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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

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Lennon Naked – Naoko Mori plays Yoko Ono

Naoko Mori as Yoko Ono

Naoko Mori, star of Torchwood and Doctor Who, was drawn to playing the role of Yoko Ono in Lennon Naked by both the challenge of the role and also the opportunity to work with Christopher Eccleston once again.

"I'd worked with Chris before in an episode of Doctor Who and felt we'd worked really well together. I have always admired his work and had a lot of respect for him. He really is a tremendous actor – and a wonderful man."

Naoko admits that, initially, she felt somewhat apprehensive about playing such an iconic figure as Yoko Ono, but soon realised that it was just the challenge she had been waiting for.

"I really liked the script, but attempting to play one of the biggest icons of the 20th century would be the most challenging thing I'd attempted – with a huge risk of failure. Initially, I was worried that I might not understand Yoko properly or portray her accurately but I soon realised that this was exactly the type of role I'd been waiting for. I was ready for the challenge and, after all, Yoko is a woman who has fascinated me all my life."

For Naoko, another demanding element of the role was the prospect of a full nudity scene. "It is something I swore I would never do. It was a huge obstacle and challenge for me. I can't even get changed in front of my family or my friends, let alone anyone else!"

The nude scene in Lennon Naked is based on the Two Virgins album cover.

"It was not about sex – rather it was a bold, warts-and-all declaration of their 'rebirth'. For me, it wasn't just the challenge of being naked just physically, but mentally, too, being able to get to the place where they were emotionally."

Naoko's first memory of Yoko Ono was at the age of "around five or six" when she heard Yoko's song Kiss, Kiss, Kiss.

"That first impression had always stayed with me. Even as I grew older, I didn't quite understand her; the wailing, the singing, the artwork, everything. She was an enigma, a mystery, almost an ethereal being. I've always been fascinated by her throughout my life."

Although Yoko Ono is a complex individual, similarities in their upbringing helped Naoko relate to her in some ways.

"Her fight with her own issues and demons, her feelings of 'always being an outsider' is something I can relate to in my own personal way. Our experiences of living in different countries from an early age and what we had encountered are similar in some ways. Of course, I'm nowhere near as intellectual or artistic as her – but I think I can understand and relate to a lot of what she says."

Lennon Naked concludes at the point where John and Yoko move to the United States. Many felt that Yoko Ono influenced Lennon to leave the Beatles and, eventually Britain, but Naoko is not certain as she says: "I don't believe she manipulated or controlled him. She may have guided him and opened his eyes to explore new things but not maliciously as is often thought."

Naoko sought to portray Ono as a "human" and a "woman" whilst depicting the great bond she and Lennon shared. "I wanted to express how strong a connection they shared and that they genuinely fell in love on a strong, deep level."

Naoko says that she has a "very deep respect and admiration" for Yoko and hopes to "delve into her deeper" sometime in the future.

"Playing Yoko in Lennon Naked was an interesting exploration and foray into her world and it has taught me so much. I believe my relationship and curiosity with her has only just begun."

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