Home » Karen Fukuhara on Kimiko’s Evolution in ‘The Boys’ Season 3 & Avoiding Stereotypes – Exclusive Interview

Karen Fukuhara on Kimiko’s Evolution in ‘The Boys’ Season 3 & Avoiding Stereotypes – Exclusive Interview

by Dakota Wheeler
Karen Fukuhara strikes a fighting pose as Kimiko Miyashiro from THE BOYS Season 3 in a new red colored graphic for our exclusive interview.

Spoilers for The Boys Season 3 follow!

When fans were first introduced to The Boys on Prime Video, they got a glimpse into a world where superheroes were not only real but also corporate celebrities whose real jobs were to sell toys, movies, food products, dreams, and more importantly, lies. After first being shown horrific acts by the heroes, like the speedster A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) running through a human being, The Deep (Chace Crawford) sexually assaulting Starlight (Erin Moriarty), and Homelander (Antony Starr) killing U.S congressmen, it was clear these were not the good guys and instead selfish psychopaths. Halfway through the first season, the titular un-powered team of underdogs known as “The Boys” led by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) rescue “The Female” played by Karen Fukuhara, a subject of involuntary experimentation in a plan to create super-powered terrorists who gained the abilities of super strength and regenerative healing.

We’ll later come to know this character as Kimiko Miyashiro and while she isn’t really a “good guy,” she isn’t a villain either. Kimiko will rip you in half but only to protect her or the ones she loves. Since first being introduced to the mute heroine, whom fellow teammate Frenchie (Tomer Capone) and fans alike have fallen in love with, Kimiko has gone through quite the development in the show. Adapted from the Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson comic series of the same name for Amazon Prime Video by Supernatural creator and showrunner Eric Kripke, alongside producing partners Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, The Boys has carved its own path by deviating from the original source material in numerous ways.

The character of Kimiko is one of the biggest examples of these differences between the comics and the Prime Video original series. After the first season ended, it was clear that something missing from her in the show’s scripts. Eric Kripke pointed this out publicly by admitting it was an aspect of her portrayal he needed to improve upon so the role wouldn’t fall into stereotypical tropes, especially when representing Asian Americans in Hollywood. In the following seasons, Kimiko received more of the spotlight with attention and detail poured into storylines about her and her brother, her ever-growing connection to Frenchie, and culminating in The Boys Season 3 with a brilliant musical sequence that even Karen Fukuhara herself can’t believe she got to do.

Japanese-American actress Karen Fukuahra brings a dual ferocity and empathy to Kimiko on The Boys, all of which is done without using her voice. However, as a former martial arts champion with training in karate and sword-fighting, a physical performance like this heavily involving the use of both body and sign language is a challenge that Fukuhara happily welcomes. Starring in popular blockbusters such as last year’s Bullet Train and 2016’s Suicide Squad as the DC character Katana, Fukuhara is no stranger to action filmmaking and being in the superhero (or villain) space. The star is also known for her voice work on animated television shows like She-Ra and The Princess of Power, Craig of The Creek, and even having a role in one of last year’s biggest video games, The Callisto Protocol.

As fans eagerly await The Boys Season 4 on Prime Video, we sat down with Karen Fukuhara to discuss the evolution of Kimiko across these last three seasons, her thoughts on the show’s place in our pop culture and its parallels to our own world, and how showrunner Eric Kripke and a more diverse writers’ room led to Kimiko being more than a one-dimensional character plagued with stereotypes. This conversation continues our FYC interview series with The Boys cast, featuring Jack Quaid (Hughie Campbell), Jessie T. Usher (A-Train), Chace Crawford (The Deep), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), Jensen Ackles (Soldier Boy), and Kimiko’s own lover in Tomer Capone (Frenchie).

Exclusive FYC Interview with Karen Fukuhara for The Boys on Prime Video

What is your favorite part about playing Kimiko and what aspects of her personality do you feel relate to your own? 

Karen Fukuhara: I love playing Kimiko because there are so many skills that I have to learn as an actor in order to play her. I think that’s one of the best things about our industry. We get to learn how to fight and learn how to do sign language. You just know that you’re putting something together with a team of people that are so good at what they do, and you’re learning from the best. On the day when you accomplish something, that sense of fulfillment is incredible. You get a certain high from it, or I get a high from it at least. When we have a really great day of filming, I go back buzzing and I don’t know what to do with my energy. I have to call a friend back home or just decompress on my own.

I think one of the best parts about playing Kimiko comes from our showrunner [Eric Kripke], who gave her so much last season. She got to not only fight and do sign language but also do a whole musical number. So yeah, it’s been really fun playing her. To answer the second part of your question. Kimiko and I are very, very different. It would be scary if I was as violent as her, but something that I look up to her for is, ironically, her voice. She’s not afraid of speaking up even though she plays a mute character. If she feels strongly about something, she will let you know. I sometimes have trouble doing that in my life, so that’s one of the qualities I love about her. 

Kimiko Miyashiro, Mother's Milk, and Hughie Campbell pose together in THE BOYS Season 3.
Laz Alonso, Karen Fukuhara, & Jack Quaid in ‘The Boys’ Season 3 courtesy of Amazon Studios

What originally drove you to take the role and what’s been the most rewarding part about playing Kimiko on The Boys

Karen Fukuhara: To be honest, when I read the breakdown I was a little confused. When we get to our auditions, we are given the pilot episode and maybe the scenes that we’re going to audition with. And my character is not in the pilot episode at all. So I was very confused and it also said that I don’t speak. But as I did my research and read the comics and everything, I was definitely interested. At the end of the day, it’s the people you work with, and being with Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg], and Eric’s name was on the breakdown as well, it was a no-brainer. Being part of a project that they are producing, I knew it would be not only great material but quality material as well, and it seemed like a fun experience to have too.

The most rewarding part about playing Kimiko is just learning how to do all of the things. If I’m not filming, I’m at the studio every single day going from, you know, weight training to sign language coaching to fight choreography – learning the choreography and rehearsing that. Then on other days, I’m learning how to sing and dance! Season 3 was such a magical, surreal experience for me. I felt valued and I felt challenged. It was fun to rise to the occasion and really put in the work and put in the time and effort in order to make Kimiko the best version of herself I could achieve. 

The Boys is filled with both elevated drama and comedy respectively. For Kimiko specifically, what have been both your favorite comedic and dramatic moments for her to play? 

Karen Fukuhara: My favorite comedic moment would have to be the dildo scene, because how many people are allowed to do that? Seriously, it was so fun to be able to play into the comedic beat. Kimiko is oftentimes very serious, so I have to try not to laugh at Frenchie’s jokes, or when we’re doing group scenes I have to try not to break. Although it is a serious scene from the audience’s perspective, it’s very funny to see a silent character break into this fight sequence with dildos and kick ass.

I’m not sure if it’s my favorite dramatic moment but one that sunk into me deeply was the little Nina fight. It was such a gruesome shoot, to be honest. It was a lot of technical fighting, we had to do the choreography ourselves. Then not only did I have to do that but I also had to be very vulnerable and emotional. So doing that with a time crunch when we were chasing our days was really difficult. I’m not sure if they used the take that I liked, but there was a moment where I’m stabbing one of little Nina’s men and I’m so engulfed in the moment. I truly felt like I was there, I was shaking and vibrating. It was a very surreal, special moment for me to feel so much of Kimiko and what she was going through, like, innately through me. 

Kimiko shows off battle scars on her face in THE BOYS Season 3 episode Herogasm.
Karen Fukuhara in ‘The Boys’ Season 3
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Were there any performances from any personal favorite films or tv shows that you draw inspiration from when bringing Kimiko to life? 

Karen Fukuhara: I try to pull from everything. We always have the source material, but I’m inspired by so much media too. There are a lot of TV shows out there that inspire me to think of what I was watching during the time. It’s actually hard to watch things when you’re working on a show because of my attention span as an actor. I want to focus on the thing that I’m focusing on. The musicals, of course, for season 3 – lots and lots of musicals. My favorite one is Singin’ in the Rain. It’s the most cute and romantic one.  

Following up on that previous question, how has the way you’ve approached the physicality of Kimiko changed as she has progressed throughout The Boys

Karen Fukuhara: Playing a character that doesn’t speak forces you to be hyper-aware of your movements. I realized that if I don’t make things intentional, it will go unnoticed. During prep, I have to think, “How would she react in this scenario?” and do a lot of work in terms of, “What if I do this or that?” My actions have to be intentional or else the camera may catch you doing something but perhaps the editors or the directors won’t really know what’s happening. So sometimes you’re not in the scene anymore because you didn’t really do anything or didn’t bring anything to the scene. So I guess the word would be “forgotten.” I think playing a silent character, especially if I’m not doing sign language at all, I have to always be aware of what is happening in the scene in great depth. 

Even though Kimiko has mainly been with the main group of The Boys, she had a team-up moment with Starlight and Maeve when fighting Stormfront in season 2. What other supe would you like to see her interact with from the show?

Karen Fukuhara: Oh, I would love to see Kimiko obviously face off with Homelander. Antony is such a great actor, and I kind of just want to see him work. But the most hilarious one I think would be The Deep. The Deep with Kimiko, I can’t even imagine what the scene would be about but it would be a hilarious combination. 

Frenchie and Kimiko stand next to Queen Maeve wearing a "I Love New York" shirt in THE BOYS Season 3.
Tomer Capone, Karen Fukuhara, & Dominique McElligott in ‘The Boys’ Season 3 courtesy of Amazon Studios

Outside of being an absurd, hyper-violent show, what kind of importance do you feel The Boys has in our current superhero-obsessed culture? 

Karen Fukuhara: I can only speak for myself, but I’m fortunate that I’ve only really worked on projects where my values align with the show’s message. Same with She-Ra, my animated Netflix show. I was 100% in on all of the arcs, and it’s the same for this one. I stand for what The Boys stands for. The show is delivering its message in a hilarious, light-hearted way. But these are all very serious issues that our society is dealing with at the same time. Even issues like gun violence have been sprinkled in the series. It’s such a big issue, but I think how it was done made it easily digestible on our show. Hopefully, it’s funny but it still raises conversations among viewers, friends, etc. We’re in a very dark place as a society and pop culture is a great channel to address those things. 

Finally, last year you did an interview with InStyle where you talked about how you were originally worried about playing Kimiko because you didn’t want her to come off as stereotypical and one-dimensional. How do you feel she’s grown in The Boys Season 3 specifically with her being given a lot more attention and depth? 

Karen Fukuhara: Yes, I 100% think that Kripke is the main reason for Kimiko having any kind of depth, dimension, or color. He made it a point to do that for her. He said in an interview, after season one was released, that he realized he needed to do that in the upcoming seasons so that we don’t fall under those tropes. And he’s done exactly that, like who else got the musical number? But not only that, she’s also given a backstory that is heartbreaking. That backstory is what fuels all of the things that she does. She’s not just this one-dimensional killer that goes on a killing spree – she has all the reasons to be where she is and do what she does.

It’s really cool that our writers’ room is diverse. I spoke with one of the writers and they were saying, “We do that so that the actors have real-life stories and real experiences that they can pull from” and I think that’s brilliant. You can’t have an all-white male writers’ room and expect to come up with a layered Asian female character, you just can’t. So it’s the collaboration within the diverse writers’ room that creates all of these wonderful characters. That’s one thing I really love about The Boys. Even though there are so many characters, we’re an ensemble show, and as a viewer, I feel like you sympathize and empathize with almost all of them. Because all of us are given specific backstories, you get a window into their souls. So even if the characters are doing terrible things, you still kind of feel for them.

All three seasons of The Boys are streaming only on Prime Video!

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