Rodney Kageyama

Rodney Masao Kageyama (November 1, 1941 – December 9, 2018) was an American stage, film and TV actor.[3] He was a Nisei Japanese American (second-generation) and besides acting in Asian American theater groups, he was also a director and designer. With his roles in the “Gung Ho” film and television series and the “Karate Kid” franchise, he was a trailblazer for Asian Americans in Hollywood.[2]

Rodney Kageyama
Rodney Masao Kageyama[1]

(1941-11-01)November 1, 1941[1]
San Mateo, California, US[1]
DiedDecember 9, 2018(2018-12-09) (aged 77)[2]
Years active1965–2018
Spouse(s)Ken White[2]



Born in nearby San Mateo, Kageyama began his career in San Francisco in 1965 as one of the original members of the Asian American Theater Company.[4] While in San Francisco he attended the American Conservatory Theater.[4] In 1979, Kageyama moved to Los Angeles where he joined the Asian American theatre group, East West Players (EWP), working as an actor, director, and designer.[5] In 1985 he received a Drama-Logue Award for Costume Design for EWP's Rashomon.[6]

In 1993, Kageyama directed The Grapevine, written by Grateful Crane Ensemble founder Soji Kashiwagi, produced at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.[citation needed]

In spring 2001, Kageyama played Erronius in an all Asian American production of the musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at EWP in Los Angeles.[7]

Film and televisionEdit

He acted on many films, notably The Karate Kid Part II, The Next Karate Kid, Gung Ho (and its subsequent television spin-off), and Showdown in Little Tokyo. He was also featured in the Golden Dreams film exhibit which opened the Disney California Adventure Park theme park. He appeared in many television shows including Quantum Leap and Home Improvement.[5]

Kageyama befriended Chris Tashima, founder of Cedar Grove OnStage, on the set of a Coca-Cola commercial shoot in 1984.[8] Kageyama has subsequently costume designed and served as a crew member on different short films directed by Tashima, including the Academy Award-winning Visas and Virtue (1997).[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Kageyama was heavily involved in community activity, often volunteering for various organizations. He served as an emcee and directed shows for many charitable events.[9] He was a docent at the Japanese American National Museum, where he did story telling for visiting children. He was also an animal advocate and helped place dogs in homes.[10]

In 2007, Kageyama was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy and as of spring 2008 was declared cancer-free.[citation needed] He had numerous other health issues including dealing with complications from HIV for decades before his death. He had both hips replaced and walked with a cane. In his last years, he was on dialysis due to a kidney illness.[2]

He married his long time partner, Ken White, in 2013 when California legalized same-sex unions. They remained together until his death.[2]

Honors and awardsEdit

  • 2006 "Community Treasures" Award, Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California[9]
  • 2005 "Rae Creevey" Award (for volunteer service), East West Players 39th Anniversary Awards[11]


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Best Friends Meter Reader
1985 Teen Wolf Janitor
1986 Gung Ho Ito
1988 Vibes Dr. Harmon
1988 Lucky Stiff Tailor
1989 Let It Ride Patron in Chinese Restaurant
1990 Pretty Woman Japanese Businessman
1991 Showdown in Little Tokyo Eddie
1994 The Next Karate Kid Monk
1999 Godzilla 2000 Voice
2000 Stanley's Gig Jeff Fujisaki
2014 The Three Dogateers Mr. Hiroshi


  1. ^ a b c "Rodney Kageyama (birth reference)". Retrieved March 14, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Reyes-Velarde, Alejandra (December 13, 2018). "Rodney Kageyama, actor and beloved Little Tokyo icon, dies at 77". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  3. ^ Mike Barnes (December 14, 2018). "Rodney Kageyama, 'Gung Ho' Actor and Asian-American Activist, Dies at 77". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  4. ^ a b III, Harris M. Lentz (May 30, 2019). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2018. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-3655-9.
  5. ^ a b "Kageyama bio on "Pawns of the King" website". Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  6. ^ "Production Awards:1986 Drama-Logue Awards". East West Players. Archived from the original on November 19, 2007.
  7. ^ "Rodney Kageyama". IMDb. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
  8. ^ a b "help rodney kageyama". Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  9. ^ a b History on Cherry Blossom Festival website Archived July 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Brief bio following "Daikon Ashi" by Kageyama at JANM online
  11. ^ EWP 39th Awards on AA Theatre Revue

External linksEdit