Picture Supply: Getty / John Lamparski
Keiko Agena nonetheless remembers the primary time she felt othered as a performer; she was a school freshman making an attempt out for a lead half in a play centered on three English girls within the 1800s. Rising up in Hawaii, Agena felt assured and cozy in a multicultural forged. She did not assume being Asian would restrict her capacity to embody a personality, which is why she felt a “chilly shock” when she was omitted from her faculty’s callback record. “It wasn’t till that second that my title wasn’t on the board that I spotted, ‘Oh, maybe the truth that I am Japanese American may contribute to their choice of whether or not or to not forged me,'” she advised CelebrityPie. Agena shunned auditioning for different components for the remainder of the 12 months, sustaining her drama scholarship by relegating herself to backstage work.
Fortunate for audiences all over the place, Agena finally regained her confidence — due to Incline Theater Firm in LA — and went on to embody iconic characters, like Lane Kim from Gilmore Women. Rory’s rock ‘n’ roll greatest good friend was a pillar of illustration for younger Asian American girls who had been looking out to see themselves on display. Lane is predicated on Helen Pai, a detailed good friend of creator Amy Sherman Palladino, who additionally served as a coproducer on the sequence. For the reason that present premiered over 20 years in the past, Agena has given a number of interviews concerning the significance Lane performed for the Asian neighborhood. However again within the early ’00s, she wasn’t desirous about setting a regular. “I used to be simply making an attempt to outlive one week,” Agena stated. “I used to be in egocentric survival mode of working. I used to be simply grateful that I used to be in a position to make a residing on this business in any respect.” Reflecting now, she appears to be like again with gratitude on the small strides Lane’s presence made on the remainder of Hollywood.
Picture Supply: Everett Collection
Lane is a second-generation Asian American and a complete badass. She dyes her hair, she performs the drums, she rebels in opposition to conference. Within the white-washed Stars Hole, she is outstanding. However amongst all the reward of Lane’s complexities, there’s additionally legitimate criticism, particularly in regard to her relationship along with her mom. Mrs. Kim — whose first title isn’t revealed on her 47 episodes on the present — is a strict Seventh Day Adventist and an oppressive mum or dad, taking part in into the immigrant Asian trope with Lane usually pushing again on her personal tradition, like dreading a visit to South Korea in early seasons.
Nonetheless, on the finish of the day, Lane is a supporting character to Rory. Her storylines are much less developed and her household’s conduct is extra hyperbolic as a result of she is taking part in the stereotypical Asian greatest good friend position. Simply as Agena did not initially see Lane changing into the icon she is now, she was additionally unaware of no matter tropes she may need performed into. “At the moment, I believe I might solely have two choices,” Agena defined. She may have both not auditioned for the position and waited for another person to take it, or she may have insisted on alterations or lodging being made. “On the standing that I used to be at the moment, if I am trustworthy, I do not assume I might’ve made both of these selections,” she stated. As a substitute, she dedicated herself to creating Lane (and all of her characters) “trustworthy and grounded and life like” to offer actual “integrity” to whoever she portrayed on display.
“I believe the problem is when these characters are boiled all the way down to the place they’re so flat that they are solely servicing one other character and that they have no life to themselves.”
Agena additionally insists that taking part in somebody’s greatest good friend is not a dealbreaker. If the position of Lane had been obtainable to a different younger Asian American actress right this moment, she would encourage her to go for it. “We name it stereotypical so far as the perfect good friend position as a result of we see it quite a bit and there aren’t another choices,” she stated. “I believe that is true additionally after we discuss first-generation characters; I do not assume that taking part in somebody with an accent, in and of itself, is a nasty factor. First-generation characters are a few of the most spectacular and attention-grabbing characters that we may comply with, as is evidenced in Minari, an Oscar-winning position. I believe the problem is when these characters are boiled all the way down to the place they’re so flat that they are solely servicing one other character and that they have no life to themselves.”
For the report, if Agena had been in command of Lane’s destiny, she’d need her to “flip out” in 2021. “I might like to see Lane really be egocentric and do one thing that’s only for her,” she admitted. “She was so deferential to her mom for therefore lengthy, after which she was such an excellent greatest good friend. After which she grew to become, nearly instantly, a spouse and mom, and the accountable one in that relationship as properly. What wouldn’t it be like if she simply misplaced it for a minute and did one thing utterly on her personal?” That is a present I would watch.
Picture Supply: Everett Collection
Though Agena did not have the flexibility to make modifications to roles throughout her Gilmore Women days, her confidence has developed, and the business is beginning to as properly. For her most up-to-date character, Prodigal Son‘s medical expert Edrisa, she pushed to have the final title Tanaka as a substitute of Guilfoyle, and for her character on The First, she requested to be Okinawan American as a substitute of Chinese language American. “These are conversations which might be simpler to have after having a while within the enterprise,” she stated. “Additionally, instances are altering, and showrunners are extra open to having these conversations. They need to be correct as a lot as you need to be correct.”
Agena appears energized, not solely by the business’s progress but in addition by the brand new Asian American voices which might be on the forefront. She excitedly went on tangents about Bowen Yang, Awkwafina, and Simu Liu — saying Liu should host Saturday Night Live! She’s additionally conscious that different younger Asian girls are taking over lead roles, like Lana Condor and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan. Her recommendation to those actresses? “Belief your intestine.” And her recommendation for the audiences? “Have a delicate outlook.”
Agena believes onscreen illustration is extra important than ever contemplating the racist violence in opposition to Asian People because of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s worth in getting into somebody’s house by their display and offering a multicultural expertise by a TV present or film. Media can present educating alternatives, and “we do not at all times have that chance in our day-to-day lives.” Agena concluded, “What I believe was a pleasant to have is crucial now, that we actually see Asian People as full, multidimensional characters. It simply feels rather more obligatory now.”