Naoko Mori began her acting career while she was studying for her A-levels. She decided to audition for West End’s production of ‘Miss Saigon’ in London. She was cast in the role of Kim opposite John Barrowman and become the first Japanese to play a lead role at the West End. She took singing lessons for this musical.
Her long-standing role as the best friend Sarah in the ABC sitcom ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ proved to be pivotal in her career as it exposed her to mainstream television. It remained a recurring character until 2011.
She was next cast in a regular role in the hospital drama ‘Casualty’ in which she played Mie Nishikawa, the receptionist. She starred in this role from 1993 to 1994.
She landed minor roles in various films, including the musical comedy ‘Spice World’ (1997), the thriller ‘Running Time’ (1997) and the musical drama ‘Topsy Turvy’ (1999). She also had a minor role of a Japanese hacker in the film ‘Hackers’ in 1995.
She found a lot more roles in various TV series, including ‘Thief Takers’ (1997), ‘Bugs (1998), ‘Psychos’ (1999), ‘Judge John Deed’ (2001)’, ‘Murder in Mind’ (2002), ‘Spooks’ (2002), ‘Mile High’ (2003), and ‘Powers’ (2004).
In the BBC docu-drama, ‘Hiroshima’, (2005) directed by Paul Wilmshurst, Mori was cast in a major role. The movie also involved reenactments of the atomic bombing in 1945 using firsthand accounts of the eyewitnesses who are alive. The film went on to win three BAFTA awards and an Emmy.
Mori also started working as a voice actor for video games from 2005. She voiced the role of Shizuka for ‘Genji: Dawn of the Samurai’ (2005), Mai Hem in ‘Perfect Dark Zero’ (2005), and return as Shizuka in ‘Genji: Days of the Blade’.
In 2005, Mori was cast in the hit BBC series ‘Doctor Who’ as Dr. Sato in the episode ‘Aliens of London’. Though this was a minor role, the popularity of the series ensured that she became a familiar face. The producer Russell Davies was particularly impressed by her performance and decided to cast her in ‘Torchwood’.
She was recast as Dr. Toshiko Sato in ’Torchwood’, a British sci-fi TV series which is a spin-off of ‘Doctor Who’ and it aired from 2006 to 2011. The show starred Christopher Eccleston and this became Mori’s most popular role as she was a recurring character.
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From 2008 to 2010, she only worked in the movie, ‘Maneater’ (2009). The movie directed by Michael Emanuel didn’t fare well either commercially or critically.
She eventually returned to the big stage with the production, ‘The West End,’ in November 2006. She was cast as Christmas Eve in ‘Avenue Q’, a role she took over from Ann Harada. She went on to play this character until April 2007.
In 2010, she portrayed Yoko Ono in the BBC Four production, ‘Lennon Naked’, a biographical movie focusing on John Lennon’s life. Her co-actor Christopher Eccleston essayed the role of Lennon. The film was premiered in London, United States, and Australia.
From 2011 to 2015, Mori starred in many supporting roles in different movies and TV serials, including ‘Private Practice’ (2011), ‘Three Inches’ (2011), ‘Vexed’ (2012), and ‘The Revolting World of Stanley Brown’ (2012).
In 2015, she was cast in ‘Everest’ (2015). She played the role of Yasuko Nambo and starred opposite Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, and Josh Brolin. Mori called this one of the most challenging and immersive roles of her career. The movie was shot in Nepal and Italy, and chronicled the lives of Everest explorers.
In 2015, she starred in comedy miniseries, ‘You, Me and the Apocalypse’. She joined the musical ‘On the Town’ which was the directorial debut of Drew McOnie in 2017.
She was a voice actor in ‘Big Hero 6: The Series’, an American animated TV series. She voiced the role of ‘Momakase’ in the episode titled, ‘Food Fight’ (2018).