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‘Tokyo Vice’ Was Easier the Second Time Around, Says Producer Alan Poul

Shooting for the second season of Tokyo Vice was completed just before the actor’s strike threw a wrench into production schedules the woMrld over. Directed by Michael Mann, the hit series premiered on Max, (formerly known as HBO Max) in 2022. It was the first high-ticket American-produced show to be shot on location in the Japanese capital.

In a world of monsters, manga, and superheroes, Tokyo Vice’s storyline is fairly conventional. It tells the story of an American journalist, played by Ansel Elgort, who moves to the land of the rising yakuza to join the staff of a Japanese newspaper. Partnering with a police officer, played by Ken Watanabe, the reporter embarks on a deep dive into the criminal underworld.

Back in last October, producer Alan Poul told The Hollywood Reporter of the challenges he encountered in filming the first season, largely due to the show’s subject matter. According to Poul: “People tend to be hesitant about new things in Japan, but not only that, we were a show that was loosely based on a nonfiction memoir that was so controversial in Japan that it’s never been properly published — also, incidentally, it deals with the world of the Yakuza. So people had good reasons to be hesitant about having any contact with us. During season one, we got a lot of flat denials on things just based on the perceived association with organized crime.”

Poul was more pleased about the second season, however. He was quoted as saying, “Well, we’re really fortunate that the first season was a hit worldwide. And even in Japan, where it was seen on the satellite network Wowow, it had a tremendous reputation. So we’re coming back to a very altered landscape.”

The producer thinks that more doors were opened this time around because the local folks were now familiar with his modus operandi. In short, Tokyo Vice is no longer an unknown quantity in Japan. “Everybody knows what the show is, and everybody knows that the show takes a very authentic Japanese point of view in describing Tokyo in the 90s,” he added. “So we’re finding many more doors opening and people actually welcoming us, or even soliciting us, on the basis of how much they enjoyed the first season. So that’s a dramatic change.”

The story for Tokyo Vice was based on reporter Jake Adelstein’s coverage of criminal activity in the Japanese capital during the 1990s.

Interview with producer Alan Poul for the first season of “Tokyo Vice.” 

Check out more of Edward’s articles. 

Edward Moran
Edward Moran
Edward Moran began his journalistic career many decades ago as a theater and cinema reviewer for Show Business and the New York Theater Review. More recently he contributed film reviews to and Movie Sleuth. His writings have appeared in publications as diverse as the Times Literary Supplement, Publishers Weekly, the Paris Review, and the Massachusetts Review. Moran also edited a memoir by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Christine Choy. He served as literary advisor to her film Hyam Plutzik: American Poet, which was the keynote film in the American Perspectives series at the 2007 Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.


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