Who does Rina Sawayama play in John Wick 4?

Rina Sawayama as Akira, Lionsgate Publicity
Rina Sawayama as Akira, Lionsgate Publicity /

The long-awaited fourth installment in the John Wick franchise is finally here! John Wick: Chapter 4 hit the big screen on March 23 and boasts a scene-stealing supporting cast alongside the iconic Keanu Reeves as the titular Mr Wick. One such cast star is Rina Sawayama — but who does she play? And who is she outside of the vibrant, violent world of John Wick?

Minor spoilers for Chapter 3 only! 

Who is Rina Sawayama’s character in John Wick 4?

Sawayama is making her feature-film acting debut with the action neo-noir JW4, portraying a powerful, bow and arrow-wielding character named Akira — the lead female role. The movie follows directly on from Chapter 3 – Parabellum, in which John Wick travelled from New York, USA to Casablanca, Morocco and back in order to escape the hitmen after him following his murder of a crime lord and the subsequent actioning of his ‘excommunicado’ status.

Chapter 4 takes John across the globe to Paris, Berlin, and Japan, and it is in the latter where we find Rina Sawayama as Akira Shimazu, a member of the Osaka Continental and the daughter of its manager, Koji. Just as we saw in Winston (Ian McShane) and Charon (the late Lance Reddick) as members of the New York Continental, Akira is skilled in combat and, despite a complex relationship with both John and her position in his “shenanigans“, she is able to fight intensely against the High Table to protect herself and her family.

Aside from her physical prowess, Sawayama stated in a Flip Your Wig interview that Akira is also an emotionally layered role: “I think she’s a really, really deep character, there’s a lot about her you don’t know and you don’t find out in the movie”.

Rina Sawayama as Akira, Lionsgate Publicity
Rina Sawayama as Akira, Lionsgate Publicity /

Who is Rina Sawayama?

Outside of the acting world, Rina Sawayama is a musical sensation! Dubbed a ‘pop chameleon’ thanks to her multiplicity of sub-genres, the Japanese/British singer-songwriter was nominated for both the ‘Rising Star’ and ‘Best New Artist’ BRIT Awards in 2021 and 2023 respectively. She has also garnered over 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify and upwards of 50 million streams on her biggest track, ‘XS’.

The 32-year-old revealed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that she believes it was two of her music videos (including ‘XS’) that may have helped to land her the role of Akira in JW4, with director-stuntman Chad Stahelski calling her and asking if she’d be free in the months of filming.

"“there’s a video called ‘XS’ where I’m acting like a robot and I’m breaking down. And there’s a video called ‘Bad Friend’ where I’m looking like a Japanese salary man and doing a fight scene… and it worked! Because [Stahelski] said “I’ve been watching your videos. Keanu and I watched your ‘Bad Friend video and ‘XS’ video and were so impressed because clearly you do stunts… and clearly you can act.””"

Moving from the world of music to acting can be a huge jump, but Sawayama appears to have taken to Hollywood like a duck to water, receiving critical praise for her role as Akira, and expressing a desire to do more acting work during multiple interviews.

With the release of her single ”Eye for an Eye” as part of the official John Wick soundtrack, Sawayama has showcased her ability to exist in multiple entertainment worlds. We’ll simply have to wait and see what the future holds for Rina!

John Wick: Chapter 4 is out in theaters on March 23. 

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