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Making a Friendly Impression, 05.01.02 ...

A good best friend can be hard to find. You need someone fun and funny, loyal and kind and full of interesting ideas. That's why Rory, the main character on Gilmore Girls, is so lucky to have Lane Kim, one of the greatest best friends anyone could ask for. And actress Keiko Agena is lucky enough to play the sweet and quirky Lane on the hit WB show.

Keiko, who was born an raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, first got nationwide attention in her recurring role as Leila Foster, a classmate who encourages Felicity to mount a protest at the student heath center, on Felicity. A little while later, Keiko got the role of Lane, and her acting career took off.

I got a chance to talk to Keiko recently about her work on Gilmore, her love of acting and how (dis)similar she is to Lane. What's going on with Lane these days? What can you tell me without revealing too much?

Keiko: I wonder how much I can tell you. True, you don't want to ruin any surprises. Is she still nursing her broken heart?

Keiko: Well, in the romance department it doesn't really seem like there's anything good coming along. That's too bad.

Keiko: Yeah. I think it's gonna be next season until you see something else for Lane as far as a guy. That whole Henry thing was pretty hard on me. So your first big TV role was on Felicity, right? I remember you from that.

Keiko: Oh really? Did you see that? Of course! I love Felicity and Gilmore Girls. Can you tell I watch a lot of WB shows?

Keiko: I do too. I try to watch as much as I can. How did you end up landing the role on Felicity?

Keiko: Well, actually, I had originally got a kind of a guest role with them earlier in that season--at the very beginning of that season, whatever that was, season two--and they ended up writing that character off. Huh. Was it the same character you eventually played or someone different?

Keiko: It was a totally different character, and they changed the storyline and I guess they didn't need that character anymore. But they said, 'You know we really liked you and we'll remember you for something in the future.' And I was very skeptical, 'Like that's gonna happen.' But then they brought me in to read for a role that was, you know, not written for an Asian person, which was nice. I liked that. There was no real explanation of why my name was Leila Foster, you know, a very Americanized name. So I enjoyed that that it was just purely because they liked me as an actor. And it was fun. It was a lot of fun on that set. That's really cool.

Keiko: And then what was originally supposed to be one episode turned into three episodes. After that, you must have been sort of on the WB 'radar' when Gilmore Girls came around?

Keiko: Yeah. I think it really helped me. I mean, I went through the same audition process, but I think being on Felicity kind of helped me make that transition, because they sort of knew me a little bit. Obviously, Lane Kim was written for an Asian person. Do you relate at all to her relationship to her immigrant mom?

Keiko: Personally, I don't at all. My mom is just totally laid back, but I have [found out], through meeting with people in the street or hearing from people, that it's kind of a common relationship. I was kind of shocked at how many people said to me, 'Wow, that so reminds me of how my mom is.' It's always weird to find out that characters who you think are so extreme actually exist.

Keiko: Yeah. There is a lot of pressure on, not all Asian kids, but a lot of Asian kids, especially if they are just second generation. If their parents were born in wherever, China, Korea, Japan, and then they come here. How did your parents react when you decided not to go back to college and try acting instead?

Keiko: It was good and bad. It wasn't all totally bad, because I think my parents, especially my mom, really support me in whatever I do. So, in that way it was good. I'm sure they wanted me to finish college, but I think that it depends on what sort of career you're going for. You know... And you were studying drama when you were in college, right? Were you into theater then or did you always want to go to Hollywood?

Keiko: When I was in college I didn't know, so I was studying both. Well they didn't really have a film department, so I guess mostly theater. Then when I came down to L.A., it's such a film/television heavy kind of city. So besides doing the theater stuff that I did do, there were just always people that you'd meet in classes and agents and people who are working in film and television, so you kind of get involved in that circle just from being here. How did you get interested in acting in the first place?

Keiko: Well, my mom was very good at having all of us kids do after school activities. When I was younger, I did a lot of them, and then when I did my first play I had kind of a life-changing experience. It was so phenomenal. Just this sense of family that you get from doing theater and doing a play with people, it is really comforting and it was exciting to me. From then on, I let go of all my other activities and I kind of just focused on acting. Do you get that sense of family on the Gilmore Girls set?

Keiko: You know what? It's a little bit harder. I wish that all of us were there every episode, but the truth is we get to meet each other mostly just during the table reads, which I'm going to go do today, where we actually sit down and read [the script]. But usually we film so sporadically, so I don't get to see all of the cast members as much as I wish I could. And a lot of your stuff is just kind of Lane alone in her room these days, huh?

Keiko: Right, or me with Alexis, you know, which is great. So I have a better relationship with Alexis probably than everybody. Gilmore Girls is all about a mother-daughter relationship. Are you petty close to your mom? You've mentioned her a few times already.

Keiko: Yeah, I'm close with my mom. It's hard because they're all in Hawaii, so it's much better when I'm actually there. I'm gonna try and go in June again. I miss them so much when I'm here. Do you think that growing up in Hawaii is a totally different experience than growing up on the U.S. mainland?

Keiko: Yeah, I think so. I think also for Asian people, because there's a majority of Asian people on Hawaii, and on the Hawaiian islands also. I think that was really different for me. It's hard to explain. It was a little bit of a shock actually when I first came. I was like, 'Oh my goodness, this is a little different.' But now I love it, and I love L.A. because L.A. is such a great mix of a lot of different cultures. But yeah, Hawaii is such a special place in so many ways to grow up.

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