Biography

Jeanne Portrait - Sitting in front of Stone Wall

Photo by Lia Chang
February 2013

Jeanne Sakata is a renowned Asian American actor and playwright known for using her passion, versatility, talent and wit to provoke public conversation about culturally significant topics.  Jeanne’s work spans across theater, film and television, with ongoing multiple productions of her award-winning solo play Hold These Truths, her current acclaimed comic turn in LA Times Critic’s Choice Figaro, and her latest work in Jennifer Phang’s acclaimed indie sci-fi film, Advantageous, which garnered the US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival before debuting in April and May at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the San Francisco Film Society.

Throughout her more than 30-year career, Jeanne has been honored for her dynamic, thought-provoking characterizations in both comedy and drama. Called a “local treasure” by the Los Angeles Times, she has earned the LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress for her cross-gender portrayal of Master Hua in Chay Yew’s Red, the Los Angeles’ Pacific American Friends of Theatre Outstanding Artist Award, the Monaco Charity Film Festival Best Actress Award (Adultolescence), Stage Scene Outstanding Performance mention (Master Class), Entertainment Today Best Supporting Actress Award (A Winter People), and the Drama-Logue Outstanding Performance Award (The Maids). In recent years, Jeanne has centered her career on the Southern Californian stage, developing new works and performing with the La Jolla Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse, Sundance Theatre Institute and Ojai Playwrights Conference, as well as East West Players, the nation’s premiere Asian American theatre. She has also performed with the The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, American Conservatory Theater, Northlight Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Syracuse Stage and the Arizona Theatre Company, and is a member of the Antaeus Company, LA’s esteemed classical theatre group.  Jeanne’s rounded talent is also reflected in her screen credits, including NCIS Angeles, NUMB3RS, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives, Presidio Med, ER, Threat Matrix, Line of Fire, American Family, John Riley’s I Got You, Hiroshima, and Sex and Marriage, a Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) webseries.

One of Jeanne’s most celebrated career achievements is her debut as the playwright of Hold These Truths, formerly known as Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi, which earned a 2013 Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance for its off-Broadway run, and which will next be performed this summer as part of ACT Seattle’s 50th Anniversary Mainstage Season. The award-winning play, based on a true story, presents a moving portrayal of a University of Washington Japanese-American student who, during WWII, fights US government policies to mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast while struggling to reconcile his beloved country’s betrayal with his passionate belief in the U.S. Constitution. Since its world premiere in 2007 at East West Players, the rhapsodic play has been performed across the country, with sold-out performances at Seattle’s ACT Theatre, PlayMakers Repertory Company, People’s Light & Theatre, the Epic Theatre Ensemble, Play and Players, Coachella Valley Rep, Chautauqua Theatre Company, and Silk Road Rising. Markedly, it was workshopped by the Lark Play Development Center, the Dartmouth Residency at the New York Theatre Workshop, and co-produced with Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii 5-0) for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth. With its timeless themes, Hold These Truths attracted unanimous rave reviews from The New Yorker, Washington Post and AP critics, as well as additional raves across the country in Seattle, Honolulu, Chapel Hill, Philadelphia and Palm Springs.  The script, published in Japan Studies Association Journal in 2010, is currently on display at the Library of Congress Playwrights Archive in the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection in Washington DC, where the Jeanne Sakata Collection was established in July 2011.

Jeanne resides in Los Angeles with her husband Tim, and together they enjoy cooking and baking, traveling, reading, writing, hiking and singing.