ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: 16 VFS alumni come out swinging for ‘Shōgun’

By VFS, on April 10, 2024

It’s time to chat about one of 2024’s most popular series: Shōgun. Often compared to Game of Thrones (pre-final season of course) due to its complex storytelling and political drama, this highly-rated period piece is a must-see – and not only because 16 talented VFS alumni have worked on it!

Currently rated 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, this captivating historical drama, based on James Clavell’s 1975 novel of the same name, sucks you into the world of Japan’s politically powerful figures in the 1600s. While fictional, certain characters and plot points are loosely based on real historical events. The series stars Hiroyuki Sanada (John Wick: Chapter 4, Bullet Train) as the powerful daimyo Yoshii Toranaga, Cosmo Jarvis (Peaky Blinders, Raised by Wolves) as the cheeky rough around the edges Englishman John Blackthorne, and Anna Sawai (Pachinko, F9: The Fast Saga) as Toda Mariko, the interpreter and burgeoning love interest.

Hiroyuki Sanada and Anna Sawai star in Shōgun, streaming on Disney+.

The 16 VFS alumni credited on Shōgun come from our Makeup Design for Film & Television, Film Production, 3D Animation & Visual Effects, and Foundation Visual Art & Design programs:

  • Jo Archer (Makeup Design)
  • Petur Arnorsson (Foundation & 3D Animation)
  • Eli Best (Film Production)
  • Courtney Frey-Krabbe (Makeup Design)
  • Ikara Gamache-Howard (Makeup Design)
  • Caitlin Groves (Makeup Design)
  • Patrick Henry (Film Production)
  • Sara Hilmarsdottir (Foundation & 3D Animation)
  • Warren Mazutinec (Film Production)
  • Mike Nickiforek (Makeup Design)
  • Andy Stockman (Makeup Design)
  • Elena Topouzoglou (3D Animation)
  • Beverley Wong (Makeup Design)
  • Hiromu Yamawaki (Film Production)
  • Kel Zhu (Film Production)
  • Nataly Santos (Makeup Design)

If you haven’t seen Shōgun yet, this is your cue to turn on your TV (available on Disney+), grab a snack, and watch the work of our incredible alumni.



How does Shōgun compare to other popular historical dramas, such as Game of Thrones, and what elements contribute to its high ratings on platforms like Rotten Tomatoes? 
Shōgun is often likened to Game of Thrones particularly in its epic storytelling and complex political intrigue. However, it's important to note that Shōgun stands out on its own merits. Its high ratings on platforms like Rotten Tomatoes can be attributed to its compelling narrative, well-developed characters, and attention to historical detail. While both series captivate audiences with their intricate plots and richly imagined worlds, Shōgun distinguishes itself with its unique setting in 17th-century Japan and its exploration of cultural clashes and power dynamics.

How did  Shōgun’s production team balance historical accuracy with creative storytelling?
The production team likely conducted extensive research into the period of Japan’s history depicted in the series, studying the political landscape, social customs, and cultural nuances of the 1600s. However, since Shōgun is a work of fiction based on James Clavell’s novel, they also had the freedom to take artistic liberties in crafting the plot and characters. This balance likely involved consulting historians and cultural experts to ensure authenticity while also allowing room for dramatic interpretation and narrative intrigue.

What challenges did the makeup design team face in bringing the characters of Shōgun to life?
The makeup design team of Shōgun likely faced several challenges in bringing the characters to life, especially considering the historical setting. They had to research the makeup styles and grooming practices of the 17th-century Japanese society depicted in the series. Additionally, they needed to ensure that the makeup not only reflected the time period accurately but also enhanced the portrayal of each character's personality and status. This might have involved using traditional Japanese makeup techniques for certain characters, while creating more natural looks for others. Furthermore, they likely had to consider practical challenges such as filming conditions and actor comfort while applying makeup for long hours on set.


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