Hunters Season 2 sees Louis Ozawa’s character, Joe Mizushima, in a completely different place.
According to Ozawa, the decision to put his character through those changes came from a conversation he had with creator David Weil. When Weil asked Ozawa what he envisioned his character going through in Season 2, Ozawa responded that he needed to “go through it all.”
I recently had the chance to chat with Ozawa about his character’s journey on Hunters, what it was like working with Al Pacino, and his other upcoming projects.
After being brainwashed and tortured, Joe winds up working for Hitler in Hunters Season 2. That’s what Weil came up with after the conversation he and Ozawa had ahead of the season. Ozawa said when we told Weil he felt Joe should “go through it all,” whatever that meant, it shouldn’t be an easy journey for Joe.
“I really don’t think it would be fair to the audience if Joe doesn’t have to go through it,” he said.
Naturally, what came of his character in the second season posed some challenges.
“It’s a tricky thing, as an actor. What does it mean to be tortured and go through regimented brainwashing via torture or various different measures? How do you tell that story within the context of our bigger story? And how do you with an efficiency of storytelling? We have so many characters in our show, and we don’t have a whole season dedicated to Joe’s indoctrination and how he gets pulled out of it,” Ozawa explained.
“It was tricky to find that moment where you find him. He’s already in this state and, as an actor, creating where that state is and then where it breaks apart. You see moments where you see the old Joe pop back in throughout the season, and then there’s finally a moment where it’s like, oh, we finally see Joe again.”
“That moment was most beautifully illustrated when Joe sees Roxy for the first time. It’s not the most typically romantic kind of scene, but for me, it was like time stopped,” Ozawa recalled.
“Tiffany and I are standing maybe 25, 30 meters away from each other. But our eyes locked. It was the way Phil shot that scene, it’s just like he emphasized, ‘This is going to be an unnaturally long kind of moment. It’ll feel like a split second but also feel like an eternity.’ I think, I felt like we captured that.”
Even still, Joe’s story doesn’t end with him returning to the group.
“I think we left it open-ended because I don’t think we thought, I don’t think that Joe would immediately return back to the group. It didn’t seem right. We discussed that, that his debts were paid once he helped the group capture Hitler and that was it.”
“His journey is on a way to heal his soul and that’s reflected in him riding off with a motorcycle,” Ozawa continued. “We played with a number of endings, and it just didn’t seem right for Joe to be back with the group just yet.”
Hunters Season 2 does offer a satisfying ending with Hitler’s trial — a reimagining of historical events that Ozawa considers to be cathartic.
“From the beginning, we talked about this show being wish fulfillment. It is a bit of a fantasy based on historical, some historical facts and historical figures. But it’s a way, maybe, for people to feel some catharsis when you see Hitler on trial. A way, a kind of justice that millions and millions of Jewish people were unable to witness or to have that kind of result. So to be able to capture that and to do it in a way that felt authentic, however that may be.”
Ozawa also said it feels “invigorating” to be a part of a story “that is actually saying something.”
“Our role in World War II, our culpability, also, during World War II, what we’ve done to Japanese Americans, when we decided to step into World War II — all of these things are being erased from our history books right now. The mass incarceration of Japanese Americans, that’s being erased. There are people, Holocaust deniers, as well, out there,” Ozawa said.
“It seems like this is more and more on the rise right now, and so we need to reinforce these stories and continue these stories.”
“It is a tricky place when you’re in a show that’s this violent and it’s about vengeance and justice, that we have to… We have to remind the audience that, at the same time, this is wish fulfillment. This is a metaphor. We don’t go around doing this in our real life. I’m not a vigilante and I’m not a proponent for people going out and seeking out vengeance in this way. There is a toll to that and there’s a toll to the violence that’s inflicted. I think that was something that I emphasized to David, that Joe has to pay the price for everything he’s done,” Ozawa said.
“I just want to emphasize that this violence is fictional and this is definitely about wish fulfillment.”
There are a lot of things Ozawa said that made him proud when it came to the series, from the storytelling and the effort that went into shooting it to the incredible cast members he was able to work with.
“I’m most proud to be able to work with all these wonderful actors — Kate Mulvany, Carol Kane, and, of course, the legend, Al Pacino, who I grew up idolizing. For my generation, it was either Al or Robert De Niro,” he said.
“My first introduction into acting was a teacher who taught The Method. These were the guys that we looked up to and the guys who did it best. All these years later to be able to not only consider him a colleague but a friend — what an opportunity and a dream. It’s definitely a bucket list-type experience that I’ve had.”
As for upcoming projects, Ozawa can soon be seen in Jack Ryan Season 4. “I’ve been shooting mostly in Budapest, Hungary. Hopefully, that’ll come out within the next year. It’s going to be a wild ride. I can’t say too much about my involvement or my role, but I think I play a pretty significant role in the season,” he said.
“It’s fun. John Krasinski and I have known each other now for, I don’t know, going on over 20 years. We played in a fantasy football league. This will be our 20th year coming up.”
Ozawa also stars in Pachinko, which recently started filming Season 2.
“That in and of itself is such an ambitious show. It’s shot in three different languages. Multiple dialects within that, several different time periods. It’s so epically ambitious that I’m surprised more people aren’t watching this show. I think they will. After all these awards that this show has garnered, I think people need to come back to this because there’s nothing on television that’s like it.”
*Featured image credit: Diana Ragland
Hunters Season 2 is currently streaming on Prime Video.
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