Mari Yamamoto talks ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ and joining the Monsterverse

Yamamoto Monarch Godzilla
Pictured are (from left) Wyatt Russell, Mari Yamamoto and Anders Holm in ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.’
Apple TV+

By Tania Moreno, MWN

The Legendary Monsterverse began in 2014 with the Godzilla movie and continued with ‘Kong: Skull Island’ in 2017. It followed up with ‘Godzilla 2: King of the Monsters’ in 2019 and concluded with ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ in 2021. Now, ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters‘ follows the battle between Godzilla and the Titans with a new series on Apple TV+.

Starring Kurt Russell, Wyatt Russell, and Mari Yamamoto, among others, the series premiered worldwide on Nov. 17. In light of its release, Metro had an exclusive chat with Yamamoto, who plays Dr. Keiko Miura, a scientist determined to uncover the origin of Godzilla and the other Titans on Earth, as well as the consequences their emergence will have on our world.

Before joining the series, were you a fan of Godzilla, the Kaiju, and the Monsterverse?

Yes, I would say I’ve watched all the Monsterverse movies and, of course, as a Japanese, you are [a fan]… You just are! Godzilla is so deeply ingrained in the Japanese cultural zeitgeist that you grow up with it, singing the original theme when something scary approaches, and making references to it all the time in conversations. So, I think it’s a big part of my cultural identity.

The Godzilla universe has many passionate fans. How do you think they’ll receive the series?

I already feel the excitement worldwide about this, which is thrilling for us. I believe fans won’t be disappointed with the monsters they’ll see throughout the series. I’m sure it will be a new thrilling experience for them because in this series we’re trying something different from the previous Monsterverse movies which already have built a rich and epic universe. So, it’s a great honor to join that. When you watch those movies and you have this amazing group of actors playing these characters, you might not get to know them as much as you’d like.

In ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ we bring it to a human level that makes viewers root and understand what’s at stake in a world where monsters exist. The series also creates a space for the audience to integrate and step into the character’s shoes and really live the adventure with us. So they feel the stakes and the ups and downs of that adventure; I hope they’ll love the characters as much as we do and get involved in the adventure with us.

The series has impressive visual effects. What was it like filming scenes where you face the Titans?

I wish I could say I saw Godzilla. I wish I could, but everything was filmed against blue screens. But what was amazing was the amount of care that the Visual Effects team and all the crew members put in to ease us into that world. The directors created a storyboard which then became something called Previz, an animated clip of the entire scene, depicted with the monsters and how we interact and react to them. So, we would all watch that together to be on the same page, and on top of that, they did the monsters’ voices over the microphone for us to react to things. And then, for our performances, we just had to figure out what it meant for the character at that moment to see that monster, what the stakes were, and also what feelings arose in that specific context. So, every scene was different, but yes, everyone came together to make it as easy as possible. And thanks to the Art Department the stage designs were incredible, so you just walked onto the set and sometimes you already had the setting right in front of you, and the wind blowing, which immediately placed you in the scene and character.

Keiko is a powerful and passionate woman. Will we learn more about her backstory?

Yes, we will continue to dig into her backstory throughout the season. So, I hope everyone follows and supports her.

What were the challenges of portraying a successful woman in such a difficult period of history? Though Keiko is a scientist with a career, she is constantly belittled for being a woman and Japanese.

It’s very interesting because I myself had this preconceived notion of what Japanese women were like in the 50s. There’s often a stereotype around Japanese women, especially when it comes to a period piece. I don’t think we’ve seen that much in Hollywood.

So you come with this preconceived notion of what a Japanese woman might be and this script really blows all of that out in terms of what you expect. She is the complete opposite of what you’d expect a Japanese woman to be: she’s very assertive, goes after what she wants, and speaks her mind, and these are the things that drive her and bring her to the United States.

I mean, it takes such a special human being to pursue their passion in that way at a time like that. So, I don’t think it was a great challenge to portray her as a character, but as an actress, I kind of filed away the preconceptions I had and got rid of that and said, “No, this is possible. This kind of human being could have existed in the 50s.” So, once I got past that, it was wonderful to move forward.

Do you think anyone can watch ‘Monarch: Legacy of Monsters’ and understand the series?

I would say the series is crafted so brilliantly that someone can enjoy it without ever having seen the movies. It’s a completely standalone series in the sense that you can come into it with no preexisting knowledge of the Monsterverse or Godzilla because we literally go back to the beginning, it’s the origin story of Monarch.

And then, the modern-day story is people uncovering that mystery, so I don’t think anyone will have any trouble getting into the plot. But I also think for Monsterverse fans, the series takes place within the timeline of the other, preexisting movies, so I think it will be really fun for them to see the monsters they know and love return or the little easter eggs that can be found related to the preexisting movies. So, I think… there’s something for everyone, for sure.

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters‘ is now streaming on Apple TV+.