Fendi shirt, $1890, shorts, $1320, and bag, $3160. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

THERE ARE CERTAIN cultural entities whose continued existence is nothing short of wondrous in 2024. Zany breakfast radio. Fusion cuisine. Neighbours.

Set in a cul-de-sac in the fictional Melburnian suburb of Erinsborough, the iconic Australian television series has been running since 1985 – a full four years before ultimate stayers The Simpsons. After coming to an emotional close in March 2022 only to return to TV six months later, it’s currently streaming on Amazon under the title Neighbours: A New Chapter. Now, to quote Deadpool, “pump the hate brakes” for a minute and consider some of the talent the show has helped launch onto the international stage. Thespians so big we don’t even have to use their first names: Crowe, Pearce, Robbie, Hemsworth x three, Mendelsohn and Minogue.

Fendi shirt, $2500, cardigan, $2500, and bag, $7500. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

The show’s next export might be Tim Kano. It’s been some time coming for the 37-year-old but with age comes wisdom and perspective – two traits as essential to a life in front of the camera as diction and hitting a mark. Kano’s life has been peripatetic to say the least. His mother, Sue, is a Kiwi, his father, Fujio, was Japanese and he bounced between the two countries during his formative years. All the while maintaining a handsome sense of style – think ’50s Dean Martin on holiday in Palm Springs – that makes him stand out from other actors, like a Brioni would at Lowes. And it’s been clocked by people who matter. Belvedere Vodka wants him at their parties; Ralph Lauren dressed him at the Australian Grand Prix as a fragrance figurehead; Nissan counts him as an ambassador. It would be an understatement to say that Kano is a man in demand. 

Since Neighbours was rebooted, most of the actor’s year has been taken up with the soap. He says the show has an eye on the American market and will feature some ‘big local names’ – Mischa Barton of The O.C. fame appeared in her first episode in February this year. Whether or not Ramsay Street translates to Rhode Island remains to be seen, but Kano’s enthusiasm is palpable. He has lived in the States before, after all, and hopes Neighbours will act as a catalyst for new projects. One of which he hopes involves a jump from the small screen to cinema or stage. 

Fendi shirt, $1190, shorts, $1040, shoes, $1870, and bag, $2400. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

“After working on a soap for so long, you never know what’s coming next and your character’s always changing – there are so many things going on with different characters – so it’d be really nice to explore your character arc from start to finish,” he says. 

Genre-wise, he’s casting his eye further afield. The idea of an action film in the Marvel universe with a comedic edge is not only enticing but one Kano feels equipped to take on. 

Fendi jacket, $3970, jeans, $1650, cardigan, $2500, and hat, $1150. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

“The beauty of the soap has been that every week, every block you shoot, you are dealing with different genres,” he says. “So it can be drama, comedy or you’re dealing with death. There’s just so much going on, so you really have to stretch, kind of flex the muscle. But I’d also like to have a role with the physicality of the action world.” Kano adds that the discipline and focus that comes with shooting a soap is often overlooked. But it’s one of the reasons the Erinsborough and Summer Bay alums often succeed in Hollywood.  

“It’s the best training ground you can have as an actor. You have to work so quickly. We shoot about 30 minutes of content a day, that can be 12 scenes, whereas on a film they might shoot a minute on a good day. And also, it’s out of order, so you really just have to learn how to be ready and things are moving and changing all the time.”

Fendi shirt, $1250, and pants, $1650. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

Something else that is changing all the time is the question of representation and diversity on-screen. It’s an issue Kano is upbeat about. “I think Australia and New Zealand have done an amazing job on representation,” he says. “But I think there will always be a little bit more work to be done.” Asked what voices he’d like to hear more of in this regard, Kano replies, “I think it’s definitely important that the stories of indigenous communities be told. Transgender roles also need to be explored and normalised. We want to get to a point where the character’s identity is not a topic of the storyline itself – they’re just a person in the story, where their background or heritage is actually not made a point at all.”

One of the more unexpected threads in Kano’s backstory is the fact that he not only studied political science at university in Tokyo, but was on the staff of New Zealand independent MP Chris Carter for a year. Might Kano ever swap one type of showbiz for another? “I was having a conversation with friends the other day about what we’d be doing if we weren’t in the acting industry, and that was definitely one of the things that popped up. I find New Zealand politics particularly interesting and it’s something I’d love to explore more as I get older.”

Putting his political-speak acumen to the test, we ask how the Australian political landscape differs from that in New Zealand. “I’m not quite sure how to put this delicately,” he begins. “But in New Zealand, as far as I can remember, we’ve always had a Māori party in parliament and they’ve always been extremely respectful of our Indigenous cultures and people. The result of the [2023 Australian Indigenous Voice] referendum was so unfortunate. I think we can look to New Zealand as an example of how things can operate when we have certain indigenous voices in parliament.”

Fendi shirt, $1250, and shorts, $1590. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

As far as his downtime streaming is concerned, Kano is both rueing and devouring the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. “I’m kind of sad it’s over because I love how he gives the actors he works with scenarios and then encourages them to improvise,” says Kano of the show’s creator Larry David. “It’s something we get to do a bit of in Neighbours. The best part of acting is when you’re playing off another actor in that way. You don’t know what you’re going to get and it’s not predictable, and that’s what’s real about it.”

Another show at the top of Kano’s download list is Shogun – FX’s 10-episode series on Disney Plus about the power struggles in Japan in 1600 and the influence of western religion and trade. “It is really beautiful to see the way Japanese culture – my culture – is portrayed,” he says. Somewhat sheepishly, he confesses to being a soft touch for a crime podcast. “It’s not ideal to be so fascinated by recent murders,” he says, “but this genre of podcast is so addictive. Especially when they pull in professionals from all over the world so you know how different cultures interact with crime, law and even death.”

Fendi shirt, $1520, top, $1320, and shorts, $1320. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

YOU COULD SAY THAT Kano has a sense of style that’s as innate as it is idiosyncratic. Hollywood Regency via Hawthorn. Much of which, he says, is owed to his older sister, Maya, a designer at Tory Burch. “She kind of curated me and bullied me into being very conscious about what I was wearing,” he laughs. “And on top of that Melbourne also is a great city for fashion and self-expression,” he adds of his home base. “Today, especially with social media, everything is so homogenised and commercialised, it’s so important to have your unique sense of self.”

Fendi top, $1320. Photography: Ivana Martyn-Zyznikow. Styling: Carlos Mangubat

His antidote lies in the subtle sophistication of ’30s, ’40s and ’50s menswear. An era where fabric, silhouette, weft and weave were the bywords. “It was all about simplistic beautiful cuts. Simple but chic, kind of minimal. Respecting the tailoring or the fabric of what you’re wearing without the need to be so overt.” Something similar could be said of the Fendi wardrobe he’s wearing here today. 

Interestingly, it’s precisely these elegant undercurrents that characterise Kano’s work. There is a ‘less is more’ approach at play, a gentle layering of character as you’d add a touch of cashmere or a pleat. It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world sees it, too. 

Grooming: Bradwyn Jones at Assembly Agency

This story appeared in the winter 2024 issue of Esquire Australia, on sale now.


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