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5 Exclusive Lane Kim Insights from a Chat With Keiko Agena
Hep Alien’s drummer looks back on her career and time on Gilmore Girls
Gilmore Girls is a fantastic television show 📺 about a lot of different kinds of relationships, but at its core it’s about mothers and daughters, and best friends. Sure, the main characters are Lorelai and Rory Gilmore as mother and daughter/best friend duo, but Rory’s other (same age, non-relative) best friend is of course, Lane Kim.
During June 2022, we threw a month-long Gilmore Girls party at Remarkist with a Super Sensational Summer Spectacular. We had lots of former cast members join us as guests, amongst them Keiko Agena, who played Lane Kim: best friend to Rory, daughter of Mrs. Kim, and badass drummer 🥁 (and only female member) of Hep Alien.
Keiko Agena joined us at Remarkist for a watch party and discussion of Season 1, Episode 6: “Rory’s Birthday Parties.” You know this one: it’s where the elder Gilmores throw Rory a sixteenth birthday 🎂 party at their home with all her school frenemies and Rory freaks out for the first time in their presence. Back at home, Lorelai throws Rory an epic rager with all their friends and neighbors, and she receives a special handmade gift from Dean.
Memories filming Gilmore Girls
In our casual post-watch discussion, Keiko—who was 26 at the time, playing a high school student—was asked if she remembered 🤔 a lot from filming this episode and others. She said, “When I see the set…I have attachments and feelings to being there physically from being there in person.” What she notices the most on rewatch is “just how good the dynamics are. I think a lot of times I’ll remember the cultural references and all the zingers and all that…this was such a good episode of that core thing of Emily and Lorelai—the tension between them—and I just thought it was so good. That’s what I think about when I see it again.”
Keiko watches herself on camera as part of her process
Many of the actors we’ve had join us at Remarkist never actually watched 👀 the show they were on, or never saw it in its entirety. A shocking detail revealed in this chat? Keiko watched the show as the audience did! Contrary to other actors, Keiko actually watched the show as it aired and said, “when the DVDs 💿 came out, there was a time in the break when I would watch the season just to get in the right headspace before we would start filming again.” She went on, “I know that there are a lot of actors that won’t watch themselves and I assume it’s because the experience of actually doing it is what they enjoy, and maybe they don’t want to have that other eye on themselves.”
Keiko described how watching her own work is part of her process and has been since she began her career. “The very first time I ever saw myself on film was when I was in high school. It was so different than what I thought I was doing. And because that was the first impression I ever had actually viewing myself, I didn’t quite trust that I knew what I thought I was doing was actually getting on the other side of the camera. So at this point it’s just part of my process to see if what I think I’m doing is actually what ends up on film.” She talked about how her craft has evolved over the years. “My thing is always surprising myself when we’re filming because I think for a long time I prided myself on being a very capable actor, and delivering what I think should be delivered. And now it’s more about preparing and then really being surprised by what happens, even to myself on that day.”
She knew the Lane and Mrs. Kim dynamic was strong right away
When asked if she knew in Season 1 that Lane and Mrs. Kim would have an awesome dynamic, she said, “I know that even in that first scene–so, Lane and Rory are walking through the antique store looking for her mom–Emily is hilarious and her dialogue is so sharp and in attack mode but I think what Lane felt even in that moment it’s not a ‘roll your eyes moment.’ What I’m happy about is Lane never dismissed her mom. She knew that her mom was a lot but even right from the beginning….she never belittled that relationship.”
She talked about meeting Emily Kuroda, the actress that played Mrs. Kim, for the first time: “When we were filming in Canada, as soon as I met her and I talked to her I just knew they cast the right person…I was not worried about anything. I felt very comfortable with how she would play that character and I knew our dynamic would be good.” When asked if she had any expectations about the Lane/Mrs. Kim storyline, Keiko replied with a laugh: “I was always panicked I’d be kicked off the show at the end of every script! I didn’t ask any questions, I just kept my mouth shut and hoped to see my name!”
Playing a Korean character
One of the attendees asked if Keiko knew whether or not Lane meant to be Korean originally. While she said “it was definitely intentional because [the character] was based off of Helen [Pai, Amy Sherman-Palladino’s best friend] who is Korean, and her stories with her mom. Emily and I are both Japanese.” She went on to speculate that now, twenty-something years later, in an environment where casting is more sensitive to actors’ ethnicities, they might have tried first and foremost to cast Korean actors. But if the actors they ended up casting were Japanese (like Keiko and Emily are), they might have written to the true ethnicity of the actors (even if inspired by a real person who is Korean). But she stressed this was all speculation. However, it seems likely she might be correct, given that more attention is given to diversity and inclusion when it comes to creators and telling stories than ever before.
When asked if she had to learn Korean, for Keiko at least, the answer was no. But her co-star Emily Kuroda had to learn a few lines, and she was very nervous about getting it right. Keiko shared that at the time, it was a challenge to find roles as a Japanese American actress so if they wanted her to learn some Korean, she never would have said no. But she was very aware of the cultural differences between Lane and herself.
What did Keiko think of Emily Gilmore?
We invited Keiko into a hot 🔥 discussion topic that the Remarkist community had been having during their watch parties of the series: often, we debated whether Emily Gilmore is too controlling as a mother and grandmother. Does Lorelai have the right to push back? Or is Lorelai just being too hard on her mom who is from a different generation and social class? Keiko had a fantastic answer. “I think I come down in the middle because I think that’s what makes the show such a good one that lasts a long time. It’s a battle for control and I think it’s people who are holding on both sides too strongly to having to have their vision of what that looks like and not listening to the other person and making assumptions. But assumptions are so great for comedy and for getting into the messes that they get into…I think it’s both.”
Lane’s signature accessory: her glasses
One of our favorite revelations was learning that the show kept Keiko’s glasses 👓 as part of the character’s wardrobe. This is something thathas shared as well: as actors who wore their own glasses on screen, they both lamented the loss of their specs to the wardrobe department! One of the attendees at the event, however, shared how seeing Lane onscreen wearing glasses helped her feel more comfortable wearing them herself. While kids at school could be cruel and bullied her for wearing glasses, it was empowering at a young age to see a very cool character on television wearing glasses. There are so many reasons to love Lane Kim, but this is certainly one of them!
Keiko released a one-of-a-kind Memento on the Remarkist app featuring her own drawing! It’s called Friend for All Seasons, and you can see it right here!
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