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Tao Tsuchiya on playing Usagi in 'Alice in Borderland': 'I wanted to put emotion behind her movements'

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Jan 26, 2023 2:35 pm

When it comes to shows that are centered on intense action sequences and heart-pumping fight scenes, a sad reality is that female characters don't really get to shine as much as their male counterparts.

But for the Japanese science fiction thriller Alice in Borderland, its second season has blessed viewers with not just one, but four badass female fighters.

In the lead is Yuzuha Usagi, a smart and independent young woman who, thanks to her experience as a mountain climber, is equipped with praise-worthy athletic abilities and endurance. This makes one of the few players who has a great fighting chance in The Borderlands, where people are subjected to all sorts of dangerous games.

Usagi is played by Tao Tsuchiya, who is also known for her work in the film adaptation of Rurouni Kenshin. In a roundtable interview attended by PhilSTAR L!fe for Netflix, Tsuchiya shared how she approached such an athletic yet vulnerable character.

"My character has lost her father and she has her despair towards society, and having those things in mind, by meeting [her companion] Arisu, her emotions become richer. But she's a character who has never experienced martial arts or combat, so when she is in combat or is in a battle, her movements can't look too cool," Tsuchiya explained.

She went on, "Instead of trying to accomplish cool movements or cool action sequences, I always wanted to put her emotions behind her maneuvers or movements."

Much like the show's viewers, the 27-year-old actress was also impressed by Usagi's strength and determination to keep on fighting despite the bleak situation in The Borderlands. But more than that, she also has a hidden side of her that is more complex and inspiring.

"She's not only a strong character. What I liked about Usagi is the fact that she also has her weaknesses and she has this feeling of love, and because of that, I always wanted to have this sense of love when I was portraying her," Tsuchiya said.

As the second season of the show has promised to elevate the difficulty of the games and force the characters to go beyond their limits, Tsuchiya shared that filming the episodes had been a steep mountain to climb, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic is still lingering around.

"We had our protocol where we have to measure our body temperature and we always had to wear masks. But during rehearsal, it's very difficult to wear masks and deliver lines because we we can't see each other's facial expressions and the nuances, so that was very tough to do," she said.

In contrast to the tense and dark nature of Alice in Borderland, the whole crew managed to keep the mood on the set lighthearted, which made for some goofy moments between the cast members in the middle of complicated scenes.

"We are shooting this very tough, difficult story, but there was a time where we were at the tallest building in Shibuya at five o'clock in the morning, and the crew were obviously very sleepy at that time, but we as actors were dressed in rags and we were basically like in a situation where we look like we are about to die in a minute," Tsuchiya recounted.

She continued, "But then at that moment, for whatever reason, we burst out laughing and I'm sure the crew members didn't understand why we were laughing that hard."

Alice in Borderland Season 2 premiered on Netflix on Dec. 22 with a total of eight episodes. Joining Tsuchiya in the cast are Kento Yamazaki, Nijirō Murakami, Ayaka Miyoshi, and Aya Asahina.