Interview: Keiko Agena Talks THE NEVER LIST, The Enneagram & Lane Kim

THE NEVER LIST is now available to stream and own digitally.

By: Mar. 19, 2021
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Interview: Keiko Agena Talks THE NEVER LIST, The Enneagram & Lane Kim

Keiko Agena, best known for her seven years playing Lane Kim on "Gilmore Girls," stars in "The Never List," which is now available to own digitally.

16-year old Eva (Fivel Stewart, "Atypical") is as overachieving as they come. Running for student class president while juggling a heavy academic schedule and planning the upcoming school dance, Eva dreams of becoming a comic book artist - something she knows her helicopter mom (Agena) would never support. Since elementary school, Eva and her BFF Liz (Brenna D'Amico, "Descendants") have cosplayed their alter-egos, "Vicky" and "Veronica," as a way to release the pressure they feel. Together, they imagine Vicky and Veronica doing highly questionable, even illegal, acts that the real Eva and Liz would never do... acts they document in "The Never List."

BroadwayWorld had the pleasure of speaking to Keiko about her role in "The Never List," her experience coming up as an actor in Los Angeles, the enneagram, and her favorite romantic Lane Kim moments.

Read the whole interview below!

It was different but satisfying in this kind of full circle way to see you step into this mom-of-a-teenager role in The Never List. What was it like for you?

Yeah, I mean it was super fun because I could put my big girl shoes on (laughing) and stomp around the set feeling like a big mama bear. I totally had a blast and Fievel and Michelle made it such an easy transition, so I just kind of leaned into it.

I read that it was a very high percentage of women and women of color that made up the entire team behind the movie, what was that like?

Yeah, I think there's something so comforting when you're on a set like that. I think that obviously stems from Michelle's point of view and how she wants to have the set function. There's just a comfortability when you have that kind of environment.

How did you get involved with the movie?

Michelle reached out to me and I read the script and I thought "Oo this is fun," and then we just jumped on board. I think it happened fairly quickly how all the parts came together. It's a fun script so I thought it would be great to play around with it, and meeting Michelle--I just knew was so open so I knew it'd be a pleasant experience.

Something that really resonated with me in the movie is this message of grabbing life by the horns. Can you tell me about a time that you had to be brave like the characters in The Never List?

Oh sure, I think when I decided to stay out in Los Angeles when I first got there. Actually, I only meant to visit Los Angeles for the summer. I was going to school at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington and came down to visit for the summer and realized that I was just going to stay. It was just that scramble of making things work, especially because the only person I really knew out here was my boyfriend, but we ended up breaking up. So I really had to decide, well what does that mean? Does that mean I go back to Hawaii, do I try to find a way to live in Los Angeles not really knowing that many other people that were out there? Certainly didn't have family out here. I think it was struggling to make things happen in a new city that was challenging. I remember the first place I stayed at I was working at Lenscrafters at the time, so another person that worked at Lenscrafters with me, we shared a one bedroom that was 600 dollars,


And I stayed in the living room and she had the bedroom (laughing). We just kinda, you know, you just make it work. I was just so happy when we were able to rent that place because that was the first place ever that Ihad qualified to rent on my own. I cried; I was so relieved.

Yeah, I've definitely been there. What was it that kept you going, that whole time when you were first starting out in LA?

Well, I DON'T know that we have a choice, really. (laughing) You either kind of go forward... there really isn't any going back. I think it's an illusion to want to go back, go backwards. So I think the beautiful thing about the human mind is that we will keep moving forward. Sometimes we can fill in the blanks in our vision of what the future might hold, and I think that especially young actors and especially myself at the time, you kind of still it in with hopeful things to get you through month after month.

Yeah, absolutely. When you first started, what were your career aspirations and what has your career looked like in comparison to what you thought it would look like?

I only ever wanted to be able to make a living as an actor. I thought that in itself was a pretty high bar. I think it is still a high bar. This is a difficult profession to have as your sole profession. So I'm glad that I can continue to do that. It makes me very happy; I love acting (laughing). I really enjoy it. So that was my first goal. And beyond that is to find satisfying to work with people you admire and to have roles that feel three-dimensional and feel expansive. And I think what's nice about working on, getting to play around with The Never List and then with Prodigal Son, which I'm working on now, I get to dig into characters in a way that I might not have been able to in the beginning of my career. So that's unfolding each and every month.

As you found collaborators over your career, what has been the thing that allowed you to maintain those relationships, or, is there anything consistent about those relationships or is everything different?

You know, I think things are always changing. I DON'T know how other people feel--in life also, but in the industry as well--I feel like my relationships with people are always changing and sometimes they become deep, sometimes, depending on the situation, they're very intense, for short periods of time, especially if you're working on an intense project, and then they kind of shift out. I think that this time that we've all had with coronavirus has sort of changed our relationships as well. I've found in some ways they've really forced me to make appointments--Zoom calls--where, this is not something I would have normally chosen to do, but now, I say, no, you're an important person in my life and I know we're not casually bumping into each other at a party anymore, so let me say, no, I want to talk to you; I've decided to put this time aside to reconnect because it's important to me. So that's been different, but it helps to really clarify the important relationships in my life for me.

Yeah, being deliberate has been so important in this time.

Yeah, yeah.

So, just to pivot for a sec, as a 4 wing 5, I'm so obsessed with your fictional character enneagram series, so I just wanted to know how you got into the enneagram, what type are you, and could you type your character in The Never List for me?

Oh sure. Well, I'm a 6-- kind of have both wings. I'm pretty middle 6, so I have a little seven, a little five. I'm definitely a self-preservation 6.

How I got into it: I was introduced a long time ago, this was definitely pre 2000, around, I mean it was pretty early I got introduced to the enneagram through a friend of mine, who is a writer and director, Stephen Hornyak, who is married to Colleen Flynn-Lawson, who is an excellent actress. I knew them from theatre days when I first landed in Los Angeles.

My character in The Never List--that is a good question. You know, my gut says that she's a 2. I think that is mainly because I think of her first as being a mother and her relationship to her daughter, and that she is very focused on wanting the best for her. I might want to spend more time with it. Did you have an idea? I mean you must know the enneagram (laughing) because you said you were a 4 wing 5.

I sure am. I think that you're probably a much better authority to ask on the subject but I do see those two traits in her.

Yeah, she seems pretty stubborn, she's very set in her ways. I mean, nines can be stubborn also, it takes a long time to change. I would say something like that, like a two or a nine. I would have to think about it more. I haven't done this type of enneagram study for this character in The Never List beforehand but now I will be thinking about it. After we hang up, I'll be like, hmm I should have said this!

I love it. You mentioned just then that you did theatre in the early days in LA. Do you have a large theatre background?

It was more that they were a theatre company. It was a very small theatre company called the Incline Theatre group, and thank goodness for them, otherwise I wouldn't know where I would have ended up. I worked in the quote unquote "office," although their office was one of the rooms of the apartment of the artistic directors, Colleen Flynn-Lawson and Steve Hornyak. I was only able to work there because the college that I was going to at the time had a work study program where if you got a job that summer--it's amazing and I'm so grateful that they did this--that if you got a job in your profession in the summer, the college itself would pay a percentage of your hourly rate, which was so helpful. Otherwise, that theatre company probably couldn't have hired me and I wouldn't have had a job for the summer, and then unfortunately for the college, end up not going back to school. But I did end up staying in Los Angeles, so I DON'T know if it quite worked out for them in the way that they anticipated (laughing) but I was very glad--I met those people, I met my very first agent from that theatre group, I met the teacher I would study Meisner technique with for two years after that summer, so very influential summer for me.

Wow, that's amazing. The circle of life, I love it.

Yes, yes.

I have one more self indulgent anecdote to share with you. I am Jewish and my best friend in the world is Muslim and we grew up watching Gilmore Girls together and we decided as kids when we got our first kisses, regardless of our religions, that we would text each other "bible kiss bible."

(laughing) That's great!

Yeah, in retrospect it was really funny. I've been rewatching for the zillionith time, as I do, you're so great on the show. There's so many wonderful, romantic moments that Lane got to have throughout the series and, I mean, that one sticks for me, specifically, but is there one that really sticks with you?

Uhhh romantic. (laughing) That's a good question. I mean for me I always thought the most.. yeah, it has to be romantic, I think when Dave read the entire Bible in a night, which is not possible, but still the fact that they (laughing) wrote that in, him trying to find the Shakespearian quotes. Oh gosh, I love it, like the dedication that he had to do that and how mussed up his hair was and how he looked like he had suffered all night which is so adorable. I always think that that's gotta be one of the sweetest things that a character has done for another character.

One hundred percent. I love that. And then I just have one more question for you, which is: is there anything you can share about the upcoming season of Better Call Saul?

Oh, I DON'T know! I worked with them for a couple of seasons but since PRODIGAL SON and other things, I haven't. I'm not with them, necessarily, which, I wish, I mean, my goodness, what a great show, but yeah, I DON'T know.

That's alright! Can you tell me a little about PRODIGAL SON and anything else you have going on?

Sure, so Prodigal Son: we are halfway through our second season right now and we just aired one of my favorite episodes so far, directed by Lou Diamond Phillips who plays Gil on our show. And I knew he was a great actor, but I didn't know what an amazing director he was, and it was so inspiring, actually, to see him in that light. He's the kind of director that every actor would like to work with, but besides that, all of the shots were great as well, and the timing and fluidity. It actually kind of inspired me to continue to think about other areas of interest besides acting, and I love acting so much.

So, the character that I play is the medical examiner who has a very intense crush on the lead character played by Tom Payne, called Malcolm Bright. We just finished shooting an episode where it's a bit of an Edrisa-centric episode where we get to find out who her friends are outside of work and she's caught up in the crime of the week. So we see her very much outside of the morgue and we get to see a different side of her, which was soooo fun to do. It was addictive and makes me want to do it every week. It was great.

You can watch "The Never List" wherever you stream movies; get it here.

Watch the trailer for "The Never List" here:


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