Rio Uchida interview article in “Kamen Rider Drive Character Book: Volume 2 Tomodachi” (English translation)

Backing up heroes, that was Kiriko’s and my mission

My last appearance was in the final episode where I had received a written invitation to be alongside the others in the waiting room (in the special investigation section of the station). Even though it was my final appearance, the final scene shooting didn’t feel lonely. Actually I was just relieved that during the final shoot nobody was injured, there were no accidents, and I could finish out the show by saying, “Thank you for your work this year, thank you all so much.”

My honest feeling from the final day of shooting was that everybody – the staff and the cast – all really loved Kamen Rider Drive. Although the Kamen Rider series has been continuing for a long time, for many years, it felt like the cast and staff had worked together to create a very special version of the beloved series. And I feel so happy that I got to be a part of it.

Takeryou (Ryoma Takeuchi) thought the same thing too, and Mr. Seiji Takaiwa (one of the Kamen Rider Drive suit actors) talked a lot about the role of the heroine in this series – one who had a deep relationship with the main cast members and had gained their trust for the first time in the series. Even in the fight scenes, we all wanted to talk with each other and keep up communication. It was wonderful to hear Mr. Takaiwa’s thoughts, especially since he is a veteran of the series.

There were other things I enjoyed too. At the premiere for Kamen Rider Drive: Surprise Future, when I came into the waiting room, (Baba) Fumika and the other Roidmude actors and actresses were there. I had gotten there just after the interviews had ended, and many of my friends were there. Afterwards we all went out to dinner together. Everyone came, and by the time we were on stage together it already felt like we were all close friends. Truly, I loved working on the show especially because of the other cast members I had the fortune to work with.

Honestly, I was so happy to get to know everybody. And I think, “I hope I see everyone again”. Because we have a bond from working on “Drive” together for a year, I believe we’ll stick together in some way another, no matter what changes in our lives.

To be a Heroine

I think part of Kiriko’s appeal is that she’s kind of clumsy, but she’s straightforward and honest with people. At her core, she’s very determined, and once she decides she’s going to move forward she does it. Her relationship with Chase and Shinnosuke is complicated, but I think she believed in them both in her own way. When she said that “The Kamen Riders helped me during the global freeze”, I believe she made her feelings known. Before Chase became Kamen Rider Chaser, (Shijima) Gou asks, “Why?”, meaning, why did she trust Chase so much? Well, I think viewers knew why without her saying a word. In episode 26 when she became one of “the three”, she worked hard to set everything back to how it was before.

In the movie “Surprise Future”, Kiriko asked police councillor Shinji Koba “How could a police officer not trust another police officer?” Her personality didn’t change from the first episode to the movie, nor to the final episode of the series. Seeing Kiriko being herself in the movie and staying true to the TV version, I thought – “That’s a nice present for Kiriko”.

On the other hand, in my personal life, I’m pretty clumsy when it comes to my love life. It’s a mess (laughs). It was a lot of fun for me to portray Kiriko despite that gap. In the 44th episode I had read in the script that there was going be a love triangle between her, Chase, and Shinnosuke, and as we filmed it I felt my heart pound. When we shot episode 43 we had filmed a few scenes ahead of time for the same effect. I was told by our director, Mr. (Hidenori) Ishida to “do as you like” while filming the scene, so that it would be more authentic…of course, he’s also the same person who told me that I could be “more destructive” throughout the series too! Anyway, because of that advice someone ended up taking a cup of water to the face (laughs). It was thanks to our director’s help that I was able to shoot the scene well. I try to be flexible, like Kiriko, but actually during the shooting I kept saying, “I’m upset!” because no love triangle scene has happened in my life yet.

Because there had been a few scenes up until that point in which Kiriko acts pretty comically, it was a joy to portray the character towards the end of the series because it was so different. After we were all done I made a big cake for everyone – and I said “This is how much I love you all!” (laughs) Everyone said, “Oh Kiriko, you’re so cute!” and stuff like that in response.

As a police officer, Kiriko has incredible physical ability, and since she’s always been on the front lines the “fighting heroine” element has always been strong with her since the beginning of the series. By the time the series wrapped up, I felt like her character had also transformed into her being “everyone’s mom” and “everyone’s home base”. I tried to stay true to this character change as much as possible. To play her as both as a heroine and also as someone’s mom (laughs). For example, in the 44th episode, when Kiriko receives her love confession, it was tough to portray. Each of the characters was very persuasively acted in my opinion, and lots of people love Kiriko as a character. So it took a lot of effort to play a character that you love, without projecting your own feelings and emotions of how she should be when you act the character. She’s the kind of character who everyone loves, and who “everyone wants to protect”, but Kiriko never knew how Chase felt about her until he told her to her face…so she can be a bit spacey…

At the same time, at her core, Kiriko protects other people, and she’s really a strong person. Even if she couldn’t always be on the battle front lines, she was an amazing assistant and support character. She was always taking care of everyone whenever an emergency came up. So I tried to portray her feelings like that until the last episode.

In the final battle, even though she was injured, Kiriko ran through the battlefield. I know that she was praying for everyone’s safety but when she saw the others injured, she couldn’t help but run to them. In episode 46 after Gou and Chase defeated Gold Drive, she was still there. I think she regretted that she couldn’t be there for the moment that those two characters suffered the most. I think if she could have, she would have thrown herself in front of those two to protect them. It was hard to portray that scene, and it took a lot of hard work for everyone on staff I think, to keep it all together.

After I read the script for episode 46, when Kiriko heard about Chase and cried in front of Gou, I wondered – who is this going to be more painful for? Me or crying Kiriko? I tried to stay tough, but I knew what a fog of emotion that my character was going through. When I was feeling a lot of doubt about my ability to portray the scene well, the director Takayuki Shibasaki said to me – “when you feel emotion, that’s when the rest of the audience does too”. After that, I just couldn’t hold back anymore and I cried while filming the scene. As a sister, Kiriko was worried for her brother, but she was also devastated by Chase’s death. At the same time, Kiriko tries hard to keep a stiff upper lip so she can protect Gou. She knew that would have been Chase’s wish too. More than just portraying Kiriko’s “sense of responsibility”, I also wanted the audience to get the sense that she was taking care of others the way a mother raises a child.

In the 47th episode, after the Roimudes are all gone, I thought that Kiriko was especially stronger than ever. She’s a human being who always have the heroes’ backs. When we first started filming “Drive”, one of our directors, Mr. (Ryuta) Tasaki, said, “The heroine must always back up the hero – he must be the one waiting to receive power so he can change the world”. As soon as filming was over, I understood what he meant by that. Even though Gou and Chase are the main heroes, Kiriko was their key that allowed them both to power up.

In episode 40, Gou says “you’re a strong girl” in one of the scenes, with his back turned. In that scene, I think Kiriko was acting more like a mother than like a sister (laughs). In the year that I was acting as Kiriko, I kept thinking – “How can I be a better supporter?” “What’s the one thing I’ve got to do?” and so on.

One of the things I cherished was “Kiriko’s smile”. One of her strong points as a heroine was her kindness, I think. So I tried to make sure she was smiling in many of her scenes. By the end of the 47th episode, all of the staff members were looking forward to seeing Kiriko’s smile. However, when she laughs, everybody thinks like “oh, she’s cute”, “she’s nice”, and it became impossible to portray anything else…(bitter smile)

I think doing things like that really improved my ability to portray Kiriko. Because I was Kiriko, I tried to minimize any distance between myself and the cast and the staff. It is thanks to the creators of “Drive” like (Riku) Sanjo, who created the character Kiriko, and all of the screenwriters, that I was able to have this experience. I’m really grateful.

The World From Now On

I can say this now: the truth is that the filming schedule for the Kamen Rider series is a really tough one to keep up with it – both physically and emotionally. That’s why I know now that no matter what difficulties come, I can overcome them. I can say with confidence that I became a stronger person thanks to my experience portraying Kiriko.

I’m really grateful to the whole cast. Although we all had our ups and downs and experienced a lot of different feelings, our time together was really serious. No matter what was going on behind the scenes, each of us found the strength to put that aside as soon as we walked on set and it was time to work. I think that professionalism is part of the appeal of “Drive”, too. I hope that when we’re all older I’ll meet with the rest of the cast again one day.

I used to tell myself, “If I haven’t achieved success in film by the time I’m 23 years old, I’ll quit and try something else.” It was right before my 23rd birthday when I got the part of Kiriko on Kamen Rider Drive. September 27th was the airing of the final episode, and also my 24th birthday. I thought to myself, “This was my destiny.” Just like Kiriko was supported by the Kamen Riders, my life was changed by Kamen Rider too. I’m going to keep doing my best in my work, hoping that I can be more like Kiriko too – who knows, maybe I’ll play another police officer role one day.

“Kiriko, from now on I’ll keep doing my best!” – Rio Uchida

(Translation by Fandom Services, paid for by this blog to the benefit of all English-speaking and English-learning Kamen Rider fans.)

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