FX’s Shogun Podcast Has Really Enhanced the Shogun Experience

Saying goodbye to Shogun means saying goodbye to a useful bit of tie-in media - FX's Shogun: The Official Podcast.

“SHOGUN” -- "A Dream of a Dream" -- Episode 10 (Airs April 23) Pictured (L-R): Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne, Tommy Bastow as Father Martin Alvito.
Photo: Katie Yu | FX

Official companion podcasts for popular TV series are not a recent phenomenon. Ever since networks realized that they couldn’t leave all the analytical fun to fans, big time TV shows have been accompanied by network-sponsored audio complements.

HBO has been a frequent producer with podcasts for its dramas like Watchmen, House of the Dragon, Succession, and more. Other networks have since gotten in on the action like Paramount Network with Yellowstone, Showtime with Dexter: New Blood, and Apple TV+ with For All Mankind.

The acclaimed American TV brand FX, however, never seemed too keen on official tie-in podcasting despite presenting many intriguing prospects over the years like The Bear and Fargo. That all changed this year when the Disney-owned company launched FX’s Shōgun: The Official Podcast to accompany the weekly release of its epic miniseries Shōgun.

The Shōgun podcast is notable in that it brings FX into the scripted drama podcasting arena (the network has previously tried out an audio companion for one of its docuseries). But what’s even more remarkable about it is that it’s actually good!

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Sometimes an official companion podcast can feel like an obligatory marketing throw-in for a TV project with a lot of dollars to spend and only so many places to spend them. The Shōgun podcast, however, is a surprisingly indispensable tool for viewers who did not read James Clavell’s 1975 novel nor watch the 1980 miniseries. Alongside the equally impressive interactive Inside Shōgun website, the Shōgun podcast delivers weekly lessons on the Sengoku period of Japan and offers some insights as to what’s going on in these many characters’ heads.

According to Jason Phipps, senior vice president of digital media at FX Networks, it was Shōgun‘s scope that made it the perfect choice to be the company’s first official tie-in podcast.

“Because a lot of the show is in Japanese, there are certain nuances that you may miss or something that you didn’t necessarily catch,” Phipps tells Den of Geek.

Phipps developed the idea for the podcast alongside Tyler Slocum, vice president of operations, platforms, and technology at FX. The pair shared the concept with the marketing team, development team, and ultimately production, led by Shōgun co-showrunner Justin Marks. Per Phipps, it was locking in the involvement of that last group that truly set the podcast up for success.

“I think the thing that really sets this podcast apart is that we were able to get the participation from almost everyone we wanted from the show,” Phipps says. “You had Emily Yoshida, who is not only our host and staff writer, but she also had experience in podcasting, so she was really comfortable with the medium. You had showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo. You had actors: Hiroyuki Sanada, Cosmo Jarvis, Anna Sawai. You had producers, writers, and directors.”

The Shōgun podcast really does feature just about everyone. Through the show’s first nine episode, the podcast has welcomed … *deep breath*: showrunner Justin Marks, producer and actor Hiroyuki Sanada (Toranaga), historian Frederik Cryns, costume designer Carlos Rosario, showrunner Rachel Kondo, actor Cosmo Jarvis (Blackthorne), producer Eriko Miyagawa, director Jonathan van Tulleken, actor Nestor Carbonell (Rodrigues), stunt coordinator Lauro David Chartrand-Del Valle, production designer Helen Jarvis, actor Anna Sawai (Mariko), director Fred Toye, actor Moeka Hoshi (Fuji), producer Mako Kamitsuna, writer and producer Caillin Puente, director Hiromi Kamata, composer Leopold Ross, and director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour.

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Even with all of the talent involved though, the Shōgun podcast likely wouldn’t work without its host, Emily Yoshida. Not only did Yoshida serve as a staff writer on the series but she has extensive experience in digital media, working for sites like The A.V. Club and Vulture, and even previously serving as host for the official Mr. Robot Digital After Show.

“Podcasting basically was my job before I started working on Shōgun. It seemed probably almost too convenient to have somebody [with that background] who was involved in the show, could speak to it in-depth, and ask questions to the cast and the crew,” she says.

Yoshida conducted a series of interviews for the podcast through much of the summer in 2023, including three sessions with Marks, and wrapped up recording for good in early 2024. At Will Media produced the show, while Yoshida wrote the questions, and fellow staff writer and researcher Caillin Puente contributed scripts for the podcast’s many in-depth history lessons.

According to Yoshida, many of her interview subjects’ passion for the show and willingness to speak openly about it is due in part to the lengthy wait they all had to endure in production.

“We convened the writers’ room in 2019 and we wrapped it just over four years ago – like the week before COVID lockdown,” Yoshida says. “That’s how long all of us have been waiting for this thing to be seen by people. My life looks completely different now than it did when I was writing on the show. There was so much time for the cast and crew to marinate on it. This show had the opportunity to become very, very sure of itself. And I think that’s what people are responding to.”

The interviewees on the Shōgun podcast are refreshingly forthright in discussing characters’ motivations and inner lives. The most recent examples (and the ones that served as the inspiration for this piece) were the frank discussions that Yoshida shared with Marks and actor/producer Hiroyuki Sanada about a critical moment at the end of episode 8.

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The moment in question leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Instead of deferring to solely the audiences’ imagination, however, both Marks and Sanada offered up extra context as to what the characters of Lord Yoshii Toranaga (Sanada) and his general Toda Hiromatsu (Tokuma Nishioka) were thinking. Yoshida reveals that a portion of Sanada’s interview that didn’t make the final podcast cut was even more revealing.

“Tokuma Nishioka, who plays Hiromatsu, and Hiroyuki Sanada [who plays Toranaga] have acted in a ton of things together. They go way, way, way back. They have a relationship not unlike Toranaga and Hiromatsu. That was one of the most amazing scenes of acting I’ve seen in a long time. But then getting to talk about it. I want to know ‘what do you guys talk about before you do scene like that?’ And it turns out that there’s just so much real emotion in that scene.”

As is the case with any bit of media that exists to support another bit of media, gauging the success of the Shōgun podcast could come down to gauging the success of Shōgun itself. On that front, the Shōgun podcast appears to have helped, or at the very least hasn’t hurt. Shōgun‘s premiere episodes drew 9 million viewers in six days across Hulu, Disney+, and Star+, making it the best-ever scripted premiere for Disney General Entertainment.

For Phipps and Yoshida, however, success can be defined through personal experiences (and probably through to the fact that some nerd bothered them for interviews about a simple tie-in podcast).

“I’m an admitted and notorious Reddit lurker. I’m always looking at the Shōgun TV show subreddit and they’re always talking about the podcasts on there,” Yoshida says. “I’m very pleasantly surprised about how the podcast has been received. But I’ve been completely knocked over by how well the show has been received.”

Phipps, meanwhile, has gone far enough to incorporate the podcast into his media diet.

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“Every Monday night, my team pushes the podcast out as soon as the episode is available on Hulu. Because I’m a fan, I’ll listen to it as I drive in to work. You really get so much [from the interviews], they’re so open.”

All 10 episodes of Shōgun are available to stream on Hulu in the U.S. and Disney+ in the U.k. now. Shōgun: The Official Podcast can be streamed on Apple, Spotify, and anywhere else podcasts are available. It can also be accessed on YouTube, Hulu, and Disney+.