Takako Matsu: Actress or pop star? Why pick?

Women's Impact Report: Class Actors

Born in 1977 into a distinguished Kabuki family, Takako Matsu experienced an elite upbringing, and her progress to the showbiz top was smooth and rapid. She won her first lead role, in pubcaster NHK’s 1994 period drama “War of the Roses,” when she was still in high school.

But since arriving as a film, stage and TV drama star, as well as a popular singer-songwriter, Matsu has proven her staying power, versatility and talent. Last year she swept domestic acting awards for her turn as the spunky, much-put-upon wife of an alcoholic, womanizing scribe in the Kichitaro Negishi drama “Villon’s Wife.”

This year, Matsu has been winning kudos for her role in Tetsuya Nakashima’s “Confessions” as a junior high teacher who coolly plots revenge against two students who killed her toddler daughter. Released in June, this pitch-dark mystery drama has not only raked in $44 million, but been selected as Japan’s nominee for a foreign-language Academy Award.

Matsu also recently scored a hit with her new pop album “Time for Music,” her ninth, which she supported with a sold-out nationwide tour.

She is currently prepping for a January production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” playing the dual role of twins Sebastian and Viola.

Despite her tony pedigree, Matsu’s image is anything but elitist. Instead she often plays everywoman characters and on TV commercials pitches everyday products, bread and beer among them. Also, as a sheltered aristocrat in the 2009 Shimako Sato sci fi epic “K-20,” she came across as comically ditzy. When she also piloted a small plane down the side of a skyscraper to rescue the falling hero, no one thought it strange. It was just Matsu being Matsu, Japan’s own Wonderwoman.

– — Mark Schilling

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