For Keiko Agena, the actress who portrayed Lane Kim—the young Korean American best friend of Rory Gilmore, music aficionado, and drummer of Hep Alien—stepping back into Stars Hollow for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life after 10 years still felt like coming home.
“I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time and the vibe was one of gratitude and excitement,” Agena told AMAZ TV. “Just a chance to get to play these characters again and have them have a good send-off was a neat opportunity. We’re all different now so I think we brought all of that into it.”
She said reading the scripts for the series’ revival felt familiar and reminded her why she wanted to do the show in the first place.
“Amy and Dan [Palladino] are great writers,” Agena said. “I think that is definitely one of the things that was so exciting about Gilmore Girls from 2000 to 2007—well, they aren’t there until the very end—but their writing is what drew me to falling in love with the project then and made me fall in love with it again this time around.”
While the character of Lane went through a lot of growth and change throughout the course of the series, Agena said the way the character’s life ended up is not necessarily how she envisioned it, but that she still enjoyed portraying the role and seeing how she ended up.
“I probably wouldn’t have chosen everything that Lane went through if I were Lane, but I think for a person we like—we want them to have a smooth, perfect, and happy life, but that doesn’t make for great comedy or good entertainment,” Agena said. “I think the fun part is seeing how resilient people are when they’re thrown with challenges — to see how they come out in the end. I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by Lane’s life, but I think it’s different from what I would have wanted for her.”
Agena said after portraying Lane for all these years, she felt a strong connection to the character, but admitted that they’re more different than alike.
“Her whole fascination and knowledge about music is definitely something we don’t have in common,” Agena said. “Again, that’s Amy and Dan Palladino’s mind—that’s definitely them. On paper, I think I have less in common with Lane than I have in common with her. My relationship with my family is a lot smoother. I didn’t have the same situation growing up—that wasn’t the kind of household I lived in. I think the main thing we have in common is the anxiety. She’s very anxious, I’m very anxious, or at least that’s what I brought out in here. I’m also a loyal person, and I think she’s pretty loyal as well.”
Before landing the role of Lane Kim, Agena lived in Honolulu, Hawaii where she was born. Agena attended Mid-Pacific Institute preparatory school in O’ahu and then Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington before moving to Los Angeles at the age of 19.
She said acting was something that always interested her from a young age.
“It started out as an afterschool activity because my mom had signed me up for a mime class,” Agena said. “One of the requirements at the end of it was that we could audition for a play so I did my first play at the age of 10, and I had a great time and I’ve always loved it since.”
Aside from acting, Agena has explored other disciplinaries in the arts and entertainment, including producing, drawing, and most recently, improv comedy.
She hosted “Scarlett Johansson Presents”, an Asian American variety show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, which was created by comedian Will Choi as a way to combat the whitewashing of Asian Americans in Hollywood films—an issue that Agena said she and her local community have been addressing through their work.
“Some of the fun things that are happening are being done locally for myself and the people I know,” Agena said. “The basis of this show is to address the whitewashing situation in a comical way. Will Choi came out as Scarlett Johansson and I came out as Emma Stone. He also has an “Asian AF” show he pitched since the Scarlett Johansson show did so well and premiered it at UCB.”
“Then there’s the Comedy Comedy Festival which is something that Jenny Yang put together. Atusko [Okatsuka] whose part of Disoriented Comedy—I just saw her one hour show that she recorded, which is amazing. And she does standup,” she added. “In these local ways, it’s both being in Los Angeles and showing executives coming to these live shows that there is a lot of Asian American talent out there.”
Agena said because of social media, many advocates in the Asian American community have been able to create a digital presence to make their voices heard.
“There’s Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man and Jenny Yang is very active on social media platforms and talking about issues like that, and Constance Wu has definitely come out as someone who is vocal about issues about representation,” Agena said. “Things are changing and they’re never changing fast enough so hopefully in five years, it will be a different landscape, but I think it’s good that it’s moving in that direction. I do wish we were further along than we are.”
Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life is now streaming all episodes on Netflix. You can also catch Keiko on “Super(fluous)” a new web-series about superheroes living in a world of others superheroes and attempting to compete for work in an overcrowded job market. She will also be in Colony, MTV’s Sweet/Vicious, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, and an upcoming episode of NCIS.