Japanese Pop Idol, Tomohisa Yamashita, plays Aki in the HBO Asia Original, The Head.

The Head: A Conversation with Tomohisa Yamashita

Dept. of Raps and Confabs


The Head, a brand new HBO Asia Original, is a survival thriller that’s set in the Polaris VI international polar station in Antarctica during its long winter months. It is a desolate existence and one that’s engulfed by the cold, the wind, and vast expanses of ice. A select group of scientists from around the world are in charge of maintaining the station during this time when something goes horribly wrong. Team members start turning up dead. There’s a killer on the loose. And the series, a locked room whodunnit, centres around the investigation into what went wrong and why.

Japanese idol Tomohisa Yamashita, aka Yamapi, plays Aki, one of the scientists on the station, and we caught up with him for a conversation about what it was like working on such a diverse and international production.

Tomohisa Yamashita plays Aki in the HBO Asia Original, The Head.

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: It is quite rare that we see a truly “international” production like this one. What was it like working with such a diverse team? What was it like being on such a multilingual production?

Tomohisa Yamashita: I was a bit nervous only at first, but I soon come to realize that we all shared the same passion to make the best show. To be the only Asian cast is not important at all. It was a great experience to be able to work as a wonderful team together with all the amazing staff and cast. I’ve learned a bit of Spanish. Such as “aqui” (same sound with “Aki”), which means “here”.

UA: What was it about this particular story that made you want to be a part of it? What did you find most intriguing about the idea?

TH: I got interested right away as I thought that the whole experience could be totally new to me and that I imagined that it could be very exciting. Then I read the script and got really impressed by the quality and the depth of the story. I was a bit anxious if I can successfully adjust myself to a totally different environment though.

UA: This is your first English-language role. Talk to us about what that experience was like. What was it like working in a different language?

TH: It wasn’t totally easy of course. It took a while for me to learn the words of the script by heart at the beginning. A big challenge was that the director changes the words and expressions a lot on the set. I was a bit nervous during the first half or so. Then, I got better and started to feel confident gradually.

Tomohisa Yamashita and Katharine O'Donnelly as Aki and Maggie in the HBO Asia Original, The Head.

UA: What kind of research or training did you do to prepare for the role?

TH: I read the script thoroughly and really tried to understand in depth. During the first few days in Tenerife, I had an opportunity to spend enough time with Ran Telem who developed the story together with the Pastor Brothers. I was able to understand the depth of the story and the characters through the in-depth conversation with him. He also suggested some changes of the words in the script so that it could fit better with me. Then, before the shooting started, Jorge (the director) arranged a date for Katharine O’Donnelly (as Maggie) and me. We spent a day together just by ourselves like lovers. That helped me to feel really intimate with her from the very beginning of the shooting as Aki does to Maggie. Also, I was kind of lucky as I played a biologist in my previous work in Japan. That helped me to some extent.  

UA: Do you usually enjoy watching these sorts of shows? Is that also why you wanted to be a part of The Head?

TH: I love watching films and series, but I don’t stick to specific genres. I watch the action, romance, suspense, etc. I also watch reality shows and documentaries and do not care about the nationality/regions of those.

Tomohisa Yamashita plays Aki in the HBO Asia Original, The Head.

UA: How is the pandemic situation in Japan? How did you spend your time at home during this period of time? What do you want to do most once this pandemic is over?

TH: First of all, I make it a daily routine to train muscles for an hour in the morning. I’ve been doing this for many years now. These days, I do it in my room as I cannot go out to the gym. Then I’ve made it a rule to do something creative every day. One creative per day such as shooting and/or edit videos, write lyrics, paintings, cook some stuff, design something, etc. I try to stimulate my brain every day. Once the pandemic is over? Live concert of course! I want to shout to my heart’s content and have huge fun together with my fans.

UA: Tell our readers why they should tune in and watch The Head? What do you hope audiences will take away from this series?

TH: First of all, the script itself is very well written. It is a well-structured story covering three different timelines. And each character is really unique and represents the depth of humanity.  And most importantly, the story is so unpredictable and beyond imagination. I hope the audience of each country enjoy watching each episode weekly and share their thoughts about what’s going to happen next and about the truth.

The Head will premiere tonight, 12 June, at 9pm on HBO GO and HBO (Astro Ch 411 HD).

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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