In this episode Elle sits down with Dante Carver to talk about his successful career as an actor that started when he starred in a now classic Japanese advertisement with Tommy Lee Jones!
Hello everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle.
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This week’s guest joins us from Japan and it is extremely early in the morning
so I very much appreciate him taking the time I’m joined this week by actor and
producer dante Carver, Dante how are you?
Thank you for having me.
Um, I know it may not be as early over there for you guys, but that you
may be busy so I appreciate you all taking the time to listen in as well.
Well, like I said, I appreciate you.
I’m not a morning person.
I don’t know if you are, but, uh, hopefully you are.
With, with coffee I am.
Of course essential.
So Dante, I am going to talk about your extremely successful career
in Japan and get into all that but I want to first roll it back to
before you even left to go to Japan.
So you’re from Brooklyn, New York.
Is that right?
Originally from Brooklyn, New York.
Um, my childhood was spent in Europe, Italy in Germany, uh, respectively, um,
but visited, uh, 80% give or take of Europe because at the time my parents
were of the mind, we don’t know when we can come back or have the opportunity.
So let’s see as much as we can.
Also traveling when I was a kid was much cheaper and easier.
Um, then teenage years I moved back to the U S and um, then eventually,
you know, bounced around from one state to another because of work
and eventually went to Vancouver for three months, um, which was quite fun.
Uh, and then here in a nutshell, yeah.
Yeah, my, my parents, um, mother’s side have a family in Italy as well.
So the idea of being abroad outside of the United States is always a blessing.
Um, because you get to learn about, uh, your history or the
history of family members, other cultures, things of that nature.
So moving around is something I’m quite used to, um, if I’m in one
place for too long, I actually feel strange because I’m used to moving
every two to four years give or take.
So this is the longest time I’ve been in one place without moving to another.
And how long have you been in Japan now?
Um, so off and on total this would be 17, but, um, it hasn’t all been together.
Oh, I see.
I was here for the first five, then all of my productions for almost like
a two year stretch, even if they were Japanese productions were outside.
Oh, I see.
Bouncing around quite a bit.
I had an apartment, um, fun fact had an apartment for a year, but only
spent exactly 13 days in the apartment.
What a waste of money.
I guess you have to have a base, you know?
Um, cause at that time that was when I had officially moved to Tokyo because
when I started out, I was in Kyoto and Osaka and at that time the agency I
was with suggested that I come to Tokyo because uh, I could book more work more
regularly because being in Kansai there just wasn’t a lot of work going on.
It’s like, okay.
So I moved to Tokyo and then it was like, Hey, we’ve got this movie
coming up so we’re going to be going to, uh, Nepal and the Philippines
and this place and that place.
And I mean, I had a fantastic time.
I, I miss traveling to other countries, but yeah.
In time I guess.
So when, before you left the states, right?
You came from the states to, to Japan.
Did you know any Japanese at all?
Ha ha no.
So kind of like a reverse host family.
So I had a Japanese host family, um, there in the states that I was actually
teaching, uh, the kids English to.
And as a present, they gave me a Doraemon dictionary.
They were trying to help me learn a few words and phrases.
So for the most part, I could say like, um, uh, where’s your passport?
Where’s the station?
Uh, where’s the restroom?
Kind of thing.
And you’re welcome.
It’s amazing how those little simple things mean a lot when you need it.
Then when I came here, study-wise a lot of that came from uh, memorizing
my scripts and we Utada Hikaru because that’s my absolute favorite singer.
Utada Hikaru was, um, she was also born in New York and, uh,
two days after me, uh, July 19th.
And she basically she’s like one of the most famous Japanese singers of all time.
There’s like records that she hits no other performer had hit.
Um, but the reason I liked her was because of her tones and the style of music.
I was introduced to her by some friends in university who are actually from Japan
and my friend’s like, Hey, listen to this.
And it was basically a, it was a mix of different artists, but
there is a song called First Love.
And again, I didn’t speak Japanese, but the tone of it, that
piano chords keys in the back.
I don’t know, it just resonated.
I was like, this is really cool.
Who is this?
Wanting to learn more.
And then that was kind of like the secondary open door to that.
And I say secondary because as a child, I studied Shotokan karate with my
father, but then we moved to Europe.
So you know that halted, but I’ve always had a, um, an interest in Asia.
Um, so my mother and I used to watch martial arts movies, kind
of like my, the doorway for me.
Um, they used to be this thing called the Kung Fu Theater that would come on TV.
Um, and when I was watching it, they were reruns, which I didn’t know until
I got older because, you know, they were really old movies, but had always been
into martial arts, things of that nature.
Then that kind of got me into wanting to learn more about Asia and its
respective countries, because as a child, you don’t realize they’re all
different until you’re in school.
And then from there that just, you know, that was it.
And did you, did you go to Japan with the idea in mind of, you know, I’m
going to act and produce, and this is the career trajectory that I want?
Well, the funny thing is my original plan was actually to go
to China first to study for a year and a half at the Shaolin temple.
And then from what I learned over there with the flight to Japan, because
I wanted to basically try my hat in Power Rangers and become a writer.
And I’m deadly serious.
I loved, I love power Rangers.
Uh, you know, I, I grew up watching them and it’s like the, the idea of a
non-Japanese actor or a foreign actor um, sometimes saying foreign feels weird.
So if I react weirdly to it, apologies, um, but being a
non-Japanese actor in a Japanese production, hadn’t really been done.
And as a African-American it hadn’t been done.
So it’s like, well, why not?
The idea is I just want to try it, but what really got me into coming is my
plan going to China, it got canceled because there was, um, very much
similar to now there was an outbreak.
So the entire program was canceled and scrapped, but I had already quit my job
so my apartment, all that kind of stuff.
So my Japanese friend’s like, why don’t you just come visit us?
There’s a tourist visa for 90 days.
Come see the country, come see us and kind of rethink of what you
wanna do and then go from there.
So basically it was kind of a way to keep me from going into depression mode
of, you know, the dream being busted.
When I came over the first week, I was scouted by four agencies.
And from there that was kind of my…
well, maybe I should try it out here and, you know, rethink it.
Went back to the states, um, had some family stuff to take care of.
And then about a year later, uh, 2005, I came back to Japan and that’s
when I, uh, basically kind of started doing modeling and um, bit acting.
Cause I didn’t speak any Japanese.
So the stars aligned for you to end up in Japan, basically.
Uh, yes, yes, yes and no.
The only reason I say no, because there were 121 auditions that I didn’t get.
Um, and I used to, I used to have a notebook that I would write down what
it was and why I didn’t get it, if they’d let me know why I didn’t get it.
And, uh, it literally came to the point where my parents were like, Hey,
we’re going to send you an e-ticket.
So, you know, if you want to come back, you can.
And I was asked to come on a set as an extra for Vodafone.
And I talked to my parents like, should I take it or just fly back?
And my dad’s like, you’ve been there…
you’ve been there this long trying just go ahead and do it.
I had gotten jobs, but no contracts.
And I wasn’t, like I mentioned before I was in Kansai so going from Kansai
to tokyo I’m paying out of pocket.
So that’s where I’m losing a lot of that money.
So it was a, it was a very hard, hard, tough road, but worth it in the end,
because I’m also a very persistent person.
And, you know, I had some people Stateside that were very
supportive of me not making it.
So it was, uh, it was like, okay, no problem.
I’ll do my best to make it.
So they told you that?
They said we don’t think this…
Like, Ooh, it’s not a good idea, you should try something else?
So for the most part, it was uh, family-wise always supportive
as long as I’m doing something positive, they’re always on board.
Um, but for those people, those motivators, as I like to say, um,
we’re pretty much like, well, you don’t speak the language, you don’t
look Japanese, those kinds of things.
And it’s like, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Um, you know, it shouldn’t be a deterrent for anybody, uh, going anywhere.
You know, if anything, it should motivate you to, to try harder or
to try and make the connections with that culture and that, and those
people because you are different.
So I just use that.
So every audition I didn’t get was fuel for, I’m going to make it,
going to make it, going to make…
to the point where there was 564 yen left in my bank account.
When I came back to Tokyo from Vodafone.