Kiki Sukezane

A New Kind of Hero


Those select few who have managed to carve out careers within Hollywood’s television and film industry can tell you, the pursuit of professional acting is a challenging one. With English as your second language and your homeland across the ocean, this challenging pursuit becomes even loftier—but not impossible as proven by rising star Kiki Sukezane, who just landed a prominent role on NBC’s soon-to-air series Heroes Reborn.

Hailing from Kyoto, Japan, Sukezane descends from a noted samurai family and is well versed in martial arts. She first began what would become a vital relationship with American culture as a high school foreign exchange student. By twenty, seeking to broaden her horizons and further expose herself to diversity in the world, Sukezane took on a volunteering opportunity in Tanzania, Africa. It was during her time there she decided to pursue acting—not as a means for her own success, but rather as a tool to build awareness for the realities taking place in other parts of the world.

She returned to Japan and spent two years attending acting school and performing various roles in Japanese films. Now residing among the rolling hills of sunny Los Angeles, Sukezane has taken on a variety of roles there and in New York, as well as starring in a Japanese television series, and a German film. Ultimately, her hard work and unrelenting pursuit earned her attention and she was cast in the sought-after role of Miko Otomo in the new mini-series, Heroes Reborn, which branches from the original series-turned cultural phenomenon, Heroes. We took a moment to sit down with Kiki Sukezane and get her thoughts on what promises to be a successful acting career.

What was your experience like as a foreign exchange student here in the US?

I was seventeen years old when I went to high school in a small town called Sisseton, South Dakota for a year. It’s a small town, where everyone knows everyone else. Half of the students were Native American and the home where I stayed had a lot of cows and horses, so it was a very American kind of experience.

What inspired you to involve yourself in volunteer opportunities in Tanzania?

I wanted to see the differences in the world. Also, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be or what I wanted to do in my future, (I was only twenty when I went there) but it was during that trip I decided to become an actress. I wanted to do what Angelina Jolie does. I would like to show people the reality of the world and inspire as many people as possible.

What was the single most challenging or defining moment you took with you from this experience?

I was there for a month. The most challenging time was when I was robbed by three men at a beach. They had butcher knives and took my phone, camera and money. That was a scary experience but I would say it was everything else during that time that was the most defining. It was an amazing time in my life.

What’s your life like in Los Angeles as compared to
Kyoto and Tokyo?

My life in LA is kind of relaxed and boring compared to living in Tokyo. In Tokyo, I’m really busy all the time, meeting a lot of people. Many places are open until morning so you can imagine it’s pretty crazy and hectic. In Kyoto, where I grew up, it’s a really beautiful, traditional city. My family still lives there. I sometimes really miss Japan, but I also love LA—the weather is so nice!

What was the defining step to landing this exciting role?

I guess I’m a lucky girl. I also think I really understood this character and the producers saw that.

Can you tell us about the role you’re taking on in Heroes Reborn? Is there any part of your character that resonates with you?

My character’s name is Miko Otomo. She lived in Tokyo and is looking for her missing father. She has a kind of quiet, unique personality, which is similar to mine.

What intentions or plans do you have following the success of your part in Heroes Reborn?

I guess I’ll just keep going. I’ll keep auditioning, looking for the next big role. And, of course, I’d love to do films.

What kind of advice can you offer young people like yourself, looking to uproot their lives and embark on challenging careers here in the States?

Dream huge! If you have thought carefully about it, then go for it.

text by Jennifer Moulaison
Photograph by darian zahedi

hair & makeup by miyabi goto
styling elizabeth parks kibbey