For Christopher Sean, ‘Ultraman: Rising’ is a childhood dream come true

The actor on the Japanese classic, the eerie coincidences between him and the Japanese actor who made him feel welcomed by Japan

Emi riding on Ultraman’s back as they fly over the ocean.

Courtesy of Netflix

Words by Jalen Jones

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!

In Ultraman: Rising’s Tokyo, a typical work week isn’t complete without a surprise siege from a 50 feet-tall kaiju. Just as the city’s newest Ultraman—the Japanese American baseball player-turned-superhero Ken Sato—starts to find his footing, the monkey wrench of fatherhood arrives right on time to keep his arrogance in check. After a fire-breathing baby kaiju imprints onto him, Sato must learn to balance his ego, his work, and parenthood to protect Emi, and all of humanity.

To commemorate Ultraman: Rising’s recent release on Netflix, the voice of Ken Sato (and diehard Ultraman fan) Christopher Sean sits down with Mixed Asian Media and tells us how growing up mixed made him ambitious, reveals what famous Japanese actor made him feel wholly accepted, and shows us his Ultraman mask collection that’s been decades in the making.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Jalen Jones: Congratulations on all the buzz surrounding Ultraman: Rising! I had an incredible time watching.
Christopher Sean: Thank you, man. Thank you for watching too. Thank you for taking the time. I’m happy you enjoyed it mostly, but more happy that you get to actually watch it, you know?

JJ: I just flew back from Japan, and watched it on the flight home.
CS: Did you cry on the plane?

JJ: Almost! I had to hold it in—I couldn’t let the people on the plane see me crying. So obviously Ultraman has always been super huge in Japan. You had a personal connection to Ultraman since you were a child, right?
C: My mom and I would go visit my grandparents, my aunts, and my cousins in Japan, and Ultraman would be on TV. I’d be rolling around, being a kid, and then we’d go to what’s called the Omatsuri—it’s a festival in Japan—and there would be Ultraman masks. I actually have the masks now.

One of my buddies, John Aoshima, recently went to Japan and got me one of those Ultraman masks and brought it back. I can probably go grab it now actually!

A headshot of actor Christopher Sean in a black blazer and white top, against a blurred background.

Christopher Sean is the newest Ultraman.

Courtesy of Netflix

JJ: Yeah! If you have it.

Author’s Note: Christopher runs into another room, and comes back with an Ultraman mask, still in pristine condition. He giddily puts the mask in front of his face for part of his answer, smiling ear to ear.
CS: When I was a kid, I would get these masks. I would always be super hyped about them, I was like, “Ultraman, holy cow. That’s my hero.” I have a whole collection in my room, but this is it right here—it even has the Japanese label on it. John brought this one back from Japan for me; John Aoshima, he’s amazing, our co-director. And that mask was literally what I would buy—I would look for that one, or the Ultraseven mask.

Eijiro Ozaki—he is an amazing [Japanese] actor, he was in Shōgun—he came up to me and said, “Christopher, Ultraman is such a core, Japanese cultural character, that we’re so honored that you would play the Japanese American version of Ultraman.” I thanked him so much. I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear that, to feel accepted by Japan. It was a beautiful moment, and I’ll never forget that. It’s difficult, you know, being half. It’s difficult—you don’t ever feel like you’re American, and you don’t ever feel like you’re Japanese, and you feel kind of in-between. Now I’m just like: I’m 100 percent American, I’m 100 percent Japanese, I’m both, man! I love both my cultures, and I’m lucky I get to embrace both of them. Whether or not they embrace me, I’m still there, and I’m gonna fight for them.

JJ: That’s really amazing to hear, especially for us at Mixed Asian Media.
CS: Shout out to the MAM fam and Alex Chester-Iwata!

JJ: How did it feel going through the audition process leading up to the role? I’m sure the stakes were high, given your connection to Ultraman.
CS: [At first, the script read] Gamma-man. And it had so many striking similarities to Ultraman, that I was like, “Hey, I don’t know if you guys know this, but it’s very similar to Ultraman.” And they said, “Oh really? Tell us more about this Ultraman.” And I was like, “Well, I grew up with him.” Anyway, they didn’t tell me that I booked the role—all they told me was that I had a chemistry test with another one of the actors.

So I show up, and I don’t know if you saw the video, but I’m dressed in a green long-sleeve workout shirt, like my “Gamma-man” outfit. They say, “We’re sorry to let you know that you did not book the role of Gamma-man.” And I was heartbroken. I’m trying to just say positive words to keep my mind out of the heartbreak, but then they’re like, “Yeah, you actually booked Ultraman.” I don’t hear it at first because I’m so heartbroken, but then I’m like, wait, holy cow! Much like how I grabbed the mask just now, I ran to the back room and was like, “I’ve got Ultraman action figures!”

JJ: A big part of the movie was struggling with issues related to parenthood, and juggling that with your career. Did you find yourself tapping into any personal family experiences as you approached the role?
CS: So spoiler alert: I’m a stepfather. I have a 20-, a 17-, and a 15-year-old, and I met them 10 years ago. And when you’re choosing to be in a relationship with somebody who is an amazing mother, there’s a very fine line that you have to be very respectful of—not only to the children, but to your partner and as well as their ex. Because it takes a village. I had that experience of learning what it means to be a stepfather. I feel very like Ken Sato in that aspect, where I was like, “What am I doing, what is going on?!” So, I did the best I could, and I think they’re great children. Their mom did a wonderful job, and their father and myself, as the village raising these kids, they’re turning out to be amazing people, so I’m very proud of that.

Also, my father—much like Ken’s—was in the military. So he’s deployed quite often. You could literally cut up and move the pieces [of the movie] around, and it would be identical to my story growing up! I really felt like this script was written around my life. I just can’t wait for whoever hasn’t seen it yet to stumble upon this beautiful, emotional landmine.

A frame from "Ultraman: Rising" of a pink baby kaiju, Emi, with Ultraman, together underwater.

Ultraman and Emi together underwater.

Courtesy of Netflix

JJ: Throughout the movie Ken Sato clearly struggles a lot, given that he is both Japanese and American. How did you relate to Ken in that regard?
CS: As a kid, in San Diego and Mississippi, I remember going to school having tuna rice balls. My friends were like, “Ew, what’s that?” I would love them, but because of the judgment, the food bullying, I’d ask people to trade me for like a peanut butter jelly sandwich…Going back to relating so much to Ken, he says, “You know, people ever make fun of you? The way you talk, what you eat? You’ll learn really quickly they’re going to make fun of you no matter what. So you give them something else to talk about.” That’s just it—you gotta find ways to overcome that, whether it’s through humor or becoming successful in your academics or sports. But you give them something else to talk about, rather than to allow them to just bully you.

JJ: What would you say surprised you most about working on Ultraman: Rising? Besides the role being Ultraman, of course.
CS: Honestly, the role has been incredible, but it’s the family that I’ve built. I mean, don’t get me wrong, every project you work on is your family. But this family is special—every single [person is] authentic and truly [went] out of their way to uplift each other. Man, this found family, it’s my favorite part, including the PR team, everybody at Netflix Golden, they’ve gone out of their way to make me feel special. There’s nothing better than feeling that type of love.

Published on July 8, 2024

Words by Jalen Jones

Jalen Jones is a Black and Filipino writer, poet, director, and all around creative who came of age in Eagle Rock and the greater Los Angeles county. Over the years, he has hosted a children’s workout DVD series, directed an Emmy Award-winning public service announcement, and produced the NAACP Image Award nominated short film, The Power of Hope. Passionate about portraying the real, the unpinpointable, and the almost-unsayable, Jalen has published a wide array of poetry and creative work that lands on these very discoveries. More than anything, he hopes to build a house out of words that can make anyone and everyone feel like they belong. Find him on Instagram @jalen_g_jones and online at