Hey. I’m Keiko Agena. You probably know me from Gilmore Girls. I played Rory’s best friend, Lane Kim.
These days I am obsessed with many things. Most often I obsess over improv. These are my teams and some of my best friends.
When I’m not doing improv, I’m probably with this dude. http://www.shinkawasaki.com/ (Shin Kawasaki/Life Partner/Cool Cat)
For other stuff I am obsessed with (including Puppet Projects) check out: www.keikoagena.com
Victoria’s helping me get started, AMA!
What was it like working on the set of Gilmore Girls? Everyone on the show seems so chill…are they all really chill on set too? Or were some of them bigger handfuls to deal with?
It was an intense show to work on I think because everyone wanted to do well. I feel fortunate that I got to spend so many years on it.
Gilmore Girls Movie?
If Amy wrote it – of course.
Did Sebastian Bach realize he was filming a TV show?
He is amazing to work with, though.
He had so much energy. When we would film anything band-related, he would always get the extras to have a good time!
Mrs. Kim was one of my favorite characters, my favorite scene of hers was when there was a second wedding for her own mother and as soon as she left she turned and yelled, “GO!” What was Emily Kuroda like offscreen?
Oh! Emily is the sweetest person you will ever meet. She is also a complete computer nerd. I think people would be surprised by that. She’s always got the most cutting-edge technological gadgets. I think the only thing Emily and her character have in common would be an intense work ethic.
Amy writes VERY word-y scripts… memorize or Cue Cards? Do you remember any monologues or lines that are stuck in you head?
No cue cards! Absolutely not! Yes, the scripts were daunting, and we had to be word perfect. I still have nightmares about it.
I always imagined Mrs Kim knew about Lane’s secret closet of awesomeness. Do you think she went up there and punked out while Lane was at school?
In my dreams, she did.
What is your favorite Edward Herrmann story or memory?
I think seeing him at all the table reads? He was so charming, and such a gentleman, on and off screen. That kind of charisma is just infectious.
What was your favorite scene to film in Gilmore Girls?
One of my favorites was when I got kicked out of the house, when Mrs. Kim found all of my hidden items… I loved it because Emily Kuroda is such an amazing actress.
Where is Mr. Kim? We are dying to know!
Oh yes, that’s one of the great mysteries of the series. Even I don’t know.
Is Melissa McCarthy as adorably fun and charming in real life as she seems?
I am a HUGE Melissa McCarthy fan. I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear good things happen to her, because she’s one of those people you cheer for when good things happen to them.
What is your favorite episode of Gilmore Girls?
You know what? I think maybe the pilot.
We had to shoot the Rory & Dean scene 3 times, because they cast it twice before they found Jared.
That whole experience of filming in Canada was one to remember.
Do you still keep in contact with any of the Gilmore girls cast?
I keep in touch with Emily a lot. She’s actually in a new show, called “Old People Play,” it’s a play, it’s not a show-show, that my husband wrote the music for, it’s a musical. They’re going to perform it in March. And also some of my band members, too. I’m actually hoping they show up here somewhere.
I told them, I think they’re going to show up!
Were you personally a Rory/Dean, Rory/Logan, or Rory/Jess fan?
Ummm…. I think I’d have to go Jess. Although I love Logan for the wrong reasons. I’ve been watching THE GOOD WIFE for so long now that I think he’s incredible. So I think that’s kinda spilled over to my Logan-love. Dean, I think I have more of a fondness for the actor. He started off so well, and then it got weird, didn’t it?
If you could swap roles with anyone on Gilmore Girls, who would it be?
I have a love affair with Kirk’s character. I adore him, Sean, so much, but his story on Gilmore Girls is one of my favorites, because he started as a one-time character, and he built that into being a series regular, and one of my favorite things that I ever saw him do was play Jesus in one of the later episodes. I just thought as a character, he had a wonderful, funny story arc.
Have you noticed an uptick in interest in the show since it premiered on Netflix?
Yeah! I think I get recognized a bit more since then.
Do you listen to any of the bands you obsessed over in the show?
I listened to them after the fact. Amy and Dan, who were the creators of the show, and Helen Pai (whom my character is based off of) are total music nerds, and it was such an education to get to know what they knew. Nico I totally dug, after mentioning her so much on the show!
Who is your real life favorite band?
Honestly, my actual taste in music is pretty bad, I think. I don’t want to burst the bubble of the Lane-love. Honestly, I only had like 4 CDs when I was in college, and one of them was the soundtrack to GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM – that’s how much I don’t know about music.
I loved that Lane followed her passion as a drummer. Are you still playing the drums?
I do still play drums sometimes. I actually play occasionally at my husband’s jam sessions. Which is called Midtones.
Did you like Lane’s story or do you wish it ended (or progressed) differently?
I wish we knew that that was going to be our last season. I guess that is a regret. I don’t know, specifically, what I would want differently. But it would’ve been nice to know.
Are you watching Fresh Off the Boat and any chance of a guest appearance? How do you feel about the Angry Little Asian Girl/Angry Asian Man infighting going on now
First off, I love FRESH OFF THE BOAT. I am fully in support of it. And yes. Have someone write me in as a cousin, or something, let’s make that happen. 😉
As far as the ALAG / AAM debate that is going on right now, it’s difficult. I know both of them, and I support both of them. I do think it’s challenging to lay claim on the title of “angry.” I think that people should be able to use that word, without anyone laying claim to it. I think we’re all smart enough to understand that they are different entities.
Did you, Lauren and Alexis actually eat any all the wonderful junk food in front of you in so many scenes?
YES! Although I think the description of what the Gilmores ate is totally misleading. It’s so unfair. Because, you know, we’re actresses, so that does not compute. Never believe it when they have characters that eat crazy amounts of junk food like that!
What were the challenges and/or advantages to playing a character so much younger than yourself?
Well, the biggest advantage is that I actually got the role. I think that if I was focused on the role, I probably wouldn’t have got it. Because I thought she was so much younger than me, I was relaxed because I didn’t think I was going to get the part – which is probably the only reason I got the part. I probably would’ve been too nervous if I thought there was a high chance of it for me. And the biggest disadvantage is that I tried to keep my age a secret, and I wish I hadn’t. I think it’s weird to not be honest about your age.
Did you know how to drum before Gilmore Girls or did you have to learn on set?
They gave me lessons. It was the absolute best.
Why is it that Sean Gunn’s character “Kirk” could do such awful things on Gilmore Girls and still seem likeable? He befriended old women to get into their wills, he sold merchandise when a guy was on his deathbed, it is even implied that he got into a fight with a bunch of school children. Was it easy to do scenes with him while keeping a straight face?
ahah! Good question. That’s a credit to Sean. I can’t dislike the guy. No matter what he does. Kirk is my favorite character. The fact that he started off the series as a one off person and became a series regular is my favorite story. When he plays Jesus in one of the later episodes, he kills me.
As an actress (especially one that has worked in Hollywood), you get to influence many people’s lives…people you don’t even know and probably will never meet. How does it feel when your work touches other people’s hearts so deeply? In my case, Gilmore Girls has helped me going through some hard moments. It’s a show that allows you to forget about your problems for 40 minutes and feel good about life.
well, to be honest… it’s hard to make that compute in my brain. I mean, I know it’s true because I feel that way about shows/people that I am a fan of… but I can’t make that transition to thinking of myself in that way. BUT I am VERY glad that they show could help you out. That is a special thing.
As a fan of yours, if I run into you on the street, what’s the best thing I could say if I wanted to talk to you?
“Hi. You look familiar, do you go to USC?” I’ll be flattered, say “no, you probably know me from Gilmore Gilrs” and then we can take a pic together.
I love that you’re into improv now, but I’m sad because it’s all in LA. Are there any plans to do an improv tour?
Possibly, we’re looking into it this year. But one thing – eventually, WILD CAUGHT is going to start a site that will record shows and post them of different improv teams around LA, and also people from out of town can submit improv to the site. So that’s something this year we’re hoping to have happen.
How was it working on Shameless? I thought you were amazing!! Is Emmy as sweet in real life as she seems during her interviews?
Thank you. I am so impressed with Emmy and all of the cast on that show. I mean… wow. Everyone on that show has got their sh*t together. Very professional. They are like a real family, though. You can tell they take care of each other.
Did you take anything from set when Gilmore girls ended?
Yes. I took my red shoes, that the wonderful Valerie Campbell gave to me, they were my favorite shoes. And my sweater. I did not get my glasses, because I didn’t know if we were going to come back for another season.
When did you realize just how loved GG was … while the show was airing or moreso after the fact?
Right from the start. I remember reading the pilot script and thinking, “wow… whoever gets this part is going to be so lucky. This is really great!” It is kind of incredible though… now having this new audience through Netflix.
Have you already been on the Gilmore Guys podcast (I haven’t listened to every episode yet)? If not, would you consider it?
Well, this is super-secret, so I shouldn’t announce it, but in the summer: yes. I think it’s in the summer.
What is your dream role that you’d like to play?
I’d love to do anything that is totally dependent on improv. I love Christopher Guest, I love Will Forte, he has a new show coming out that I am so excited to see, called “Last Man on Earth.” I’d love work on SILICON VALLEY, it’s a great show, or anything with Mike Judge, or anything with Shonda Rhimes also – I got to work with her a little bit and she is just as incredible as everybody says.
I was wondering how you felt about Lane’s story arch and if you felt like your character was given enough opportunities to grow and develop? I ask this as another Asian woman who is worried about the lack of representation of strong, confident, powerful Asian women on TV.
I have heard comments about people not loving the fact that Lane ends up married and with kids at such a young age. I do wonder, if we were to catch up later with Lane in life, if she would have followed more of a musical dream. In my head, I hope so, but perhaps that is something still up in the air. As far as representation, I agree, hopefully 2015 will bring a lot more Asian and Asian-American role models to the screen.
What was the food generally like on set and what was the weirdest food you saw a co-star or crew eat?
Well, foods on-set are generally the same. There’s always fish, and mashed potatoes, and salad. But sometimes, they would make their own BBQ, which was pretty special.
Hmmm. The weirdest food… I dunno.
So everyone keeps asking you about Gilmore Girls. I’m kind of curious what you’ve been up to since then? Hows life?
My life… it’s great! I have gotten to do some fun stuff… worked on Transformers and hang out with Frances McDormand for a few weeks. I love my husband. I love my life. I get to perform live a bunch. No complaints.
Do you feel your role and relationship with others (Ms. Kim particularly) showed a significant dynamic of Asian culture, or was it mostly just for laughs (like: haha look at the controlling Asian mom).
Well, first off, I think that it was a mixture of both? Because Mrs. Kim was based off of Helen’s mom, I think there kernels of truth, because Helen’s parents were Seventh Day Adventists, but of course, for the show, everything was pursued to the extreme.
How did you maintain your youth despite being older than most of your “peers” on the show?
As far as being older than other people – it was a bit strange, because I kept my age a secret for a couple of years. But I think it’s usually easier to play younger rather than older.
Do you think Lane was jealous of Rory and Paris’s friendship? Especially when Paris said she considered Rory to be her best friend. I think Rory and Lane should be best friends always!!
Hahaha! I think they played around with jealousy in kind of the early seasons, maybe in 1? But I think at a certain point, Lane and Rory knew what they had for each other, and I think that’s one of those easy things to fall back on. It’s true in my life – there are some people you don’t talk to for a long time, but you’d never not feel closet to them.
Did any of the Gilmore references make you discover a new favourite singer/book/film? Did you check out Sam Phillips’ discography while on the show?
Almost all the musical references were new to me! Sorry to say. (Oh… by the way… sorry to use this response to do this BUT, Happy Birthday GRACE JO! She just called me. She’s my best friend and it’s her birthday. It’s sort of music related… no? ok. Maybe that’s a stretch)
Did everyone get along on the show Gilmore Girls?
Well, it was a huge cast, so there were probably “yes”es and “no”s but everybody respected each other…
If the characters from Gilmore Girls could be written into any show, what current tv show would make for the most interesting crossover episode?
How about the Mindy Project. I can’t get enough of that show. Plus Mindy loves Romantic Comedies… There must be something there?
What was your reaction like when you found out that you got the part for Lane? Any special celebration?
yes. I was working on Felicity at the time. I had a little story arc on the show. I got the call and hugged the first person I saw. I think he was the 2nd AD on set. It was a special moment that at least one of us will always remember.
Did you or the cast improv much in the show? What led you to getting involved in improv groups?
no! ahaha… absolutely NO improvising with the Gilmore Girls scripts. They had to be word perfect. (of course, they were written so well) As far as improv, I’ve always been fascinated. I LOVE watching a great improv show. There isn’t anything better.
Do you have any interesting fan-meet stories? Do people call you Lane Kim in person a lot?
I get a lot of… “you know who you look like?” Um… people haven’t called me Lane in person, but I would get it if they did. (I get Keiko mispronounced a bunch. Think Cake-Oh. ok… now I’m just rambling.)
Is there a character on Gilmore girls you related to most?
Babette. Maybe not now… but I am pretty sure I am going to grow up to be an Asian Babette. (Which is pretty much my mom.)
What was your reaction when you found out Lane and Zach were endgame? If you had to choose between Zach or Dave who would you pick?
It’s tough, because I adored Dave and he left to go be on THE O.C.. I think we had a sweet little romance because it was Lane’s first. But Todd is such a great guy to get to develop something with, and I always thought it was such a fun (and funny) way for them to end up together.
I don’t know? It is weird how life imitates art, because on the show, I got married to my roommate that was a guitar player, and then unbeknownst to any of the writers, I eloped with my roommate who was also a guitar player. We’ve been married for 9 years now, but it’s weird because it happened at almost a similar time.
Other stuff like that would happen too – where Kirk’s cat was kinda crazy, and then in real life, Sean’s cat was kinda crazy too. There were other things that ended up being the same on the show.
What are your favorite hobbies?
Let’s see: rollerblading, I haven’t done it in a long time, but let’s say rollerblading… besides improv, being a superfan of MONK, I love MONK, and celebrating Groundhog Day with my best girlfriends.
Lane was raised in an extremely religious, legalistic, and hypocritical (eg. Ms. Kim hiding her “Christianity” from her own mom) home. What do you think Lane would say about the religious (and anti-religious) intolerance and violence that’s been growing over the last decade and found new heights last week? And besides what Lane would say, what would you say?
I would say… that religious intolerance is, of course, a huge problem. My goal has always been to find a commonality with someone that you disagree with. And I think that that is true especially in people that we label as “extreme,” because that is part of the problem, any time we write people off as being so outside of our understand that we cannot relate to them, that is part of the issue as well.
I think Lane, also, always tried to find commonality. That was one of the strengths of her character, and one of the things i liked about her, is that she wasn’t written as a teenager who just rebelled completely. She was always trying to find balance between what she wanted and how she could still be the person her mom wanted her to be.
Do you feel there was an uncomfortable racial edge to your role and casting? Mrs Kim is a bit of a stereotypical strict Asian immigrant mum, and the ‘Korean exchange student’ was (to be blunt) a bit painful to watch.
Well, I definitely was worried about playing a Korean-American, because I am Japanese. Also, Emily Kuroda is Japanese as well, so it was definitely something that was on my mind. I do think that I understand if people who are Korean, or Korean-American, have difficulty with the show, and I am sympathetic to it. I am hopeful that people understand that the intentions were always to have it be both funny and 3-dimensional at the same time.
And no, I find with puppets, I love the challenge. I feel like I’m not the strongest person, but I have puppet tenacity. So bring it on!
Are you cool with all the Gilmore Girls questions you keep getting?