Shōgun’s Showrunner Justin Marks Opens Up About Maintaining Authenticity To Japanese Culture While Crafting The Intense Show

Anna Sawai in Shōgun.
(Image credit: FX)

Adapting a massive novel like Shōgun into a ten-part miniseries takes a whole village, and showrunner Justin Marks admits that it's all about keeping the authenticity of Japanese culture while remaining respectful. For those who don't know, Shōgun is the latest drama show to hail from FX. The miniseries follows the lives of three individuals – a ship pilot from Europe, a daimyo from Japan, and a young woman whose family has been dishonored and who has to prove her worth in the chaos that occurs. Shōgun is based on the novel of the same name by James Clavell, and the book itself (when bought in its complete version) has a whopping total of 1,312 pages. So yes, there is a lot of story to bring to life. 

When speaking to CinemaBlend to promote the new FX series (one of many great shows available on Hulu), the showrunner for Shōgun commented that the difficult part of bringing this intense but beloved book to life was finding a way to make sure that the show was authentic in the way it delivered Japanese culture, while also building something that resembles what it was like to live in 1600's Japan when there is still "a lot of debate" on what life was like back then. Justin Marks told us:

I think I'll key onto the word 'accurate' because it's an interesting one to talk about in the context of this show. And it's one that with our department heads, we talked about a lot. What does it mean to be accurate about a period in 1600 that there's still to this day a lot of debate about within Japan, within the community of Japanese historians and many of whom worked on our show to help advise us? What are we in search of? And also in the interest of rendering something on screen and that we can execute at the number that we have. And so the word that we ended up really chasing more than anything was this idea of 'authentic.' What is it to do something that is authentic, to work with your Japanese producers, your Japanese advisors and collaborators to create a version of Japan and 1600 that hopefully will feel true to Japanese audiences?

Honestly, the rise of Asian-centric media has been a significant talking point over the last few years. Two Best Picture winners – the 2020-winner, Parasite, and the 2023 victor, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once – were Asian-centered stories, the former coming directly from South Korea. 

Warriors holding up their weapons in Shōgun.

(Image credit: FX)
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TV shows have also blown up in the last few years, from Squid Game, which is receiving a Season 2, to the Japanese hit Alice in Borderland, which has already gotten a Season 3 order and has become one of the best shows to binge-watch on Netflix

These pieces of media and FX's Shōgun all have one thing in common – using community voices to portray an authentic experience properly. Justin Marks brought up that as a showrunner, they had to really "rely on those voices" during the undertaking of making the show in order to keep it historically accurate while also using international cinema as inspiration for the production process:

And to do that, I think you have to really rely on those voices in your process. Helen Jarvis, our production designer, worked very hard through historical detail to kind of get it right, so to speak. And then you're adding layers that are also expedient for production purposes. And so when we did that, we would very often rely on the same kind of tricks and shortcuts that were done within the vernacular Japanese cinema in order to do it so that we were careful to be sure that we were being as respectful as humanly possible.

With so much time and effort poured into the set designs, costumes, and more just from the trailer seen online, Shōgun's authenticity will be unlike any other show – and will indeed join the ranks of one of FX's best dramas. 

Shōgun received another miniseries adaptation in the 1980s and several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Limited Series. The first two episodes of FX's version of Shōgun will be released on February 27th, while a new episode will be released every week until its finale on April 23rd, 2024, as part of the 2024 TV schedule. 

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.