NEW YORK (PIX11) — From his slick performance in “Baby Driver” to captivating us in “West Side Story,” Ansel Elgort now has us caught up in a web of intrigue as an American investigative journalist working in 1990s Tokyo in the crime thriller “Tokyo Vice.”

Elgort went through extensive preparations for the role. He completed four hours per day of Japanese class, aikido training — a Japanese martial art — and learned about investigative journalism.

His character is based on the memoir of real crime reporter Jake Adelstein, who worked on Japan’s largest newspaper, and the stories he uncovered about the “Yakuza,” or Japanese mafia.

When he got to Japan, he wanted to learn writing as well, because as a journalist and he had to write in Japanese characters on a notepad. That slowly turned into more extensive studies, learning the grammar behind these lines and how to make sure he understands what he’s saying. This practice enabled him to say a line differently from take to take, the way he would when speaking English.

Elgort’s portrayal is realistic and compelling as he navigates through the underbelly of 1990s Tokyo. The actor also shadowed Adelstein on stories in Japan.

He learned that Adelstein is a little bit of a rule-breaker and saw first-hand how he could talk his way into any room. Elgort wanted to bring that to his character as well.

The show’s writer and creator, J.T. Rogers’ connection to Adelstein goes way back and it’s how the project came about. Rogers and Adelstein have been friends since drivers’ education in high school in Missouri. 

When Rogers was walking his dog in Brooklyn several years ago, Adelstein called and asked if he’d been receiving threatening phone calls in Japanese. Rogers said he had been receiving some strange phone calls and that’s when Adelstein warned him that he had found out a terrible secret about the worst mobster in Tokyo and the gang was now calling and threatening everyone he knew.

Rogers said he knew he had the makings of a great show. Legendary Japanese actor Ken Watanabe plays a detective in the series. Rogers’ characters are what drew him to it. He found that every character had a big and deep background. 

“Tokyo Vice” airs on HBO Max.