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by ReneeJune 14 2024No Comments

How Nestor Carbonell Drastically Transformed Himself for the Role of a Lifetime on ‘Shogun’ (Exclusive)

Néstor Carbonell credits years of hard work — and a multitude of memorable TV roles — for allowing him the opportunity to appear on FX’s hit series Shōgun.

“Any time I get to work is a gift. I have a deep appreciation for every character I’ve had the opportunity to play because it is a chance to investigate a part of you within that character as well,” Carbonell, 56, exclusively told Us Weekly. “It’s so interesting because the opportunities I’ve had have had different kinds of audiences. So some people might recognize me from Lost, Bates Motel, The Morning Show, [the movie] The Dark Knight and now Shōgun, which is amazing.”

Carbonell got his start on TV as a guest star on various shows. It wasn’t until he joined Brooke Shield‘s NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan in 1996 that he rose to prominence and continued to book high-profile projects that gained him a dedicated audience. Most recently, Carbonell completely transformed to play Vasco Rodrigues on Shōgun, FX’s acclaimed historical action-drama, which takes place in Japan circa 1600.

“When you get the opportunity to truly escape into a role that is very far from you — those are the things you dream about,” Carbonell told Us about the skilled Spanish navigator who doesn’t have any specific allegiance when viewers first meet him. “Those opportunities don’t always come around that often because you’re typically doing more work in your immediate wheelhouse. So this was a phenomenal and an amazing opportunity and challenge.”

Before Carbonell could actually film scenes as Rodrigues, he had to bring the character to life. That meant a physical transformation which included creating an accent, adding scars to better reflect Rodrigues’s life story, cutting his hair as his character and more.

“Immediately [when I got the part] I was like, ‘Well, I’m definitely gonna start growing the beard now. Let’s start with that.’ Then we really talked at length about the history of this character and things that weren’t necessarily on the page to really get a sense of who he was emotionally,” he explained. “Then we got into what could inform him physically? I thought, ‘Well I’d probably want to put on a few pounds.’ I wanted to add some heft to the character.”

Carbonell gained around 20 to 25 pounds to better reflect Rodrigues as a character, adding, “It was wonderful just on the physical side to discuss when I got to set after doing all the emotional prep. [We discussed] how can I give him a history on his face and his hair and his physicality that will allow us to further escape into his world and give us a sense of where he came from.”

Based on the 1975 novel by James Clavell, Shōgun is an adaptation of the source material with show creators Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks taking major steps to properly depict key events and figures of 1600 Japan when the Azuchi–Momoyama period approached its end and the Edo period commenced.

“We had the privilege of having these experts who were flown in from Japan to inform every department. We got to learn social customs of the time period. And while my character was breaking all the rules, I knew how far to push it,” Carbonell said of his onscreen approach. “I really wanted to learn what the rules were so that I knew how to break them.”

Carbonell expressed his gratitude for the crew members behind the scenes that helped him on the journey. The actor was also thankful for the network that invested so much into reflecting authenticity within the Shōgun world.

“The support that we got from FX and from [Chairman of FX Networks] John Landgraf was just extraordinary. How he supported Justin and Rachel the entire production was phenomenal. I don’t think we could have been supported any better,” Carbonell shared. “Certainly in my time on the show, what I saw there was unprecedented. Every department was doing things in a phenomenal way to the highest level.”

He continued: “[Everything I learned on the Shōgun set] were truly gifts that help you escape even further into the character. It allows you to really be present in that time period and in that role. So again, it was a gift beyond my dreams to get to play a character like that.”

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