Anna Sawai: Everything You Need to Know About the Actress & Singer

New Zealand-born actress Anna Sawai has been on everyone’s lips with her show-stopping performance as Lady Mariko in the Japanese historical drama Shogun. Sawai’s performance indicates a start to an epic acting career despite only having a few credits to her name. While few, her performances in each role have been incredible from the Monsterverse series, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters and Pachinko.

Sawai started acting at 11, starring in a Japanese rendition of Annie. Her first major acting role came in the martial arts film Ninja Assassin a few years later. With a detour into singing that lasted five years, she was drawn back to acting with supporting roles and music videos and hasn’t looked back since. Before her next epic role, here is what you need to know about the talented Anna Sawai. 

1. Anna Sawai Was Born in New Zealand

Anna Sawai

Sawai was born in New Zealand and moved to Japan when she was 10. Her parents are Japanese, and she grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. Due to her father’s job at an international electronics company, the family moved around before finally settled in Japan. Her mother, a trained pianist and opera singer, taught her how to play piano, which influenced her love for music and would later influence her to join the girl group Faky.

2. Anna Sawai Received Praise for her Role in Shogun

Anna Sawai

Towards the end of filming, Sawai was ready to close the chapter on her character, Mariko. Although she hardly speaks unless spoken to, Mariko is the star of Episode 9 as she fulfills her father’s dream and helps Toranaga win the war way before it starts. While sacrificing her life to stand for what she believes in, Mariko dies a hero with the respect of her peers and leaders. Sawai beautifully captures the tortured essence of Mariko and brings it to life on the small screen.

Her character speaks to the strength and power of women, even at a time when they had very limited power, not to mention political power. Since she first appeared in the critically acclaimed miniseries,Shogun, Sawai has received praise from critics and online from fans of the show for her scene-stealing presence. As a Japanese woman, she is happy to see the strength of Japanese women being portrayed in Western media and not just the stereotypical usual that’s been rampant for Asian representation in Hollywood.

3. Anna Sawai was Part of a Girl Group

Anna Sawai

Most fans now know Sawai as an actress, but there was a time when her world revolved around the girl group Faky. She was the group’s songwriter and lead vocalist from 2013 to 2018. The group helped Sawai nurture her singing and dancing skills before she left in December 2018 to pursue acting full-time. Sawai was also the group’s leader at a certain point in time. Some of The group’s albums include Better Without You, The One, and Unwrapped. Sawai appeared in several projects as a member of the girl group, like the coming-of-age mystery series Colors in 2018. 

4. She Has Appeared in Other Prominent TV Shows

Anna Sawai

After her stint with the girl group, Sawai went back to full-time acting in the British crime thriller Girl/Hajji. Many fans may not know, but she also appeared in 2021’s F9. While Shogun has made her more famous in Hollywood, this isn’t the only show that Sawai is promoting, with Monarch: Legacy of Monsters being one of her most successful roles in 2023. The Apple TV series is part of the Monsterverse and features Godzilla and other new monsters that fans can’t get enough of. Godzilla fans love the show, and it has been renewed for a second season.

In it, she plays Cate Randa, a Japanese whose parents were instrumental in forming the shadowy company Monarch. Sawai will be busy with one of her Apple TV shows, Pachinko, which is also being renewed for a second season. The series about a Korean family spanning several generations was a slow but certain success. The story is Adapted from the critically acclaimed novel Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, where Sawai plays Naomi, a new addition to the TV series. She plays a businesswoman who works for Solomon’s finance company. Sawai delivers another iconic  performance in this series.

5. She Loves Staying at Home

Anna Sawai

One thing Sawai loves to do is stay home, maybe because of how busy and time-consuming her job is. During an interview with The Cut, Sawai shared that her comfort show is Friends, and every Christmas, she loves to rewatch Love Actually, among other movies. With her appreciation for TV shows like The Crown and The Last of Us, Sawai loves cozying up to a good movie or series to pass the time. She will be seated and ready as long as it’s not a horror movie. The actress says she spent a lot of time living in Vancouver filming these TV shows , and aside from spending time at home, she loved taking long walks in the city and visiting Canadian restaurants. Find out who stars in Shogun alongside Anna Sawai.

Watch Shogun on Disney Plus

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