On a chilly December evening, when most adults are getting ready to call it a day, little Seishiro Kato is on location and hard at work. Crowned and wearing a king's costume, he stands amid a cluster of staff … and his mother.
Having thrown off his royal robes –- his attire for his latest TV appearance -- he's full of confidence and sharp to respond in English, "My name is Seishiro Kato. Nice to meet you!"
It's with this candor that he has lit up the world of Japanese television.
Just nine years old, Kato has fast become one of the most recognizable faces in Japan. He was widely recognized in the 2009 NHK drama series "Tenchi Jin" in which he played the childhood role of the main character Kanetsugu Naoe.
He became even more popular as an icon of Toyota TV commercials, in which he took on the role of a child shop manager. It was for those two roles that he was nominated for the 2009 U-Can's Buzzword Awards.
As if that wasn't enough, he appeared and performed his own original song at the 2009 New Year’s Eve Kohaku Uta Gassen -- the most famous national music show in Japan.
Kato has quickly become one of the most bankable talents for advertisers.
With eight years of acting under his belt, Seishiro Kato's first-ever public appearance was at age one.
"I heard that my parents registered me in the Himawari Theater just two months after I was born," he says. "Of course, I don't remember, but I guess that was the beginning.”
Like any nine year old, he enjoys taking trips to Tokyo Disneyland and wearing playful costumes.
"I wore a Jack Skellington costume from the movie 'Nightmare Before Christmas!'" he says. "Of course I stood out but it was a lot of fun."
Knowing that he will be easily recognized, he has anticipated how to deal with the outside world.
"I do like to be recognized but sometimes I don't," he says. "When people are whispering my name and they seem like they want to talk to me, sometimes I approach them instead. But some people are kind of rude saying things like 'I don't think it's him. He's too short and too tanned!'"
Having seen his professional acting on TV, to hear that his favorite show is “Pokemon” is a bit of a surprise. He also admits that despite his busy schedule, he enjoys school life and spending time with his friends.
“My close friends usually don't say anything about my TV appearances or about my acting," Kato says. "The kids I usually don't get a chance to play with or I barely know say things to me from time to time though."
When it comes to critiquing his own acting, the young actor has mixed feelings.
"When I see myself making weird faces during crying scenes, for example, I get a bit disappointed. On the other hand, I actually remember when I delivered those scenes, so I feel that I've done well."
It's hard to imagine that at such a young age he is able to deliver his lines with such raw emotion, but Kato declares that crying scenes are not so difficult.
"I just get into the role and it rolls naturally," he says.
Despite his age Kato, has smart answers when questioned about his life.
Days of drama
Many people first fell in love with Seishiro's performance in "Tenchi Jin." Since then, he has been showcasing his acting ability by delivering intense scenes in several other dramas.
One of his more recent was "Sayonara Alma" (Goodbye Alma), taking on perhaps his most serious role to date in a drama set during World War II.
"It's about this dog, Alma that had to go to war -- as a historical fact, during the war not only people but dogs too, had military call-up papers called ‘Aka gami,’" he explains. "Alma was one of them.
"My role is a boy who not only lost his father in the war, but also was faced with having to let go of his beloved dog. It was really intense, I had lots of crying scenes."
Another upcoming special starring Kato is "Ninkyo Helper." It was a popular series in 2009 in which he played the dramatic role of a boy who is challenged by his mother's struggle with early onset Alzheimer's.
The all-star cast didn't intimidate the young actor during the shooting process. Kato admits he never feels shy or embarrassed to do what it takes to get the scene right.
“Working with adults doesn’t overwhelm me so much -- except the times when I have to work with really famous people. Maybe the only time I was ever a bit nervous was when I met Wada Akiko-San at the Kohaku Uta Gassen!"
The young actor enjoys working on drama series the most.
"Sometimes it can be exhausting, but the best part of it is that I can spend a lot of time with the other actors, and by the end of shooting the series we've all become friends," he says. "Of course, they're all adults (laughs)."
The cheeky kid has already worked with some of the biggest names in Japan.
Although he expresses ambitions to become a great baseball player one day, the demand for Seishiro Kato's talent and charm extends to singing, as well.
When asked about his musical taste, he says he likes Mr.Children and Arashi. Kato made his own musical appearance at the age of eight at last year's "Kohaku Uta Gassen."
He performed his own original song "Katsuobushi Dayo Jinsei Wa," which was released last summer.
Kato will soon be hitting the stage in "Les Miserables."
Kato was chosen out of about 120 children auditioning for the role of Gavroche, a street-wise urchin who dies on a barricade helping revolutionaries.
His solo singing performance and intense death scene will set him yet another challenge that he’ll no doubt take on with confidence.
The special drama “Ninkyo Helper” will be broadcast on Fuji Television Network (CX) from 9.00 p.m. on January 9, 2011
The musical “Les Misérables” will run from April 12 to June 12, 2011, at Teikoku theater (tel. +81 (0) 3 3213 7221, 3-1-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
Read more: Seishiro Kato: Popular, charming, talented, successful ... and nine years old | (cnn)