Alan Poul Interview: Tokyo Vice

Alan Poul Interview: Tokyo Vice

Executive Producer Alan Poul has a long list of distinguished credits, particularly with HBO, having worked on shows like Six Feet Under, The Newsroom, and Westworld. Now, Poul is producing the newest series from HBO, Tokyo Vice, which covers the memoir by journalist Jake Adelstein, who was the first American to be assigned to the Tokyo crime beat in the 1990s. The series stars Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Rachel Keller, Ella Rumpf, Shô Kasamatsu, and Tomohisa Yamashita. The pilot episode is directed by veteran filmmaker Michael Mann, with J.T. Rogers acting as showrunner.

Screen Rant spoke with Poul about what made Tokyo Vice a good fit for HBO, what Michael Mann brought to the project, shooting entirely in Japan, and the expectations for the show beyond season one.


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Screen Rant: Alan, you worked on one of my favorite shows of all time, Six Feet Under…

Alan Poul: Thank you.

Screen Rant: What makes HBO the right home for something like Tokyo Vice?

Alan Poul: You know, my whole career I’ve only been interested in telling stories that were character driven and stories that are about complex, f*cked up, grown-up characters who try to do the right thing and end up doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons and for those kind of complex and sometimes more literary type stories, I feel like HBO has always had an affinity, always more interested in diving deeply into the character than in creating plot for plot’s sake and so I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of work for them over the years.

Screen Rant: So, Michael Mann’s involvement shines a light on the show, especially since he’s so well known, particularly for Miami Vice…

Alan Poul: Yeah, yeah, there’s no similarity there, you know that right? [laughter]

Screen Rant: Yes, obviously. Very different shows. I’m curious what did [Mann] contribute to help shape Tokyo Vice into what it is?

Alan Poul: I think Jake’s [Adelstein] book existed and J.T. Rogers, our writer, is a brilliant playwright who came in with an entire structure for the season already worked out. But, this show, you have to be able to watch it and feel it and taste it and smell it and it has to have a really dense, sensuous sense of a really saturated, very full environment and that’s something that Michael is a master of, so, in terms of setting up Tokyo, which is, in many ways, our main character, and giving Tokyo full life on the screen, that’s the king of thing that Michael is so brilliant at doing.

Screen Rant: And you guys filmed in Japan for the entire show, correct?

Alan Poul: A hundred percent. A hundred percent in and around Tokyo and that’s never been done, I mean, for a non-Japanese show, it’s never been done.

Screen Rant: And you can feel it, too. Just watching the episodes you feel immersed in that environment top to bottom-

Alan Poul: That makes me happy, because it’s easier and it’s cheaper to shoot what you need to shoot in Tokyo and then get out and go recreate it, whether it’s in Taiwan or in Vancouver, but we were very committed to authenticity, we were very committed to shooting it in its entirety in Japan and it didn’t make it easier and it didn’t make it cheaper, but I think it makes it better.

Executive Producer Alan Poul Interview For Tokyo Vice, Michael Mann

Screen Rant: So there’s at least 12 years worth of Jake Adelstein’s story. What’s the endgame for this? Is it being planned out for multiple seasons or are you shooting for a one-and-done and see what happens. What’s the overall structure that audiences can expect?

Alan Poul: How far have you seen, Paul?

Screen Rant: I’ve gotten through episode three.

Alan Poul: Three, okay. So, the season is very active. The entire season actually takes place over a fairly compressed period of time. And, when you get to the end of it big things happen and big stories are closed and you know you’re at the end, but you’re not at the end of the story. We want to keep going. I’m not going to say twelve years, but we hope to have several more seasons to come.

Screen Rant: For this type of show, is this something you’re trying to keep all the main players, including the creative crew throughout?

Alan Poul: Yeah, we’ve become a very tight family. J.T. and I are very bonded and, I don’t know if you know, but J.T. Rogers who created the show and was the main writer, went to high school with Jake Adelstein. That’s how that connection happened.

Screen Rant: Really?

Alan Poul: Yes, they go back to Columbia, Missouri when they were 15 years old. So, there is already kind of a familial bond holding the show together.

Check out our other Tokyo Vice Interviews with Ansel Elgort & J.T. Rogers and Ken Watanabe as well.

Next: Tokyo Vice Trailer Reveals Ansel Elgort Diving Into Japan’s Criminal Underworld

Tokyo Vice begins streaming on April 7th on HBO Max.

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About The Author

Paul Shirey
(660 Articles Published)

Paul Shirey is a senior news writer for Screen Rant. Formerly the Editor-in-Chief of, he has over a decade of writing and reporting about the entertainment industry and has covered everything from Comic Con to CinemaCon to Star Wars Celebration, as well as covering numerous set visits and junkets all over the world. He is passionate about film, comics, TV and spends way too much on collectibles. A proud father, a combat veteran, dog lover, gym rat, coffee enthusiast and all around equal opportunity doughnut devourer, you can follow his daily exploits on Twitter and Instagram, as well as YouTube Videos on The Arctic Ninja Network.

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