Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is out March 18 in theaters via Crunchyroll and serves as a prequel to the wildly popular anime series, Jujutsu Kaisen. It introduces Yuta Okkotsu, a new student at Tokyo Jujutsu High School as he struggles with his curse.
“Jujutsu Kaisen 0 follows Yuta Okkotsu, a nervous high school student, who enrolls in the mysterious Tokyo Jujutsu High School under the guidance of Satoru Gojo after being haunted by the curse of his childhood friend,” says the synopsis. The film is based on Jujutsu Kaisen 0 (Jump Comics/Shueisha), a prequel manga to the smash hit supernatural adventure series from Gege Akutami.”
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Jujutsu Kaisen 0 voice actresses Kayleigh McKee and Anairis Quiñones about their roles as Yuta Okkotsu and Rika Orimoto, the two main characters in the film.
Tyler Treese: Kayleigh, a lot of fans have really been looking forward to seeing Yuta in the anime, and this is such a great way to introduce them to the character. What did getting this role, and getting to star in such a highly anticipated film mean to you?
Kayleigh McKee: It has meant so much to me, honestly. It’s been such an interesting experience and one that’s been so fulfilling. At first, I tried not to get too excited about it, because I have the mentality of, until it’s out, I haven’t done it, it’s not real. So I was trying to lower those feelings inside of me. But I was also like, this is really cool, I really like this show, I really like this world, I really like this character. And then when they announced, I finally was like, okay, I can be excited, hello. People have been so nice and welcoming and it’s really given me such a powerful experience, not only in acting but how these things are navigated and just the thought that I can go to the theater and see a character that I am portraying in the English dub on a poster, that’s going to be super, super cool. So it’s something that I’ll always keep in the back of my pocket and have checked off the bucket list.
Anairis, you get to play a character that dies. You’re dead throughout most of this film, but you’re still actively contributing to the story. There’s so many different versions of Rika, how was it putting your different spin on them?
Anairis Quiñones: It was really fun. Rika in general is an archetype that I’ve never played with before, you know? It’s an archetype that I’ve always enjoyed and kind of fantasized playing with. But I finally got to play with this little girl that almost has Yandere energy and has such duality between her human form and her cursed form. It was really cool that I got to explore doing that archetype with Jujutsu Kaisen 0 specifically, because I think Jujutsu Kaisen in general, is this really well-written story that has these really great complex characters that gives the actors a lot to chew on and…Rika, she’s a little bit more mysterious, I think. But there’s still stuff that you can play with. I based a lot of her personality or a lot of my performance in making sure that it came from a grounded place. Making sure that, hey, when she is in her human form, she is this kid who is having fun.
She is this kid who loves having fun with somebody who is alone like her and she can relate to and that she cares for deeply. It was playing with that and grounding that and making that seem real for me as the actor and making sure that was real for the audience as well. Then you go with cursed Rika, who is totally different from human Rika, and I guess kind of exemplifies the more negative aspects, I guess, of a child. Throwing tantrums, having these base emotions of just jealousy or obsession or whatever. It was fun playing with that, but also trying to ground it as well, I think cursed Rika in the movie can sometimes come off a little hammy almost, how she’s animated or portrayed, but at the end of the day, I always try to keep it based in a very humble, authentic place so that whenever we’re playing with the development, specifically of Yuta and Rika’s relationship, it’s easy to play with and easy to just stretch it out.
You made a great point about the characters having so much depth. Kayleigh, Yuta just goes through quite the arc here. He kind of shuts himself away from society early on, gets put in Jujutsu High, and to see all this amount of growth in one film, and to see it play out in one sitting, how fulfilling was that for you as an actor?
McKee: Honesty, it was immense. It’s the first role that I’ve gotten to explore those depths so completely. And I really enjoyed seeing that growth within him and getting to explore that within myself and find the energy I can bring to that, to make it authentic in my own way. It was both a challenge to overcome and learn new skills with as well as a really good chance to play and show things that I haven’t been able to show before that I had already developed
Anairis, Rika is very protective of Yuta. Can you speak to just the bond that they share in this film?
Quiñones: You know, we get to see in the trailers, just kind of the classic childhood best friend, and you get to see this innocent love that is portrayed. And then within the same trailers, you’ll get to see how it becomes very, very toxic or very perverse in a way that is very interesting to explore. And I think a lot of what I like about Rika and Yuta’s relationship is that…I think this whole trope of oh, hey, here’s a character that is haunted by this person they used to love. I think that has been played out before, but now we get to see it played out in such a grounded way and in a way that really explores the psychology of both Yuta and Rika. And I think it’s really interesting to see where they are at the beginning of the film and then see where they end up by the very end.
Kayleigh, was there any particular scenes that really stood out as being, maybe your favorite to record? Maybe some of the fight scenes? I know that can be fun doing all those different noises.
McKee: Doing fight scenes is honestly so fun. My favorite scenes that I probably recorded are…there’s a good couple, this movie’s so full of amazing stuff. But one where Yuta is, for the first time taking a moment to consider himself, where he’s at, what’s going on and, not thinking about does he want to die or anything, just thinking about what’s happening in the world. It doesn’t sound that powerful, but for a person who struggles with depression and suicidal ideation type of things, getting to that moment where you’d simply consider around you and don’t fall into those spiraling thoughts, is really important mentally for somebody’s growth out of those pits. And so I really liked that scene, especially because he has a really sweet interaction with a friend during it. And so that, as well as when there are high energy moments, but he takes the time to stop and have a very tender interaction with Rika. The energy of those moments, because it’s things that halts to just be for them for a moment. Those were always really nice.
Anairis, you’re also voicing Yelena in Attack on Titan. How cool has that been seeing that final season air and getting to see all the fans react to all the twists and turns?
Quiñones: Oh my goodness. I’ve read the manga. So I kind of know where Attack on Titan is going, but it’s really exciting to see the fans react to these big moments, to these crazy twists, and who knows what’s coming up, but I think fans have a lot to look forward to when it comes to more Attack on Titan.
Kayleigh, being a trans voice actress, how has your experience been with the acceptance inside the industry? I feel like you being the top bill here means a lot, and shows some progression being shown.
McKee: As far as acceptance in the industry, I’ve found so, so much just friendly openness. There have been struggles, there have been hurdles to overcome, and unique problems even from people who are supportive that can cause issues. Especially, one of the things that I fight against the most is people who want to be supportive and don’t want to upset me, or make me feel offended. And, I think if your heart is in the right place and you’ve educated yourself even a little bit, I would rather just have the questions asked.
So there have been hurdles to overcome, but the acceptance that I’ve found in overcoming those hurdles, and I think from the attitude that I take toward it of being an open book and wanting to have those conversations respectfully and in a friendly, compassionate way, has been really, really pushing me, and other friends who take the same approach forward and opening avenues for other folks, at least I would like to think so. And I want to leave more space in the industry than I take. You know, I want to create more space than I ever sit in and take up. And I hope that that is happening.