Tell us about when you were cast to play Freeza.
At the time, my son1, who was still little, was a big fan of Dragon Ball Z, and when I was set to appear, he was overjoyed. But when I told him, “I’ll be playing Freeza,” I got back, “Oh, so a bad guy, huh…” (laughs)
What was your impression when you first saw his character design?
My impression when I saw the illustration was, the old “nobleman” standby from historical dramas. His appearance is of elegant refinement, but he’s high-handed and intolerable. I associated my image of his voice with that aspect. As the story progressed, perhaps the scriptwriters also sensed it, as I was happy to find that the sort of lines I’d imagined gradually increased.
Freeza is an incredibly cruel alien; how did it feel to play that sort of character?
It was a lot of fun. (laughs) He doesn’t put his emotions out front, but he does have those feelings, and when he snaps, he shows a completely different side… I believe that this sort of role-making is the most interesting part of being a performer.
Was there anything you were conscious of in playing a “rival to the main character” like Freeza?
I like playing people who have a lot of flaws. It varies with the person, but all people have some flaw, and they live while hiding them, right? For me, finding those flaws is part of making the role. The bigger the flaw, the more evident their individuality, and the character becomes more interesting. In Freeza’s case, I think what throws his flaws into sharpest relief is probably Goku. Goku possesses the depth of emotion that Freeza is lacking in. So I thought, Freeza is envious in the face of that Goku, so he stubbornly clings to the notion that [Goku] is a being of lesser strength than him.
You also played Freeza’s older brother Coola, who appears in the movies, Nakao-san.
That’s right. With regards to Coola, I interpreted him as a character who was an extension of Freeza, so while I may be inviting misunderstanding in saying so lightly, I had the privilege of doing him freely.
What is Dragon Ball Z’s appeal as you see it, Nakao-san?
I think it’s the strong designs for the world and its characters. It also has to do with what I said about a character’s flaws before, but Gohan, the son, is more intelligent than Goku, his father, and the idea that they complement each other is nice.
Finally, please give us a message for the fans.
I feel extremely lucky to have encountered Freeza, whom so many fans still remember, even so many years since the show ended. If everyone continues to support Dragon Ball from now on, as well, I believe he’ll rejoice from the afterlife. (laughs)
(Recorded 15 April 2004)