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Marc Jobst was eager to make magic happen on Netflix’s live-action adaptation of the beloved manga and anime One Piece. The director, whose previous credits include previous hits at the streamer like Daredevil and The Witcher, was in charge of working with the talented cast who will bring the Straw Hat Pirates to life and directing the bombastic, Devil Fruit-fueled action the franchise is known for. In between the fantastical fights, however, are more grounded emotional moments between the pirate crew and their captain Monkey D. Luffy. Ahead of the series’ release later this week, Collider’s Arezou Amin asked the director how he approached those more emotional sequences when filming.
For Jobst, it was all about making his cast members feel as comfortable as possible on set. The team he’s working with includes Iñaki Godoy as the wannabe Pirate King Luffy, Mackenyu as the swordmaster Roronoa Zoro, Emily Rudd as the navigator Nami, Jacob Romero Gibson as the sniper Usopp, and Taz Skyler as the womanizing chef Sanji. Considering they are the central focus of the series, the director spent much of their rehearsal building up a strong rapport to get the most out of them when working together. It’s possible that, given the length of the manga and anime, this crew could have many years together ahead of them, so establishing that relationship early was crucial.
Reflecting on his years in theater and on-screen, Jobst believes in the power of icebreakers, community projects, and other things to build up trust between himself and his actors. He said of his methods and the reasoning behind them:
We had four weeks rehearsal, and we brought all the key cast over, and we worked together every day for half the day. We played some games, we humiliated ourselves in front of each other, we ate, we laughed, we goofed about. We did a community project so that they could bond together in the community project and also do some service in the environment in which we were working in South Africa. We didn’t really work very much on the scenes in the scripts. We did some work on some of the key scenes, but I come from theater, so I’m really used to working with actors. I love working with actors. I love actors, and the most important relationship is between the actor and the director to have a trusting relationship. And I felt really strongly that if we could build that trust in those rehearsal periods and those times together, then when they came out onto set, they’d feel safe with me.”
Jobst Encouraged His One Piece Stars to Take Risks With Him
Once they began going over lines, Jobst reassured his actors that they could take risks and go all out when depicting their characters without fear of ridicule. “I always say to them, ‘Look, I’m your parachute,'” he continued. “‘Whatever you do, I’ll make sure you get a soft landing. I’ll never laugh at you, I’ll never think anything that you do is ridiculous or silly. I will make sure that whatever you do, you’ll get a soft landing. I’ll protect you, but you gotta jump. You gotta try, and I’ll hold you.'” Part of the reason for doing a live-action One Piece series adaptation is to see these actors give their own spin on the beloved Straw Hat Pirates that can stand toe-to-toe with the original voice actors.
To help develop their performances, Jobst spent plenty of time with the actors working through the story of One Piece which follows the young Luffy in his quest to become King of the Pirates by finding the legendary One Piece and gathering a steadfast crew along the way to sail the seven seas with. He felt the collaboration was conducive to bringing out more confident, powerful performances from his stars, especially in emotional scenes where they need to be completely immersed in the mindset of their characters. Just as he wanted the actors’ confidence, he put his full confidence in them to enliven even the most powerful moments in the series:
“And once we got into that, then it’s about creating a safe space on the set for them to work, talking through the scenes and going through some of the basic things that you do when you’re working with actors, where you say, ‘What’s the story that we’re telling in this scene? Why do we have this scene? What’s the point of the scene? What does your character want for the whole story? What’s its bigger want? What does it want within this episode, and what does it want within this scene?’ Because once you work those things out, then the actor has a point to the scene, there’s a direction to the scene. Those basic fundamental directions of the director working with an actor make the actor feel like they’re being held and they’re being watched and that the director has got their back, and then they let go. Of course, when you work in a fearful environment, you contract; you just give as little as you dare because you’re afraid. When you work in a confident environment, you expand, and you try, and that’s when you get magic.”
The live-action One Piece adaptation premieres on Netflix on August 31. Check out the trailer below.