Birthplace: Gardena, California
Middle name: Tomiko
Height: 5' 5"
Blood type: A
Only the Brave (2005)
Role of Eleanor "Ellie" Takase
The Hot Spot (2005)
Role of Venus
Day of Independence (2003)
Role of "Rose"
Scream Queen (2003)
Role of Leilani
Kingston High (2002)
Role of "Katelyn"
Soap Girl (2002)
Role of "Asia"
Camp Utopia (2002)
Role of "Bongo Player"
The Source (2002)
Role of "Stacey"
1st Testament CIA Vengeance (2001)
Role of "Mika"
All or Nothing (2001)
Role of "Teen diva"
100 Girls (2000)
Role of "Baby Carriage Girl"
Eyeball Eddie (2000)
Role of "Popular Girl"
Role of "2nd Young Woman"
Role of "Jackie"
Role of "Minako"
Port Charles (2002)
Role of "Casey"
City Guys (2001)
Role of "Yasmina"
Close to Home (2001)
Role of "Becky"
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Gina Hiraizumi Interview
With a third generation Japanese-American father and a mother from Japan, Gina grew up in a bilingual California home with a love for both countries. In keeping with her multicultural roots her debut 2008 single "Unmei no Ai" was recorded and released first in Japan with a full album in the works.
On May 27, 2009 Gina Hiraizumi was kind enough to give an updated interview to Andrew from J-Pop World. All photos courtesy of Gina Hizaizumi.
You had a pretty busy year in 2008. What have you been up to lately?
I needed some time off, so I was traveling a lot. Part business, part pleasure. As soon as I returned from Tokyo to LA, I went straight over to Hawaii (shot my 2010 Calendar), then to Orlando Florida, and Monte Carlo, and Nice, France. Just settling into LA now.
In 2008 you recorded the single "Unmei no Ai" (Destiny). Tell us about the title song and how you came to record it in Japan.
My childhood friend (now known to Japan as rapper MC Hinomaru asked if I'd sing on a J-Pop song he was writing and producing. I thought about doing Japanese music before, but never acted on it. So I agreed to give it a shot, and it was fun -- a song only for the mature, grown and sexy!
The single also features the song Summertime. What's it about?
It's a fun, sexy song. It's about letting yourself loose, leaving all your worries behind and relaxing. I guess it was inspired by my constant travels to Hawaii. I wanted to somehow share the feeling of paradise - through my eyes.
In the midst of a busy and successful acting career you chose to attend New York's Juilliard School to get professional voice training. What spurred you into starting a career in music?
I've thought about it for some time, and knew it was going to be a huge risk. But, I have no regrets... it was an invaluable life experience to live in New York, and I've learned so much through an upper echelon of artists that I admire and respect. New York has a way of making you step up your game -- and you really learn to have this "all or nothing" attitude.
Tell us about your remake of Sade's song Kiss of Life.
Sade is my favorite singer in the world and Kiss of Life is my favorite song. So it's a no-brainer... I had to do it. She's so so classy, sensual, and understated all at the same time -- everything I'm about. I want her to hurry up and hear my version of the re-make. Hope she approves! :)
How would you describe your musical style?
J-Pop, J-R&B (Japanese) and eventually in the future, I'd like to do more sexy Smooth Jazz, like Sade.
Can Gina fans hope to see a full length album released later this year?
Yes, I have 2 in the works -- my Japan side and U.S. side for Hawaii, through Hawaiian Island Creations, who have been sponsoring my career for some time now. Working on both simultaneously can be hectic, but I love it this way. I love being busy.
You were born and raised in Torrance, California. You kept busy in high school with many different activities including baseball, piano lessons and theatre. What were your dreams and expectations when you were still a student?
All I've ever wanted to do was act and sing. Period. Nothing else mattered. I was ALWAYS so focused.
Your professional acting career began with roles on TV shows such as "City Guys," "Port Charles" and "Quintuplets" and in some commercials. As you paid your dues to establish yourself in the industry how did you keep motivated on your goals?
Truly believing myself and loving myself unconditionally. Being spiritually grounded and surrounding myself with positive, uplifting people. Also, knowing that I cannot do this all on my own. I've always treated my career as a business, and I'm the CEO of my brand.
I've been learning to give myself a break sometimes too -- I think it's important to have a good balance between work/life/family/personal. Being too obsessive in one area is counterproductive to the other. I have to admit, this industry is one tough one -- you've got to develop a thick skin.
Some of your many movie credits include "Kingston High," "Soap Girl" and "Hot Spot." Who has helped you most in developing your acting craft during your career?
Aaron Speiser. He was my first acting coach, a father figure and friend.
You played the role of a 1939 beauty queen named "Eleanor Takase" in the 2005 film Only the Brave. The movie tells the story of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII. Your own grandparents went through the tragic experience of having to live in an internment camp during the war. Did this bring a more personal meaning to the role for you?
Yes it did. To hear what they went through is a touching, emotional experience. My Grandparents are such strong, beautiful souls and I find it unfair that such good people are punished in this thing called war. If I could go back in time, I would switch places with them and endure it for them. They didn't deserve it, and our generation is so spoiled to have the luxuries we have.
In the film you were the love interest of renowned actor Jason Scott Lee who famously played Bruce Lee in "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story." What is your relationship with Jason like?
Life changing. Probably the most beautiful, humble man I've known and respect so much.
Tell us about Jason's documentary Living Pono.
It's about his lifestyle on the Big Island of Hawaii. It explains his philosophies, his beliefs, why he chooses to live this way and so forth. It gives a deeper, spiritual meaning to life and it will bring a smile to your face, guaranteed.
Jason makes an appearance -- again as a love interest -- in the video for Unmei no Ai. What is it like to play that type of scene with a friend?
Jason is dear to me -- a really good friend. We are very supportive to each other's work so when I asked him to be in it, he flew right in from Hawaii to support me. It was important for me to feel comfortable w/that person, to have chemistry... so it played out really well. I think our scenes came out great.
Tamlyn Tomita also appears in the movie. What was it like to work with her?
She's a pioneer for Japanese-Americans! She supports her community in ways that are far and beyond what's expected of such a busy actress. I only pray and hope that I can look as beautiful as she when I get older.
You were in the Chris Tashima film Day of Independence which also involved a WWII Japanese-American internment camp. Do you find period pieces more of a challenge than roles in a more modern setting?
No, I feel totally comfortable. I've always known I had a mature soul to me. I've always had older friends and my taste in everything have always been above and beyond. Somehow, period piece films are drawn into my life... my last films "Only the Brave" and "Day of Independence" were both. Both directors for the mentioned films have told me I have a "classic sensibility" about myself. I've played the love interest of the lead male in both of those films.
You once said "For an Asian-American actress it's so important for us to be portrayed in the right way." How do you decide what roles to take?
I think it's the gut feeling that I get -- am I inspired by this role? Do I think this role will add to telling an important story? Is it respectable? All those things play into the decisions I make. I want my friends and family to be proud of my work -- I think about those factors also. I've never been the desperate type to jump into a situation because of money or fame -- those things aren't as important in the grand scheme of things. It's all about the work.
Do you feel that being an American with Japanese ancestry has helped or hindered your acting career?
Helped! I love being Japanese-American and everything that comes with being in this skin. I've never wanted to blend in and just be another face in the crowd. To be unique is an asset. I'm not the type to sit around and complain about how there's not enough roles for Asians. You have to create it and keep breaking down the barriers.
You've been compared to people as diverse as Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson. But who are the role models you have looked up to?
My mother. Even though we have our opposing opinions on certain things, I love her more than anything in the world and I respect her so much. She has overcome so much adversity in her life and is such a strong, beautiful woman. Ever since I was young I'm told I get a lot of my militant, leadership traits from her. She's always demanded nothing but the best and has engrained that in her children.
You frequently travel between the US and Japan. What are some of the changes you've seen in both countries over the last few years?
I think the world is becoming as one. With the internet, facebook, myspace, twitter, everyone is connected. It doesn't matter where you are -- you learn that human beings are universal. The speed of communication and punctuality has given the world so much accessibility and opportunity. It's great.
What is one of your favorite Japanese foods that most Americans would be unfamiliar with?
Natto. It's an acquired taste, but I love it. It's fermented soybeans. Yeah, I know... gross, you'd think.
Tell us about the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.
It's a charity for children. I love kids. When you brighten a child's day, it makes life worth living for me. Sometimes they organize events where celebrities come out and read books to the kids or have fun activities. I just think it's the best thing in the world.
Rumor has it that your father named you after the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida. Is this true?
Do you have a nickname your friends and family call you?
"GG Star" -- I forget why.
You have a new film called "Morai" scheduled for release in 2009. Can you give us a sneak peak?
It's a Cambodian film directed by renowned Cambodian director Sam Lorn. I play "Sarah Chea," a highly dramatic, artsy, gritty role of a recovering crack addict -- a mentally unstable soul that looks to the drug/gang life of Long Beach in a place called Cambodian town. I took this role because it's an unglamorous role and I was excited to play a character that was totally opposite of me. I wanted to showcase some serious acting. I did the whole Halle Berry/Charlize Theron route and became this down and out character for weeks to prepare. I hardly answered my cell phone because I didn't want to be distracted, but my friends understand.
You have a role in the Japanese horror movie "Obake." Tell us about it.
Obake is an indie film that I did for director friend, Kurt Nishimura. It tells one of many ghost stories that have been haunting the island of Oahu for many years. I play the lead role of "Sachi," a young Hawaiian mom of two hapa kids ("hapa" means half white and Asian) and they were so cute! We shot on several locations on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and had an absolute blast. It's always been a dream of mine to live in Hawaii and pursue an acting career. Unfortunately, "Hollywood" is in LA, so I have to stay here until I can move to wherever I want, and only fly in to do the movies I choose to. That's the ideal plan.
Are you a big fan of the horror genre?
Yes, I am a huge horror genre fan. I love Japanese horror films, especially the ones by filmmaker Takeshi Kitano.
What are your personal and professional hopes for the future?
Join Lucy Liu on the A-list of Asian-American actresses, conquer Japan with movies and music, meet the love of my life, get married and have 2~3 beautiful children.
Do you have a final message for your fans?
I am truly lucky to be able to share this amazing adventure called "life" with you. Thank you for being a part of it.
For more info checkout Gina Hiraizumi's official site. Leave your comments about this interview and read what others had to say at the following link: Interview Comments