Biography

Jeanne Portrait - Sitting in front of Stone Wall

Photo by Lia Chang
February 2013

Jeanne Sakata is a renowned actor and playwright known for using her passion, versatility, talent and wit to provoke public conversation about culturally significant topics.  In 2015-18, Jeanne’s work spans across theater, film and television, with productions of her solo play Hold These Truths (2013 Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance) at Arena Stage and Lyric Stage Company (upcoming in 2018) Pasadena Playhouse (now playing), Portland Center Stage, the Guthrie Theater, Perseverance Theatre, and ACT Seattle; guest appearances on Big Hero 6, Bravo’s True Fiction and ABC’s Dr. Ken;  acclaimed comic turns onstage as Marceline in LA Times 2015 Critic’s Choice Figaro at A Noise Within and in A Single Shard at People’s Light & Theatre, and ; and her voice work as Soon Yang in Jennifer Phang’s acclaimed indie sci-fi film, Advantageous, streaming exclusively on Netflix (US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision, 2015 Sundance Film Festival; 2016 Film Independent Spirit Award Nomination).

Throughout her more than 30-year career, Jeanne has been honored for dynamic portrayals in both comedy and drama. Called a “local treasure” by the Los Angeles Times, her talent has been reflected onscreen in NCIS Angeles, NUMB3RS, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Desperate Housewives, Presidio Med, ER, Threat Matrix, Line of Fire, American Family, John Ridley’s I Got You, Hiroshima, and Sex and Marriage, a Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) YOMYOMF YouTube webseries. A recipient of the LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress for her cross-gender portrayal of Master Hua in Chay Yew’s Red, she has recently developed and performed new works with the La Jolla Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse, Sundance Theatre Institute and Ojai Playwrights Conference, as well as the East West Players, the nation’s premiere Asian American theatre. She has also performed with The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, 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 LA’s acclaimed classical group, the Antaeus Company.   Other special honors include the 2016 Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Los Angeles Theatre Community from Playwrights’ Arena, 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).

One of Jeanne’s most celebrated career achievements is her debut as the playwright of Hold These Truths, inspired by the true story of Gordon Hirabayashi, to whom President Obama posthumously awarded a 2012 Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  Hold These Truths 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. After its world premiere in 2007 at East West Players, and subsequent workshops with the Lark Play Development Center and the the New York Theatre Workshop, the play made its off-Broadway debut with the Epic Theatre Ensemble, and has since been performed at Pasadena Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, the Guthrie Theater, the Perseverance Theatre, Seattle’s ACT Theatre, PlayMakers Repertory Company, Honolulu Theatre For Youth (co-produced with Daniel Dae Kim) , TerraNOVA Collective, People’s Light & Theatre, Plays and Players, Coachella Valley Rep, and Silk Road Rising. Hold These Truths has attracted rave reviews from The New Yorker, Washington Post and AP critics, as well as additional raves across the country.  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 traveling, cooking and baking, reading, writing, hiking, charity work, and music.