Karen Fukuhara has always been a badass with her rich experience in karate and the larger world of martial arts. However, since she portrayed the character Katana in the 2016 DC superhero film Suicide Squad, she has added swordplay to her fighting repertoire.
Stories like Karen’s are rare to come by. Before Suicide Squad, she had no acting portfolio whatsoever. It makes it even more intriguing to see how this Japanese American seized the opportunity and made the role of Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana. If you didn’t know who she was before, you definitely do now.
Following her explosive film debut on the DC franchise, her management has gotten a lot busier. Fukuhara has been on a slew of other movies and series.
Fans of the DC were not the only ones surprised by Karen’s emergence from nowhere. Apparently, this peaked the interest of a lot of television show productions too. Since her explosive debut, Karen has been on shows like Conan, Good Morning America, Made In Hollywood, and Up Close With Carrie Keagan. All these appearances happened in 2016.
Following her breakout performance with the DC Comics story, she has been on a few other projects, including movies and television series. In 2017, she voiced the character of the Sewer Queen in the short television animated film Craig of the Creek. Starting in 2018, she took up a recurring role voicing the same character in the television series of the same name. Karen Fukuhara has also been on the cast of The Lost as Laura Baker, Stray as Nori, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power playing Glimmer, and The Boys among others.
Besides her emergence and filmography, here are a few things you may not know about the young actress.
1. Karen Fukuhara has worked a few odd jobs in her past
Before her breakout, the actress had filled a few job positions, some of which most would identify as weird. She has worked as a subtitles editor and a translator, two responsibilities that she was able to fulfill thanks to her polyglot nature. Karen was born on February 10, 1992, and raised in Los Angeles, however, her parents who are Japanese immigrants taught her the Japanese language.
Fukuhara has also waited tables at a reggae sushi-themed restaurant. This is probably the most unorthodox role she has ever worked in. At the time she was snapped up to be part of the Suicide Squad cast, she was working as a translator for a Japanese model, helping her navigate the New York Fashion Week.
2. She didn’t know what character she was auditioning for on Suicide Squad
By the time, she graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology and a minor in theater, Karen decided to pursue acting full time and began to try out in many auditions through her manager Sally Hinata. When she began to try out for the role, all she knew about it was that it was a role of a character that had fighting skills.
As the audition organizers decided to keep it that way, she went home and jabbed out relevant words on her trusty computer. Karen googled phrases like ‘Japanese, sword, character, hero, superhero’ and she did find out some information about the sword-wielding character Katana.
This helped her prepare better for her auditions, especially in the second round that involved sword fighting. She left such an impression on the director David Ayer that played a big part in her selection.
3. She is a martial arts specialist
Karen Fukuhara may not have been a martial artist had she not been asked by her mother to babysit her baby brother. He had just started taking karate classes and being a notorious kid in school, Karen’s mother didn’t want him causing trouble in school or anywhere else, hence Karen’s babysitting gig. But her chaperoning duties soon turned into a genuine interest for the art of karate and the rest, as they say, is history.
Karen became really good at karate and even won a karate championship in her high school days. She is a brown belt and practices a brutal, full contact, MMA-like style of karate known as Kyokushin karate which translates to “the ultimate truth”. This helped her come up with almost all the stunts she used on the set of Suicide Squad.
4. Suicide Squad was not her first television appearance
Although the DC Comics blockbuster movie was her first acting role, it was not her first time in front of the big screen. After a friend had introduced her to a Disney casting director, Karen became one of the hosts for Disney Channel’s Movie Surfers. During her time with the show, she got to interview the likes of Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom. She was an eighth-grader at the time.
This marked her entrance through Hollywood’s massive doors. She got other opportunities including World Sports which aired on Japan’s national public broadcasting network NHK, along with Disney’s Movie Surfers.
5. She got a tattoo along with co-star Margot Robbie
The actress has talked about the fun times she had hanging out with the cast of Suicide Squad during its shoot. According to Karen, there was Jared Leto who always introduced himself as the Joker whether he was in character or offset.
One of her best moments during that period was the day she got a “SKWAD” tattoo on her ankle to commemorate their team of supervillains. Margot Robbie who plays Harley Quinn came to set with her tattoo gun and gave everyone – excluding Will Smith – a matching “SKWAD” tattoo. Karen got hers on her ankle.
6. Karen Fukuhara still lives with her folks
In a 2016 NBC interview, the actress admitted that even though a lot had changed in her life after Suicide Squad, her living conditions had not. Karen who attends A-list events and jets around in private airplanes still lives with her parents. She loves to spend time with her parents, and she was especially happy when she convinced her nervous traditional Japanese father to come to the Suicide Squad movie premiere with her.
7. Karen used to be in a singing group
While she was at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the actress tried her hands at singing. She was part of an acapella group known as the UCLA Medleys. She was in the group for a while too, prompting her fans to assume that she must have some nice pipes on her.