Thursday, May 28, 2020

American expat actor in Taiwan makes splash in Japanese-Taiwanese co-production of popular 3-part TV drama "Taiwan Express" now available with 3 episodes with English subtitles thanks to a group of global subbers in Tokyo: reruns NHK and PTS esp 1,2 and 3 June 14, 21, 28

Gary Gitchel 
Photo of Gary Gitchel 

Interview conducted by blogger Dan Bloom in Taiwan
RERUNS of show in Taiwan and Japan on June 14, 21 and 28, all 3 eps

10 minute video of ''Taiwan Express'' TRAILER:

Exclusive interview with Gary Gitchel in Taipei on this page: in his own words, the inside story on how he got the gig, how the drama was filmed and where, and why it's become a hit in Japan where actress Haru commands a huge fanbase there. NOTE: all 3 episodes are now available with English subtitles online at a free website. For details and links contact this blogger or leave query in comments below. FREE ENGLISH SUBTITLES HERE:


日劇】路~台灣特快人物介紹+劇情簡介@ 日劇推薦-非零分享:: 痞客邦::

QUESTION: How did you get cast as Jack Bart and when was the audition?

2-minute video trailer of the TV show:
GARY: I had just completed shooting the PTS TV series “Lady Butterfly” in September 2019. The casting director on that show, Benjamine Ho, called me one Friday afternoon in early October and asked me if I was free, something about a Japanese director. I threw on my business suit and took an Uber over to the production office in Xinyi District, knowing nothing about the show. Benjamine met me at the building entrance and hustled me up to a conference room. Details were basically exchanged in the elevator. I was escorted into a large room and there were about 10 or more Japanese producers from NHK. They had a translator explain the story to me and the scope of the project, explaining that we would shoot several months equally in Taiwan and Japan. The meeting went well, lasting about 45 minutes. I finally told the director “I’m your guy” and he came around the table and gave me a big hug. The whole thing was an actor’s dream. Although I am not 100% certain, I think that I was the only guy for the part of Jack that they ever saw. I never read the script or auditioned during that meeting, we just chatted. 


GARY: There's an interesting evolution on Jack’s name. In the novel from 2012 that was written by a Japanese novelist and became the story for the TV series, in the 1st draft script, his name was ''Jacques Barth''. By the time an English translation script was delivered to me, he became "Jack Barth." In the credits and publicity materials it is Jack Bart -- I believe the Japanese side had some trouble pronouncing the “th”, it came out as a hard “t” in the filming when my name is used, and so it became “Bart”.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail (HSR) was one the first public-private partnerships in the world and also the largest civil engineering project in the world at that time. The partnership bid out and hired many different engineering firms from around the world to work on various elements of the project. Jack Bart in the TV series, the part I play, is the general manager of that consortium. He was “the-buck-stops-here” guy. 
In the script it was never defined what Jack’s age was. Note that the timeline of the story is over 8 years. Jack is American in the series. The real-life character that Jack is based on was a Frenchman. I am 66, but have always looked younger. I still play 40 year olds all the time. They did dye my hair for the production, taking out all the grey….

QUESTION: How many weeks or months did filming last?

GARY: Principal photography began in late November in Taipei. We shot in Taiwan at various locations until the first week of January 2020. Then production moved back to Japan. We shot all the interiors of the HSR boardroom at NHK Studios in Tokyo. Photography wrapped on February 28, 2020.

QUESTION: You spoke what sounded like Japanese in Episode 2. Did you read words from script in roman letters to do that scene?

GARY: Actually, I did not speak any Japanese in the show. You may be referring to the scene in Episode 2 where I go ballistic on Anzai in the boardroom and jump up into his face. That was English, but I was so pissed off that I guess it might have sounded Japanese...

QUESTION: Has there been any news of the TV show and you in USA newspapers or websites yet, like in Hollywood or the Los Angeles Times? Or in Japan in English language newspapers like The Japan Times or in Taiwan like The Taipei Times?
GARY: There has been no awareness of the show in the U.S. that I know of -- and I have been watching the trades. However, in Japan it seems to be developing into a phenom. Haru the star is extremely popular in Japan, I think kind of like a Julia Roberts type of image. You should check out the NHK feedback forums on the show. Lots and lots of fanboys and girls. Ah, Japan!...

QUESTION: Was the show mostly a NHK production or 50/50 with PTS TV in Taipei, Taiwan's public service network?

GARY: I don’t know the specific split on financing between NHK and PTS. However, the director was Japanese, the photography crew were all Japanese except for the “C” camera who were all Taiwanese. All the line producers were Japanese. Support services were all Taiwanese while shooting in Taiwan, but only the C camera crew traveled to Japan. 

QUESTION: The experience of working on that high-profile TV series (high-profiled in Japan and Taiwan) must have been a personal high for you as an expat actor in Asia, no?

GARY: Definitely a very rewarding gig on many levels.
1) The part provided me a chance to do a deep dive into the HSR development history, along with additional research on the Shinkansen. There are actually a handful of Western guys still living in Taiwan who worked on the HSR, and they were an invaluable source of info. I love history and I love trains, having had the chance to ride the Shinkansen and the TGF during my life.
2) The Japanese production values and team were top-notch professionals. Everything was unbelievably efficient every day.
3) The cast was excellent and a pleasure to work with.
4) The challenge, oh, the challenges!!
Language was a real thing on this set. The director spoke no English or Mandarin. So we all had translators/handlers. In my case she was trilingual. A typical day in Tokyo at NHK was: the director watched all the shooting in a control room on another floor. After each take, he would radio directions to the Assistant Director on the set. The AD would relay those directions to my translator. She would translate to me. If I needed clarification or had questions, the same chain would proceed in reverse. And then back again. Also, the Japanese actors that I worked with did not speak English. All their English lines were phonetically taught to them and they had a special guy on set to do only that. So improvisation was not really a thing on this set. The script had to be perfectly delivered or they would not know. When the Japanese guys mutter under their breath at me in a few scenes, I have no idea what they were saying. Interesting!

QUESTION: Before you retired in San Francisco and flew to Asia in 2014, what was your day job there before retiring?


GARY: I have been an actor my whole life in the U.S. My college degree was theater and I made my way to L.A. shortly after graduation. Basically in the 1970’s I was in LA, the 1980’s in New York and then San Francisco since 1990 until I left the States in 2014.
Of course, the life of a journeyman actor is sometimes not sufficient income to make a good life; so I have been a fine dining maitre’d, general manager, wine consultant -- and in San Francisco I did some commercial real estate brokerage on and off. All the while doing TV commercials, voice work, Silicon Valley corporate films, bit parts in L.A. movies shooting in San Francisco, etc.

So there you have it! You might want to ask about my ''Taiwan Immigration Gold Card.'' I am the first professional actor in Taiwan to ever receive the Gold Card -- and that has provided many advantages leading to me developing the work I am doing here.

QUESTION: Thank you Gary for taking the time to answer these questions. Congratuatlions of doing a great job in the movie. RERUNS of Part 1,2 and 3 in the series airs in Japan and in Taiwan on TV again on Saturdays, June 14, 21 and 28th at 8 pm in Tokyo and at 9 pm in Taipei.

GARY: Thank you for your interest in this!

Gary Gitchel
      SAG/AFTRA since 1978
THE TV DRAMA THEME SONG, ENDING CREDITS in Japanese and with English translation:
"Connected Heart"
Lyrics: by Kumiko Tabuchi [translation by ''Mrs. Google'']
Born separately
To live together
Deeper than a bond
Hot thoughts
Golden wind  
Blowing on the green earth  
Thoughts connected  
Connected dreams
Oh, torn in the times
Washed away sadness  
Even if you lose everything do not forget  
You and I
Don't let go of each other's hands
A heart that will be connected forever
『つながる心』  作詞:田渕久美子



離さない 互いの手を
永久に つながる心を


Cli-fi movement temporarily sidelined by pandemic news, but sure to rebound when time is right

See press release

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Exploring Taiwan's Political Culture and Body Language for the Taking of ''Oaths of Office''

WHAT IS THE PROPER ARM SALUTE FOR TAKING AN OATH OF OFFICE IN COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD AND IN PARTICULAR IN TAIWAN? A friend in Germany posed this question. With special emphais on Taiwan's way of taking an oath of office for elected politicians nationwide. HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THIS? SEE BELOW

First, two recent photos from the front page of Apple Daily newspaper on May 21, the day after the second inauguration of President Tsai on May 20 to illustrate what Jesper told me.



RE: Oath of office gesture

Elected and unelected politicians and national leaders in Taiwan have sworn the oath of office with the right arm raised at a 45° angle for more than 70 years, first introduced by Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石) in 1949, according to photos of him online.
This Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) oath of office gesture was then used by presidents Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), according to photos available online.
The gesture has become so normalized in the course of 70 years that even Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidents Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) used the same body language during their inaugurations without being aware that they were using a KMT political gesture, brought to Taiwan by Chiang.
However, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙), in photos available online, used the oath gesture of the right hand raised in the same way as politicians in Japan, Europe and the US take the oath of office.
Is it not time for the DPP to follow their own path and stop using the KMT oath of office gesture? The KMT can still use its own Chiang-inspired gesture, as it is part of KMT culture. However, the DPP needs to wake up and stop using the KMT oath gesture.
signed ''Anonymous''


The Vice Presidential Oath of Office

The Presidential Oath of Office

If the current style of body language for taking an oath of office in Taiwan was created by Chiang Kai-shek in China and brought the 45 degree raised arm style to Taiwan in 1949 and then the style was used by the KMT for 50 years until the DPP win election in 2000 to 2008 and again in 2016 to 2024, should President Tsai now that she is aware of the KMT history of the oath gesture stop using it herself and ask all DPP politicians to stop using and start using the traditional oath gesture used in Europe and the USA and by Sun Yat-sen himself long ago? Will she be persuaded to change her ways, Jesper asked.

In Taiwan political culture, when politicians who take an ''oath of office'' as Tsai did on May 20, they raise right arm at 45 degree angle in what ''looks'' like to some foreign observers as a ''Nazi style" salute.

But that *cannot be the case as Taiwan has never had *anything to do with Nazi Germany of Hitler's time. Jesper sent me a photo of Tsai pictured in Apple daily front page. ''I've noticed this body language for oaths for many years as an friend and European observer of Taiwan," Jesper told me. I was shocked! Could it be true? I looked again at the photos he sent me.

''Maybe this kind of oath of office body language was learned during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan for 50 years since Japan was ally of Nazi Hitler but I doubt it, " Jesper wrote.

''Or from KMT culture, following the way Chiang Kai-shek and his son and Lee Teng-hui executed their oaths under KMT rule. Have you ever noticed this? It is bad ''optics'' in international media. What do you think? I can send u photo if you don't believe me," Jesper added.

Another friend, this one an older Taiwanese man in Taipei told Jesper re this brouhaha: "I have not noticed that ....but now that you mentioned it .....yes it seems what you said is true. This particular act could have ben started by the Chinese Nationalists KMT with those at the DPP following the precedents. So I am not sure about Taiwanese copying from the Japanese -- do Japanese take an oath of office with right hand at 45 degrees?"

"Suffice it to say if the 45 degrees angle signifies the Nazi fashion then we shouldn't follow the evil regime's practice. Symbolism does matter," Jesper said.

Jesper said he ''copied'' this issue and photos to a few acquaintances in Europe and Taiwan to see if anyone might know something.
''Taiwan was never a nation so it must have copied from the KMT or the Japanese, rather than its own making and intended to mimic the Nazi style," the elderly Taiwanese man told Jesper. "We'll see what the responses are. No matter what, I agree a person's rigjht arm should be raised perpendicularly at 90 degrees to avoid any misunderstanding in the international arena."
Jesper replied: "Yes I agree. Main thing is if enough people raise the issue, and without blaming anyone in particular because we don't know what happened in history to create this particular ROC oath of office  body language style, maybe things can change. Yes raising the right hand in a perpendicular way is key here."

Jesper is the first person to bring up this sensitive issue and he said that nobody in Taiwan really cares.
"It would be interesting if a newspaper or  blog in the Chinese language in Taiwan or overseas raised this issue just to explore it," Jesper said. "I wonder how the KMT and the DPP would react? If the Liberty Times or Apple Daily published an article in Chinese in Taipei it would get people thinking. But who would be brave enough to write it?"