The Max potboiler Tokyo Vice is finally back February 8 for a second season of warring gangs, comely lounge hostesses, and Ansel Elgort speaking perfect Japanese. Here, executive producer Alan Poul addresses the delay between seasons, what big story Jake Adelstein plans to work on next, and whether Tozawa’s facial spider veins will get any worse this year.
DEADLINE: The series last aired in 2022. Why has it taken so long for season 2 to begin?
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ALAN POUL: it was due to a lot of things. Remember, the first season was shot in the middle of Covid. Just when the show was airing, Warner Brothers Discovery was going through a reshuffling. Nobody wants to make a lot of decisions while everybody’s still figuring out how the chips are going to fall. So all the pickups were put on hold until the new landscape was more clear. So we aired in April of 2022 and thank God the show did well out of the gate. At the end of May, we got our pickup for season two. So it only about seven weeks that it took to get the pickup, though it felt like an eternity. The second major component is that, having worked in Japan a lot across my career, one thing you can say with confidence is that everything in Japan takes twice as long. There’s just no rushing things there. So even though it took us a while to get our pickup, we had to go back and reassemble the crew. We had to go back and put together a new plan for production and find the locations. And in Japan, you need a solid six months of prep. So we were back in Japan at the end of 2022. And then we decided to do 10 episodes this time. So it’s a much bigger bite.
It just took longer to shoot and longer to finish. And then I guess the fourth and final piece is the SAG strike. Max always saw February as the best time we could possibly debut in terms of what else was out there. But we could have had the show delivered earlier, potentially even for a fall debut had it not been for the strike. We had to wait until the strike settled to get all of the ADR completed. We finished filming in July of last year, but we couldn’t get everything delivered until as soon as the strike ended.
DEADLINE: So does the action pick up right where you left off?
POUL: We do pick up where we left off. In order to make people not feel like they have to go back and rewatch, we have prepared a three-and-a-half minute long recap of the entire first season, which will be attached to the first episode. It hits all the high points and it will leave viewers fully prepared to plunge into the new season.
DEADLINE: At the end of the season one finale, I was expecting you to loop back to the pilot to address that story that Jake (Elgort) was working on. Is that story the one about the loan sharks and rampant suicides?
POUL: No. It’s a new story which will become clear in the course of watching season two. We get back to that moment that opened season one with Jake facing the henchman Yabuki (Kazuya Tanabe). We recreate that scene and extend it, but it doesn’t happen until considerably later in the season. And then you’re caught up.
DEADLINE: Will we see him write that story about the loan sharks?
POUL: No, this is a much bigger story than the loan sharking story. Once we get into season two, that’s no longer an issue. This is a new story, which starts off as a mystery in season two, and then is gradually solved.
DEADLINE: Does it have anything to do with the warring gangs?
POUL: It does. It’s hard to say a lot without spoilers, but the tension between our two main Yakuza gangs is still, in terms of the crime drama, the main throughline of the second season.
DEADLINE: Let’s talk about Sato. One, will he live? And two, he’s starting to feel like the moral center of this drama.
POUL: One of the great pleasures of making season one and watching Shô Kasamatsu‘s performance on set, we were able to put bigger moral conundrums onto the character because he’s such a great actor and he was able to handle it. And as a result, Sato did become the conflicted moral center of the show’s universe. And that very much continues in season two. I’m not spoiling anything at this point to say that he’s not dead because we put him in the teaser.
DEADLINE: Does Tozawa, played by Ayumi Tanida, have cancer?
POUL: It was not revealed in season one because that is part of the mystery I was alluding to before. So it is gradually revealed and will ultimately be made very clear what is wrong with him and what he did to take care of it.
DEADLINE: What can we expect from Ken Watanabe’s character, Hiroto Katagiri, in the new season?
POUL: We ended season one on a whole pile of cliffhangers. When we come in where we left off, not everything is resolved right away. But each of our main characters is forced to make rather dramatic choices about how they want to settle the issues in their lives. And for Katagiri, we have a new cast member who frees him to pursue a course of action that he finds much more satisfying.
DEADLINE: Will we hear more from Jake’s family in the new season?
POUL: We will not only hear more from them, we will go visit them. But no decision comes without a cost in this show.
DEADLINE: Does the show stream locally in Japan?
POUL: In Japan we’re on a premium satellite service known as Wowow. The show did very well. But even better news is that last summer Wowow sold the rights to the show for a second window to Netflix, Japan. Netflix is in every household in Japan. And so it was actually summer of 2023, we suddenly became a huge hit in Japan because everybody had access to it.
DEADLINE: What’s it been working with Ansel?
POUL: Ansel surprised us all by mastering the Japanese language. We had shot exactly six days of principal photography before we got shut down by Covid. We were shut down for eight months. So Ansel took advantage of that time and continued to study Japanese every day with a teacher he devoted to. So by the time we went back and shot the rest of the first season, he already had a great conversational hold on the language. I’m completely fluent in Japanese. My college degree was in Japanese language and literature. I began my film career in Japan many years ago. And so Tokyo Vice represents for me a huge full circle coming back to my roots because Japan was my academic pursuit and also where I began filmmaking. Remember, we only have two native English speakers in the cast, Ansel and Rachel Keller. So with the rest of the actors, I work with them in Japanese. It’s just easier, it’s better for them and it’s immensely rewarding.
Episodes 201 and 202 of Tokyo Vice drop at 12 a.m. PT on Max on February 8.
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