“There is a hunger for other kinds of stories. Asian American stories are so far behind. I hope to be a part of more stories that push audiences outside of their comfort zone.”
Amazon’s Hunters takes place in the ’70s and follows an eclectic crew of Nazi hunters in New York City. A standout in this team of bell-bottomed assassins, Louis Ozawa plays Joe Mizushima. Joe is an American, Vietnam War veteran struggling with PTSD. “Five years ago there would be no way I would be playing this character, it would be a white dude,” says Louis. An Asian American veteran struggling to cope with trauma and loss is a complex role seldom explored in film or television. Louis hopes to have the opportunity to explore more of this gripping character. Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger, leaving much to be anticipated for Joe. “Joe is a damaged soul. He feels a little bit betrayed by his own country. He feels disillusioned by the whole notion of war. There he is fighting a war he isn’t sure he should be fighting and it’s people who look like him. Hopefully, we will be unpacking that in a few seasons,” says Louis.
A story like Joe’s needs to be told. Louis recognizes, “There is a hunger for other kinds of stories. Asian American stories are so far behind. I hope to be a part of more stories that push audiences outside of their comfort zone.” Joe’s story will give the world a chance to see, “Asian Americans be accepted as American and not just foreigners. When we are accepted as such, things will start to shift.” Hunters is executive produced by Jordan Peele and David Weil. Louis tells me that Jordan and David have been, “very insistent on having an inclusive world.”
This project featured Asian representation not only in front of the camera but also behind the camera. The episodes, “While Visions of Safta Danced in His Head” and “The Mourner’s Kaddish” were directed by Wayne Yip. Hunters provided Louis the rare opportunity to work with an Asian director in a dramatic show. “In drama, on television, there are very few Asian directors. I only worked with one other, that’s it. It was awesome. Wayne is stylish and a great leader. In the beginning, you have to unpack all the storylines of this huge group. By the time you get to me it’s like, let’s just move on- we got it in the wide shot. With Wayne…Wayne’s thing was like let’s get that little detail on Louis. I feel like he was looking after me. It’s important to build the mystery because a lot is revealed about Joe later in the season,” says Louis.
Returning home to New York to film Hunters was incredibly meaningful to Louis, “I was born in New York in the late ’70s. It’s cool to revisit that world. I loved going to work every day. It was a good environment. One legendary actor after another. To share life and talk about art.” Louis had the opportunity to “throw down” with one of his cinematic heroes Al Pacino, who plays Meyer Offerman. “As actors, the ’70s is something you always romanticize and the heyday of independent film when Scorsese, Coppola, De Niro, and Pacino were on top of the world making great art,” says Louis.
At the premiere of Hunters Louis reflected on conversations from the past year with friends and family about giving up acting, “I couldn’t go through the rejection one more year. I couldn’t go through pilot season one more time and not get anything.” Louis auditioned for Hunters while shooting Supergirl in Vancouver. “I read it and I couldn’t put the script down. I thought I absolutely have to book this role. I put myself on tape from my hotel room with my wife as the reader in L.A. on the iPad and my iPhone next to the iPad,” says Louis. Just when Louis was, “convinced that if I went in the room, they would know I wanted it so bad I would blow it”- Amazon made an offer. “When does this ever happen? This is the thing I was dreaming about. Amazon really believes in the show. There are billboards all over L.A. I feel so lucky, the stars aligned,” says Louis.
Watch Hunters Season 1 now on Amazon. Louis can also be seen in the upcoming film Beautiful Dreamer, he directs and stars in the short film The Translators.
Louis Ozawa Photo by Riker Brothers – © 2018, Banner Photo Courtesy of Getty Images