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Jonathan Sherr: Movie Star and Star Translator in Japan

Maharishi School ’92 grad Jonathan Sherr has much in common with Tom Kellerman, a young American who left his home in the Midwestern United States to teach English to children in Japan. Of course, there are several fundamental differences: Kellerman hails from Kansas while Sherr grew up in Iowa. Kellerman received his educational background in the English language while Sherr majored in Japanese. And, perhaps most importantly, while Kellerman landed a job teaching English to kids, Sherr landed the job of playing Kellerman.

Jonathan Sherr stars as Tom Kellerman in "English Teachers," a Japanese webseries comedy about the trials and tribulations of teaching a foreign language overseas. Sherr’s part in this webseries came fast on the tails of his starring role alongside Japanese actress Mao Inoue in the feature film, My Darling Is a Foreigner.

Based on the popular manga series, "Darling was Gaikokujin" by Saori Oguri, My Darling Is a Foreigner hit the screens in April of 2010 and immediately skyrocketed to #3 on Japan’s movie charts. Based in part on Oguri’s own life with her husband, Tony Laszlo, the movie gives audiences a peak into what life can be like for Japanese-American couples, including all the little language barrier quirks and cultural confusions. The film took home 2nd place in the Okinawa International Movie Festival’s “Peace Category.”  (You can view the movie in 6 segments here.)

In the role of Tony, Sherr accurately plays the part of the bumbling foreigner; however, he is by no means a stranger to Japanese culture. Having lived in the country for over 12 years, Sherr is right at home with both its language and customs and has been known to switch over to the director's seat, giving instruction to the editing crews, in Japanese.

In his role of bridging culture and language gaps, Sherr recently co-hosted NHK World TV’s “Japan Unlocked,” a show that delves deeply into the intricate art of translating some of the country’s most famous literary works. Sherr and his fellow host, Shelly, helped viewers unlock the mysteries behind novels ranging from Yasunari Kawabata’s masterpiece, Snow Country, to Koji Suzuki’s modern horror story, Ring, upon which the similarly named American film was based.

Described as “earnest and unflappably positive” by international CNN interviewers, Sherr rose to success not by sheer luck, but through nearly a decade of dedicated work as a narrator, translator, actor, and English script editor and reviser.

“I first came here in '98 to work at a manufacturing company,” Sherr explains. However, the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. corporate grind eventually started taking its toll, and Sherr began looking into improv comedy workshops with the acclaimed group the Tokyo Comedy Store. “I was so inspired by my experience there that I decided to try my hand at acting and narration,” Sherr says. “Eight years later, I was in the movie.”

Above: Sherr getting his start in the limelight back on the Maharishi School auditorium stage.


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