The next level of the games is about to being as Alice in Borderland season 2 premiers this winter. As we wait in anticipation for the next chapter in the death game, we were also able to interview Tao Tsuchiya, the lead actress who plays the main heroine Yuzuha Usagi.
Tao Tsuchiya has been acting since she was in high school and has since gone on to appear in a number of movie and TV productions including several manga adaptations such as My Little Monster, Policeman and Me, and Orange, all in the lead roles. Her most well-known part however was playing Makimachi Misao in the live-action Ruroni Kenshin series.
In this interview, Ms. Tsuchiya told us more about playing Usagi in Alice in Borderlands as well as what fans can expect going into the second season (without any spoilers of course).
How did you prepare for the character since Usagi in the story is super athletic?
“How I prepared for the part was basically, my character has lost her father and she has issues with society but by meeting Arisu, her emotions become richer. She’s a character that has never experienced martial arts or combat so when she is in combat or in a battle her movements can’t look too cool. So instead of trying to accomplish cool movements or action sequences, I always want to put her emotions behind her. That’s how I prepared my part”.
The first season was filmed in 2020 during the pandemic season. Now that the pandemic situation is cleared, do you feel any different during the shooting process?
“We had a protocol where we had to measure our body temperature and we always had to wear masks but during rehearsal, it can be rather difficult to wear masks and deliver lines because we can’t see each other’s facial expressions and the nuances so that was rather difficult to do.
The basics haven’t really changed, there was no suspension while we were working on it so I’m very relieved that we were able to have that experience”.
The director has hinted that season 2 of Alice in Borderland will have its own distinct identity away from the original manga. How faithfully do you guys want to be to the original work?
“We want to be faithful to the original manga but once the story is turned into live-action, we can’t really bring the message directly into this type of art format without some changes. We have our facial expressions and that may not be in line with the original manga’s perspective. It is important to naturally act but we always think of what is the meaning between the lines or dialogue”.
What is it like working with the rest of the crew and cast members of Alice in Borderlands? Were there any memorable moments that you remember off the top of your head?
“On set, the atmosphere is very calm and mellow. The story we are working on is very intense but everyone is very calm. There was even a time I brought dinner to the set. I brought lots of food and I was watching from behind when the director was eating and he was watching his laptop. He was reading the world news and simultaneously, he was designing the next shots so seeing his multitasking, I was very impressed.
There was one time when we were shooting on the tallest building in Shibuya at 5:00 in the morning and the crew was very sleepy at the time but the actors were dressed in rags like we were about the die any minute. Then at that moment, we burst out laughing. I’m sure the crew members couldn’t understand why we were laughing that hard. This is such a tough world that we are trying to portray, so for a moment, we just bought into the laughter”.
With the storyline of your character in season two, were there any particular themes that you felt you had to prepare more for or you found particularly challenging?
“In season 1, Usagi is disappointed in society and doubts people so she’s pretty much aloof as a character but in season 2, by meeting Arisu she cares about other people and she has this feeling of first love. Usagi felt that she was alone but her scars start to open and she shows her vulnerability, anxiety, and her doubts and I had to express that. There’s also the physical activity part which was also difficult to act on and portray as her”.
What can the audience expect with the games in season 2? Are they more physical or do you have to use your mind more? Without going into spoilers.
“It’s about 50/50. About half of them are psychological games and the other half are physical games. There’s a lot of portrayal of these mind games and it’s like you are in a different world. The crew even told me it’s fun to go back and forth between these two kinds of games because they’re very different. I think there’s a good balance between the two.
The character Chishiya partakes in one of these types of mind games and there are a quite few scenes where this character is discussing the value of life so I really encourage you to take another look at that”.
How did you mentally prepare for Usagi’s role? Was it difficult compared to last time now that she has become more emotionally mature and where did you draw your inspiration from?
“When we were shooting season 1, we were all feeling that we all want to survive in this entertainment business. We all wanted to continue acting so we had this sense of impatience when working on the project.
When we came to season 2 though, we were a lot calmer. We were talking about what kind of shows we would like to be a part of and we were talking about our new hobbies so we had these types of communications and we were talking about creating a good show. We weren’t really thinking or saying “oh, we have to do this or we have to create this in a certain way” but I tried to be as natural as possible and I just tried to be there on set and do what I have to do on set”.
As actioned pack as season 2 is, it’s almost very emotional. What was your favorite scene to film and why?
“I love episode 7 and I love the fact that we all assemble and there is this comradery where we help each other and we take action. We have characters like Kuina and Ann and I’ve known them [the actresses] since they were in their teens. For Kuina’s actress, we have worked together on other projects and we did this dance drama for eight months so it was very pretty unbearable seeing her suffer through the death games”.
How does it feel to be in the shoes of such a strong female character for the second time?
“What I like about Usagi is that she’s not only a strong character, but she also has her weaknesses. She has this feeling of love and because of that when I was playing her, I also wanted to have this sense of love”.
There’s certainly a lot to look forward to with Alice in Borderlands Season 2. From what we’ve gathered in the interview, it’s good that despite all the violence and death happening on screen, the actors and crew seem to have a time and calm time while shooting. Usagi and Arisu’s relationship and development are definitely a large part of the series’ appeal, giving audiences characters to route for and want to see survive through the games.
We wish Ms. Tao Tsuchiya the best of luck with Alice in Borderlands Season 2 and all of her future projects.
Alice in Borderlands, featuring Tao Tsuchiya as Usagi is available for streaming on Netflix.