a mysterious female samurai: John Blackthorne (Jarvis), a risk-taking English pilot major who ends up shipwrecked in Japan, a land whose unfamiliar culture will ultimately redefine him; Lord Toranaga (Sanada), a shrewd, powerful daimyo, at odds with his own dangerous, political rivals; and Lady Mariko, a woman with invaluable skills but dishonorable family ties who must prove her value and allegiance.
The series’ third lead, the role of Lady Mariko, is currently being cast. In the highly rated 1980 Shōgun miniseries, the parts of Blackthorne, Toranaga and Mariko were played by Richard Chamberlain, Toshiro Mifune and Yoko Shimada, respectively.
Sanada’s Yoshii Toranaga is a living legend. He is a powerful daimyo from a feared lineage, isolated and outnumbered by his enemies in Osaka Castle when the story begins. But little does anyone realize that Toranaga is a brilliant strategist, a master of the long game, and the holder of Japan’s ultimate fate.
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Jarvis’ John Blackthorne is a restless English pilot in search of a destiny far from the world he was born into. His mission is to forge a path into the Pacific islands and disrupt Portuguese and Spanish interests in Japan. But Blackthorne finds more than he bargained for when his ship washes ashore within the territory of Toranaga, a deadly warlord who becomes his captor and spiritual mentor.
Counterpart creator Marks wrote the FX adaptation with his wife, Kondo, who is of Japanese descent. Marks executive produces with late author Clavell’s daughter, Michaela Clavell. Kondo co-executive produces. Shōgun is produced by FX Productions.
FX greenlighted Shōgun in summer 2018. Several months later, as the series was in active pre-production, the network put the project on hold.
“We just said, we need to slow down, and we’ve got to aim higher,” FX chairman John Landgraf told Deadline at the time. Marks and Kondo came on board in spring 2020 for what Landgraf described as “a big re-adaptation.”
Shōgun is targeting a summer productions start. Originally, the plan was to film a significant part of the series in Japan, which is likely no longer feasible due to the pandemic and the Summer Olympics.
Sanada is currently seen in Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead. He also appeared in Mortal Kombat and will next be seen in Minamata. In TV, he most recently recurred on HBO’s Westworld. He is repped by CAA, Axon Entertainment, Lighthouse Entertainment and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.
Rising Brit Jarvis got his break in acclaimed UK drama Lady Macbeth and, as we revealed, was recently cast opposite Dakota Johnson in Netflix and MRC’s Jane Austen movie Persuasion. He is repped by The Artists Partnership, UTA and Morris Yorn.
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