SNAKE EYES Video Interview: Haruka Abe On Joining G.I. JOE Universe As Original Character Akiko (Exclusive)

Snake Eyes star Haruka Abe talks to us about joining this iconic G.I. Joe franchise as an original character, what it means to get her own action figure, and injuries sustained while working on the movie.

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Snake Eyes follows the classic G.I. Joe character, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for: a home. But, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honour and allegiance will be tested...even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him.

The movie arrived exclusively in UK cinemas earlier today (it also landed early on Digital in the U.S. starting yesterday), and last month, we sat down for a conversation with star Haruka Abe.

In a movie full of well-known heroes and villains from the wider G.I. Joe franchise, the actress plays an original character created specifically for this origin story. Needless to say, that had to result in a lot of pressure, and Haruka talks here about the experience, Akiko's dynamic with everyone from Storm Shadow to The Baroness and Snake Eyes, and how it feels to see an action figure based on her likeness arriving in stores.

Haruka often steals the show in Snake Eyes, and this was a really fun conversation. You can check out what she had to say about playing this member of the Arashikage clan in the player below:

I know that your character is a new addition to the franchise rather than someone taken from the comics or cartoons, so coming into this project, do you feel you had a little more creative freedom?

Yes, I think it was equally terrifying and freeing because obviously being this complete newbie playing against such iconic and beloved characters was scary. Also, it did give me that freedom to create this character from scratch and really dive into the script and shape and mould the character from scratch. I think the fact she’s a new character also gave the costume and hair and makeup departments greater freedom as well because they didn’t have any visual reference that existed prior to the film. It became a really collaborative process and it was a lot of fun creating this character. 

I’ve seen that Akiko is a character with close ties to both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, so what can you tease about the dynamic between these three characters?

Right, so Akiko is the head of Arashikage security who is very, very loyal and protective of the clan. The clan means everything to her, so with Tommy, Storm Shadow, she butts heads a lot, especially over what is best for the clan. They have very different approaches to it. She’s also very wary of this complete stranger Tommy has brought home who is Snake Eyes. She’s very suspicious of Snake Eyes at first, but she’s also intrigued by him as well. There’s something about him that reminds her of herself a little bit, but there’s definitely a very interesting, complex dynamic there.

There are two other strong female characters in the film, Scarlett and The Baroness, so does she cross paths with them at all or is that something that’s being saved for the future?

She does cross paths with them. One of them more so than the other. I’m excited about having so many strong female presences who aren’t just token female fighters. I’m very excited about that.

Talking of the fighting, it’s clear from the trailers that Akiko sees a lot of action in Snake Eyes. What was that like in terms of training and did you sustain any minor injuries during the process? 

[Laughs] Oh, I think all the cast owe each other a couple of bruises at least. The training was pretty intense. We had the most amazing stunt team who trained us. We trained with them four hours a day for two months building up to the beginning of the shoot. It was very intense training, but you can’t really fake having skilled fighters without putting in the effort. So, it was a lot of hard work, but the best kind. It was so much fun. 

Akiko may be an original character, but you are getting your own action figure based on her likeness, so what is that like for you, especially in a line of toys as iconic as G.I. Joe?

Oh my God, I still can’t believe it. I’m so excited about it. I think I know what I’m getting my nieces and nephews next Christmas which is awesome. Just the idea of little kids getting to play with my character is super exciting!

Finally, I talked to Andrew Koji earlier and he spoke about how important and amazing it was to have Japanese and Asian representation without cliched or stereotyped characters. For you, was that important signing on to make sure your character was authentic as opposed to what we’ve unfortunately seen in past films?

Absolutely. Absolutely. Akiko is a such a strong presence. She’s not passive and she doesn’t need rescuing. In fights, she can stand her ground and then some. That kind of positive representation and presence is so important, especially in the time we live in now. I’m very excited about that too.

Snake Eyes is exclusively in cinemas from Wednesday 18th August

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