Booking your first sitcom tastes awfully sweet for up-and-coming actors. But, add to that getting to work with one of the best ever in the business, Betty White, and it’s even sweeter.
Actress KEIKO ELIZABETH has done exactly that with appearance earlier this month on TV Land’s laugher, “Hot in Cleveland.”
A Stanford alum, Keiko never planned to make a career for herself in Hollywood. It was while she was teaching young kids transitioning out of juvenile hall that she auditioned and landed her first theater gig. After that, she was hooked and headed for Southern California where she earned her MFA from Cal State Fullerton and began her professional acting career.
I recently had a chance to chat with Keiko Elizabeth to find out more about working on “Hot in Cleveland” and a couple other projects she’s added to her resume recently.
What can you share with us about your role in the upcoming episode of “Hot In Cleveland.”
KEIKO: I play Special Agent Tanaka, a Federal Treasury Agent, who interrupts Emmet’s lovely proposal to Victoria. Agent Tanaka and her partner accuse Emmet of tax fraud and seize his assets, including hte gorgeous ring he’s about to give to Victoria. It turns out that Special Agent Tanaka has love problems of her own, which she shares with Victoria in the closing moments.
What was it like making your TV comedy debut opposite such comedy veterans? And, did you learn anything from them?
KEIKO: I have to admit I was a bit nervous playing opposite these ‘queens of comedy’ so to speak, but they were gracious, patient, and kind. Betty introduced herself to me the first day at rehearsal, and Wendie, who I worked with the most, always gave 100% to me every take, even in rehearsal. One of the biggest differences that I found working on a multi-cam show for the first time was all of the rewrites–every day there were new scripts, new lines, new jokes! It really taught me the importance of serving the story first and foremost–what will work best for the story being told rather than being attached to a moment or a line. These ladies (and the crew as well) taught me that being on the top of your game doesn’t mean you can’t be a consummate professional and have fun at the same time!
You also recently appeared in the comedy short “The Last Great Romantic Comedy.” Can you tell us about this project?
KEIKO: What I loved about working on this project was the international sensibility in terms of storytelling. The writer, Wagner de Assis, is a Brazilian writer/director who previously directed one of the top grossing films in Brazil, “Nosso Lare” or “Astral City” as it was titled for American release, and I believe this was his first English-language project. Wagner’s work really explores the bigger questions of life–what are we doing here; what happens when we die; why are stories important? It was really great to tackle these issues in the context of a romantic comedy, so the film has depth as well as the warmth and sweetness typical of a romantic comedy. Plus, I love to read, so I love that the film has a literary subtext. And we shot the film in an amazing bookstore so I got to hang out with stacks of books all day!
And, you’ll be in the indie feature “The Islander” out later this year. Can you give us a few details about your role in this film?
KEIKO: “The Islander” is a black and white crime thriller with this really cool noir aesthetic. The detective works to track down the killer, and of course there’s a surprise twist at the end. I play a prostitute who spends an evening with the killer and ultimately meets an untimely end. It was my first time being murdered on camera, so it was pretty fun watching the sfx folks do their magic.
So, now that you’ve worked on TV and in film…which do you like better and why?
KEIKO: For me, television is where it’s at for so many reasons. First of all, it seems like we are in the golden age of TV–the shows being produced right now are amazing on every level. More significantly, in many ways television is an incredibly intimate medium. The stories and characters on TV can become a part of our lives, for better or for worse. We invite them into our living rooms week after week, year after year, and that kind of impact is really exciting to me.
Lastly, how can your fans keep up with your career?
KEIKO: I love Twitter, so folks can follow me there. My handle is @imkeiko. I also have an email newsletter that I send every couple of months. I’m not sure anyone other than my mom reads it, but I have a good time blathering on about what I’m doing, and making random observations about life. The sign up form lives here: http://eepurl.com/lVgGv
Thanks for chatting, Keiko. And, I’m pretty sure you Mom won’t be the only person reading your newsletter from now on!