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In March, Ken Watanabe officially stepped back into the role
the King of Siam, a part he originated in Lincoln Center Theater’s 2015 revival
of The King and I. It’s a showy
production with grand costumes and even grander set pieces that earned Watanabe
a Tony nomination last year.
Watanabe’s return to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln
Center comes after first leaving to fulfill a prior movie commitment and was
succeeded by Jose Llana and later Hoon Lee. He was originally set to reprise
his role on March 1. However, his return was ultimately delayed after the
56-year-old actor received a stomach cancer diagnosis and had endoscopic
Detected early, Watanabe tells ETonline that the cancer was
not life threatening. However, there was the possibility he could have missed
his return if the surgery wasn’t successful. Luckily for the actor and fans
alike, the procedure was, leaving only some guilt with the actor.
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“I felt horrible about missing it,” Watanabe says, adding
that it was reminder of how precious life is. “It has very likely affected my
Yet, no hesitation is seen on stage. “I wanted to play a different King, so in
preparing for my return, I tried not to think about the role until the old King
was cleared from my head,” the actor reveals.
With his Broadway debut behind him and time away from the
production, Watanabe is full of vigor and excitement. At times, he appears to
be having more fun than worrying about acting.