"I feel very connected to the stories of the men in ‘Only The Brave,'" says co-star Greg Watanabe. "Being Japanese American, I'm very proud to have been a part of this production. The more I learn about the experiences from the Nisei who were interned or those in the 100th or 442nd, the more I feel connected to my own history. I think an Asian American actor is very lucky to play a character for whom he has great empathy in a story that is important to himself and his community."
Watanabe, whose career to date has been mostly on stage, was born in Los Angeles and raised in nearby Fullerton, CA.
It was while taking an acting class at the University of California in Berkeley that Watanabe discovered his passion for performing, and soon after switched his major from English literature to the Dramatic Arts. He later spent a summer studying at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
His professional debut came as a member of a touring theater production for the Imagination Company, which visited schools in the Bay Area and performed short interactive plays for students.
Through a twist of fate, Watanabe met "ONLY THE BRAVE" director-writer Lane Nishikawa and producer Eric Hayashi while both were running the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco. During college, Watanabe became involved with an Asian American group called Wind and Water, then its spin-off, a sketch comedy group called Actors Anonymous, both of which performed at AATC.
Nishikawa subsequently cast him in a production of "Webster Street Blues" at AATC, which Watanabe calls one of his favorite theatrical experiences.
Later, Philip Kan Gotanda cast him in his play, "Fishhead Soup," at AATC, and both him and Nishikawa in "Ballad of Yachiyo," which was staged at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, Seattle Repertory Theater and the Public Theater in New York.
The highlight of Watanabe's stage career to date, he says, was playing the central character of Naotake Fukushima in director Les Waters' production of "Summer Moon" both in a Sundance Playwrights Lab workshop and for the world premiere production at A Contemporary Theater in Seattle. The performance earned him an Annual Footlight Award from the Seattle Times for "stellar acting" in a stage play.
In the last several years, he's had guest appearances in such television series as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Crossing Jordan," and "JAG."
"ONLY THE BRAVE" marks Watanabe's his first major film role.