Rinko Kikuchi to Star in Michael Mann's HBO Max Series 'Tokyo Vice' (Exclusive)

Rinko Kikuchi - Getty - H 2020
Christopher Jue/Getty Images for CHANEL

The 10-part series, based on a book by Jake Adelstein, also stars Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Odessa Young and Ella Rumpf.

Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi is joining the cast of the Tokyo Vice series for WarnerMedia's HBO Max streaming service, which began shooting in Tokyo on Thursday.

Kikuchi, who became the first Japanese actress to be nominated for an Oscar in 50 years for her turn as a deaf high school girl in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel, will portray a supervisor to reporter Jake Adelstein, played by Ansel Elgort. The 10-part series is based on a book by Adelstein, who worked on Japan's biggest newspaper — the first foreigner to do so.

Michael Mann, who is directing the pilot, as well as executive producing the series, is understood to have pushed for Kikuchi to play the part, despite concerns from producer John Lesher about her English abilities. Mari Yamamoto, a fully bilingual actress who has also worked as a journalist, was originally slated to play the character, based on a composite of colleagues and supervisors Adelstein worked with during his 12 years at the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan was first published in 2009 and has been translated into multiple languages but has yet to be released in Japan.

Adelstein wrote about Tadamasa Goto, a notorious yakuza boss, receiving a liver transplant in an L.A. hospital. He also claims some of the gangster's underlings threatened to kill him if he published the story.

Japanese production company AOI Pro was scheduled to be working on the series in Tokyo but reportedly pulled out over concerns about including Goto in the series. Goto says he has retired from the underworld, but he remains on a list of sanctioned yakuza by the US Treasury Department.

Ken Watanabe will play Hiroto Katagiri, a detective in the Tokyo police and mentor to Adelstein, while Odessa Young and Ella Rumpf are to portray hostesses at a high-end drinking club.

Although press releases and much of the media coverage of the series has stated Adelstein was embedded in a Tokyo vice squad to root out corruption, he was never embedded and hasn't claimed to be.

Lesher, who was also a producer on a film adaptation of the book that was announced in 2013 but never came to fruition, told THR that the series will be only loosely based on the source material.

"We've taken a lot of creative license in telling a fictional story, which departs significantly from Jake's book, which was an inspiration. He is one character among many, and we have done a lot of research from a lot of stories," Lesher said.

Alongside Mann and Lesher, Tokyo Vice executive produces include J.T. Rogers, Emily Gerson Saines, Alan Poul, Elgort, Destin Daniel Cretton and Watanabe.