APAHM 2021: Spotlight on Daisuke Tsuji
As we’ve started last year, I wanted to continue to highlight Asian Pacific Americans for the month of May. There continues to be so many brilliant APA folks out there that are doing some amazing work, and so I hope we can share with you some of that brilliance.
I had the great fortune of meeting this next individual at a play known as Cambodian Rock Band. More recently, he has become more widely known in a very popular game titled Ghost of Tsushima. I’m thrilled to introduce you all to Daisuke Tsuji.
Who are you?
Daisuke Tsuji: I am a human being, first and foremost. I’m an actor, a storyteller.
What do you do?
Tsuji: I tell stories, mostly as an actor, voice-over artist, and now a streamer.
What makes you a geek of color?
Tsuji: I suppose I’m a geek for a lot of franchises like Star Wars, Marvel movies, Harry Potter, etc. And I AM a person of color. I also geek out on escape rooms and theater (mostly non-mainstream, though).
What inspires you?
Tsuji: My creative friends. The small victories in life like waking up early in the morning, making the bed, taking a cold shower, meditation, etc.
How do your identities play a part in the work/art you create?
Tsuji: As far as the work I audition for, my identity plays a big part on a superficial level. I’m usually only considered for roles that are specifically Asian-American, and even more specifically Japanese-American. As far as the art and work I create myself, my identity plays a part on a deeper level. It’s more about humanity in a broader sense from my own personal experiences/lens.
How do you integrate your culture and your representation into your art?
Tsuji: Again, for the projects where I’m not the creator but an actor working in a collaborative process, I make sure that my Japanese culture/language is authentic and accurate as far as I am capable, and speak up when something needs adjustment. A lot of times (…all the time so far) the creators are mostly white, telling a story set in Japan, so I see it as part of my job to speak up when something feels wrong or inauthentic to the culture and confer with the Japanese translator or culture specialist. And also, again, for the stories I create myself, culture and representation are a part of it simply because of the way I look, but I’m mostly concerned about the human experience. And the Asian-American/Japanese-American experience is a part of that whole.
What does representation mean to you?
Tsuji: Representation in Hollywood means presenting the world (not just America), not only the one we live in but also what could be. Hollywood has a lot of power when it comes to influencing the whole world. How we view ourselves. How we see color. As such, I believe that Hollywood also has the responsibility of not only hiring people of color in visible roles – but also hiring people of color as writers/producers so that all of our stories, from all of our world, can be told and represented. We can and should try to make a better world by telling stories from all over the world by people from all over the world.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to yourself five years ago?
Tsuji: Accept the fact that in life, the most rewarding things are difficult and takes time and patience. Life is a series of things that you have to do (and you might not want to do) but the reward is worth it. Be mindful of the small daily rewards like the morning shower, or the dishes done in the morning, or the bed made at night, so you are less likely to procrastinate. It will lead to doing the bigger things in life.
What’s a piece of advice you’d give to yourself five years down the road?
Tsuji: Wouldn’t he know everything I know right now? I would just remind him of the same advice in question eight just in case I forgot. And also, just be kind to yourself. Keep going. You’re doing great. Love YO SELF.
Do you face any challenges as an artist of color? How do you combat those challenges? What sorts of challenges do you think still exist for artists of color?
Tsuji: As an actor, I know that it’s hard for everybody, no matter the color of your skin. But going along with answer to 7, it takes more than having strong rich white allies in the business. It helps, but it’s not enough. We need more people of color in positions of power as creators/producers. It’s slowly getting better, but the battle is just beginning. Personally, it starts with the way I see myself, to see the possibilities and potential with myself and hopefully to inspire younger generations of colour to see that potential as well. As an Asian-American actor, I still fear that I’m fighting just to be seen as a human, and not “the other”. Unfortunately, with the recent increase in violence against Asian Americans, it’s clear to me how much we have to go in fighting for representation.
Where can people find you?