Yuumi Kawai Boosts Presence With Acting Prowess; Actor Talks about Deciding on Career in High School

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yuumi Kawai / Kawai was born in Tokyo on Dec. 19, 2000. Following her debut in 2019, she received numerous newcomer awards. She has appeared in various films and TV dramas. She has also taken part in theatrical productions, such as “Drive in California” written and directed by Suzuki Matsuo. She will take on voiceover for the first time in the animated film “Look Back,” which will be released in theaters on June 28.

“Who is she?”

Many viewers must have wondered who played Junko, a delinquent high school student who deeply loves her father in the megahit TV miniseries “Futekisetsu nimo Hodo ga Aru!” (“Extremely Inappropriate!”) that was broadcast on the TBS network.

The role was played by Yuumi Kawai, who before this worked mainly in films. The 23-year-old made her debut just five years ago but has already won accolades from creative staff and fellow cast members. What are the reasons for their praise?

Gazing into her mysterious eyes makes you feel like she is looking right through you. That fits the image of Rena, the cool, 19-year-old detective Kawai plays in the TV mystery drama “RoOT.” The show airs on the TV Tokyo network at 12:30 a.m. on Tuesdays. “RoOT” follows Rena who works at a detective agency and Sato, a rookie at the same agency played by Ryota Bando, as they become involved in a major case while investigating the background of a suspicious taxi driver.

© P.I.C.S./Kazuya Konomoto/RoOT Partners
Yuumi Kawai plays Rena, right, with Ryota Bando as Sato in “RoOT”

Kawai is gaining more opportunities to play leading roles, yet she receives them with equanimity.

“Rather than delving further into [the role of] Rena alone, I also think from the perspective of what I should be doing while other characters are around,” she said calmly.

Although she looks composed, she feels the pressure. But not for exactly the reasons you might expect.

“I feel under pressure more for the sense of responsibility that I have to deliver for this series than for my place [in the story].”

Her words confirm that she puts great effort into improving her performance by having an overview of the whole picture.

‘I can have a dream’

Yuumi Kawai in “Futekisetsu nimo Hodo ga Aru!” (“Extremely Inappropriate!”) / The drama’s script book, written by Kudo Kankuro, is available for ¥1,900 plus tax. DVD and Blu-Ray discs for the miniseries will go on sale on Aug. 28 (Released by TBS with support from TBS Glowdia; Distributed by TC Entertainment, TBS Sparkle / TBS).

Kawai grew up with her parents and two younger sisters and was surrounded by songs and films daily.

“I was the kind of kid who could only concentrate on one thing, without thinking about the consequences. For example, I would gaze at a stone or a leaf that caught my interest, and I couldn’t help but try to do something with it.”

Kawai liked performing, too. She started taking lessons in hip-hop dancing when she was a third-grade elementary school student. She also joined the dance club at Tokyo Metropolitan Kokusai High School and often performed in front of people.

“During my school life, I had many experiences of showing what I’d been creating with others to the audience and getting their reaction, so I wanted to get a job in that field,” she said.

Before she knew it, she was considering going down the acting career path.

At first, she planned to attend a university’s general department as a fallback before starting auditions. However, this suddenly changed in September of her third year in high school. She switched her goal to joining a university’s theater department and, at the same time, applied to and was accepted at an entertainment agency. So why the change?

At the time, Kawai was rehearsing her homeroom’s homage to the musical “A Chorus Line” for her high school’s cultural festival. Then she happened to watch the Broadway version of the musical in Tokyo, which strengthened her convictions.

“I thought, ‘I can have a dream after all,’” she recalled.

However, she worried she might not get many chances if she joined an agency with many girls her age because she was a latecomer to the show biz industry. So, she searched the internet and found her current agency, Dongyu Inc., which managed only a few artists. The move shows her shrewdness.

Kawai has been building a successful career since making her professional debut. Yet her basic feelings about being an artist have not changed.

“The desire to become someone else or to completely get into something doesn’t come first. What matters very much [to me] is the experience of spending time with others and endeavoring to create together as well as the sensation of seeing our work reach someone,” she said.

Kawai said she searched for a way of approaching her roles and productions.

“I watched various people and copied their ways bit by bit, so I tried something new each time. It’s like I’m gradually figuring out which way suits me most,” she said.

It seems that her childhood nature of focusing solely on her interests and enjoying analyzing and studying them has come in handy.

Naturally and freely

Kawai has masterfully played difficult roles one after another. Now, she would like to take up the challenge of playing the role of a musician.

“I’ve always wanted to sing or play an instrument. I have a feeling I’ll get such a role someday,” she said.

Although she is also interested in foreign productions, her ideal style is being able to casually switch between working in Japan and abroad rather than shift her base to outside Japan.

“Before wishing to become a good actor or improve my acting, I’d like to be someone who can be grateful for everything I come across. Without that, I can’t act or find [things to express from within myself],” Kawai said.

Day after day, actors should carefully look at those around them as well as themselves to deepen their thoughts. When performing, instead of pushing themselves, they should naturally exist in their roles. That is Kawai’s view on actors, and she is only 23 years old. Her thoughts give a glimpse of why she is highly sought-after today.