Tokyo ProjectTokyo Project

Ebon Moss-Bachrach Travels Through a Haunted Tokyo Project

By Eleanor Laurence

HBO: For viewers who know you, Richard Shepard, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner [Tokyo Project’s producers] from Girls, how is the film a departure from the series?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: There are common elements in terms of the people, and I suppose It’s about the same length as an episode of Girls, but tonally, it’s completely different. This is a much smaller production. I don’t know how many Tokyo Projects you could have made for the budget of one episode of Girls. It’s actually my prefered way of working, with a very small crew and everyone piling in a van to go around different locations. It’s a more intimate effort.

HBO: What intrigued you about the storyline, or was the appeal in the intimacy of the production?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: Before I read anything, Richard asked if I would like to make a movie in Tokyo. So already that’s like — I’m going to be there. Then, I was quickly drawn into the script. It was very mysterious. The last couple of pages really threw me for a loop. So I was fully on board, and a couple days later Richard called to say, “Oh, do you like Elisabeth Moss? Because she’s going to play opposite you.” I was like, “This is the best job in the world.”

HBO: What are some unique acting challenges in making a short film?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: I feel like there are benefits more than challenges. In a bigger production, there’s much more down time, things are more broken up. The monster of a big production is a much slower process. For me, the faster we move, the better. My favorite work experiences have always been with a paired down crew. It’s nice to know everybody in the room.

HBO: How did filming on location in Tokyo impact the storytelling?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: I’d been to Tokyo before and had a list of places I wanted to go, things I wanted to do. I quickly realized that I was in Richard Shepard’s Tokyo dream. I was going to do everything he told me, eat everything he said, drink everything he recommended — just really see the city through him. The movie is about a man’s trip to Tokyo for work, and that really echoed what I was experiencing as we were shooting.

HBO: What were you most interested in exploring in terms of the relationship dynamics in the film?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: There’s an amazing thing that happens when you’re in a new place, especially when you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language. You feel like a ghost on the outside of things. I read the script almost like a ghost story. Elisabeth Moss’ character seems like a ghost to me. My character seems like a man who’s lost a big part of himself and is not fully present. I tried to dovetail between being in a foreign place and not much of a participant and being an outside observer of your own life.

HBO: For you personally, what type of travel experiences do you seek out?

Ebon Moss-Bachrach: I truly love being lost in a city. Having lived in New York for a long time, I feel comfortable being lost and not being able to communicate with people. It’s a unique feeling that you only get from traveling and being outside of something that you understand.