Keiko Agena is an American actor, best known for playing pivotal roles in TV series such as ‘Gilmore Girls’ and ‘13 Reasons Why.’ Keiko was born to a Japanese father and an American mother, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Ever since she was a kid, she was interested in building a career in acting. She started acting in school plays when she was 10 years old. Following her high-school graduation, she joined ‘Whitman College’ to study drama. In 1993, she made her TV debut with a small role (as ‘Mitsuko’) in the popular series ‘Renegade.’ In 1998, she appeared in an episode of ‘ER.’ The same year, she made her film debut as ‘Casey’ in the film titled ‘Hundred Percent.’ Over the next few years, she appeared in several short films. In 2000, she had her first major acting breakthrough when she earned the key role of ‘Lane Kim’ in the series ‘Gilmore Girls.’ To date, she has played major roles in series such as ‘13 Reasons Why,’ ‘Better Call Saul,’ ‘The First,’ and ‘Prodigal Son.’ She has earned many nominations and one ‘Young Artist Award’ for her performance in ‘Gilmore Girls.’
Childhood & Early Life
Keiko Agena was born Christine Keiko Agena, on October 3, 1973, in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A, to an immigrant Japanese father, who had settled in the United States with his wife. Keiko grew up in Honolulu and began attending school there.
Her father was a part-time artist and painter. Keiko thus learned to embrace art. Her love for art later translated into her finding an interest in the performance arts. She began acting in school plays when she was 10 years old.
As soon as she expressed her love for acting to her parents, they began supporting her in her endeavors. She was also influenced by her grandmother, who drove Keiko to plays and rehearsals. Growing up in such a supportive domestic environment boosted her confidence. Acting soon turned from a mere hobby to her only passion.
Following her high-school graduation, she attended ‘Whitman College’ in Walla Walla, Washington. She studied drama there, for a year. In her late teenage years, she moved to Los Angeles and began auditioning for TV and film roles, eventually making her acting debut at the age of 20.
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In 1993, she made her acting debut with the small role of ‘Mitsuko’ in an episode of the series ‘Renegade,’ titled ‘Samurai.’ She waited for 2 years to make yet another TV appearance, in the series ‘Sister, Sister.’
The year 1998 turned out to be a big year for her, as she made her film debut with the film ‘Hundred Percent’ that year. The movie featured her in the supporting role of ‘Casey.’ The same year, she was seen playing a guest role in the successful series ‘ER.’ She also appeared in the series ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ and ‘Felicity.’ In the latter, she played a three-episode-long role (as ‘Leila Foster’).
In 2000, she received the first big breakthrough of her career when she appeared as ‘Lane Kim,’ one of the leading characters in the series ‘Gilmore Girls.’ Her character in the series was that of a rebellious young daughter of highly conservative parents. She received a lot of praises for her performance in the series. The show ran for 153 episodes, with Keiko appearing in 102 of them.
The series ‘Gilmore Girls’ went on to become a critical and commercial success. Keiko was praised for her portrayal of a rock-and-roll-loving young girl. She received three nominations for the ‘Teen Choice Award’ and a ‘Young Artist Award’ for the ‘Best Supporting Young Actress.’
However, the success she attained on TV did not reflect on her film career. In the early 2000s, as the series ‘Gilmore Girls’ contributed greatly to her fame, she still resorted to acting majorly in short films. Some of her short films from the early 2000s were ‘Red Thread,’ ‘Western Avenue,’ and ‘Cats and Mice.’
From 2003 to 2007, she lent her voice to the character of ‘Yori’ in four episodes of the animated series ‘Kim Possible.’ She then did a few guest roles in series such as ‘Without a Trace,’ ‘Private Practice,’ and ‘Castle.’
In 2004, however, she had some success in films when she appeared in the supporting role of ‘Jun Ni ‘in the comedy film titled ‘Hair Show.’ Despite the fact that the film was received well by critics, it turned out to be a massive box-office failure.
In 2008, she starred in yet another comedy film, titled ‘Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous.’ The film featured her in the supporting role of ‘Private Hailey Hamamori.’ The film turned out to be a box-office debacle. Keiko then appeared in a small guest role in the film ‘Labor Pains.’
She continued her stint on TV, playing guest roles in series such as ‘House’ and ‘Scandal.’
In 2013, she appeared in a two-episode-long role in the teen drama/mystery thriller series ‘Twisted,’ which featured her as ‘Tanaka.’ In the next few years, she also appeared in small supporting roles in series such as ‘Colony’ and ‘Sweet/Vicious.’
In 2011, she had a brief but successful stint in films, when she appeared in a supporting role in the action–adventure science-fiction film titled ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon.’ The film was hated by critics but was a huge commercial success.
Her career received a big push in 2017, when she was signed to essay the pivotal role of ‘Pam Bradley’ in seven episodes of the first season of ‘13 Reasons Why.’ In 2018, she appeared in supporting roles in series such as ‘This Close,’ ‘Here and Now,’ and ‘Better Call Saul.’
In late 2018, she began playing ‘Aiko Hakari’ in the series ‘The First.’ Since 2019, she has been playing the regular role of ‘Dr. Edrisa Tanaka’ in the series ‘Prodigal Son.’
Since 2019, she has been playing the regular role of ‘Dr. Edrisa Tanaka’ in the series ‘Prodigal Son.’
Family & Personal Life
Keiko Agena married Shin Kawasaki on December 19, 2005, in a helicopter in Las Vegas, Nevada.
She has struggled a lot in her career due to her Asian looks. She has mostly been approached for roles written exclusively for Asian actors.
She has suffered from anxiety issues in the past. She claims that therapy sessions have helped her a great deal in overcoming her mental issues.