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Why Reileen Kawahara From Altered Carbon Looks So Familiar

Contains spoilers for Altered Carbon

Over the course of the first two seasons of Netflix's original sci-fi series Altered Carbon, Reileen Kawahara was frequently the most enigmatic presence in a densely populated character landscape — not to mention a supremely powerful crime lord, a cold-blooded killer, and the sister of the series' primary protagonist Takeshi Kovacs, played by both Joel Kinnaman and Anthony Mackie. As it happens, she was also both the reason her brother was imprisoned for a couple of centuries and the reason he was eventually released. 

If you haven't actually seen an episode of Altered Carbon, some of that information is likely a bit confusing. As such, we'll go ahead and tell you the series is set in the distant future, during a time when human consciousness can be digitized and implanted in new bodies after physical death. That vital narrative nugget should be enough to explain some of the more daring narrative details in the series, which opens with Takeshi (a specially trained warrior) being enlisted to solve a brutal, mysterious murder. Matters get considerably weirder from there, and Takeshi's sister (herself a trained soldier) is a key player in all the sci-fi insanity that follows.

On Altered Carbon, Reileen Kawahara is played by Dichen Lachman. And if you think you've seen the actress' face somewhere before, it's because you almost certainly have. Here's why Reileen Kawahara from Altered Carbon looks so familiar.

Dichen Lachman dressed for many different occasions on Dollhouse

Like many actors, Lachman got her first big break on the small screen — only Lachman got hers via a long-running Australian soap opera little seen outside of the land down under. Clearly, somebody stateside was watching, though, as the young actress eventually found herself cast in slightly bigger projects, including the 2006 Emma Roberts mermaid fantasy AquamarineFrom there, Lachman appeared in a pair of low-budget genre features: 2007's brilliantly titled Tyrannosaurus Azteca (a.k.a. Aztec Rex), and the 2009 vampire flick Bled.

We've no facts to back this up, but we'd lay even odds it was one of those B-movie tinged offerings that landed Lachman on the radar of genre guru Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire SlayerFirefly, and The Avengers fame. Whatever the case, Whedon was quick to cast Lachman in a key supporting role when he was assembling the cast for his 2009 sci-fi series Dollhouse

Most people — even diehard Whedon fans — missed out Dollhouse when it aired its two abbreviated seasons on Fox way back when. That's a shame because the series — which follows a group of individuals ("Dolls") who've allowed a dubious corporation to supplant their own memories with temporary identities for the use of wealthy clients — was a fascinating narrative experiment that was cancelled just when it was approaching greatness. It also featured what should've been a breakout performance from Lachman, who played Sierra opposite Eliza Dushku. Plus, it touted a stacked cast of supporting talent (including several Whedon regulars) in Olivia Williams, Fran Kranz, Tahmoh Penikett, Harry Lennix, Amy Acker, Felicia Day, Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk, and more.  

Dichen Lachman battled for Inhuman rights on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

In the wake of Dollhouse's untimely demise, Lachman was hardly hurting for work. In fact, she kept quite busy booking gigs on several more television series including Hawaii Five-OBeing HumanThe 100, and Shameless. In 2014, Lachman got a call from her old pal and embattled one-time Marvel maestro Joss Whedon, who was casting a key role on his small-screen MCU venture Agents of S.H.I.E.L.DAt the time, the perpetually on-the-bubble Marvel show was headed into its second season, with Whedon looking to fill in a few major gaps in the backstory of one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s central figures, Chloe Bennett's Inhuman-in-the-making Skye.

If you were watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the time, you no doubt recall that Lachman filled gaps and then some, appearing on nine season 2 episodes as Skye's mother-slash-Inhuman freedom fighter Jiaying. She ultimately became the primary villain of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 2, pulling the strings that led Skye's enhanced Papa (played with unhinged energy by Kyle McLachlan) to go all batty while hatching a devious plan to make Inhumans (or petrified statues) of the world at large.

The first half of season 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was uneven (McLachlan's manic work often erred on the side of camp), the second half was saved by the arrival of Lachman's cool, calculating, ever-scheming Jiaying. Though Jiaying met a most fitting end, we couldn't help but be a bit sad that she didn't get a more time on the series. 

Dichen Lachman played with beastly criminals on Animal Kingdom

While Lachman has displayed a particular leaning toward the fantasy and sci-fi realm throughout her career, she's also managed to not entirely pigeon-hole herself to genre fare. The actress actually landed a rare film role in 2015, appearing opposite indie icon John Hawkes in the L.A.-set neo-noir mystery Too Late. A couple of years later, she broke bad again with a recurring role on TNT's action-packed crime drama Animal Kingdom.

Loosely adapted from David Michôd's searing, critically lauded 2010 Australian indie of the same name, Animal Kingdom transplants the action to Southern California. It tells the story of the Cody clan who, headed by an iron-willed matriarch (Ellen Barkin), have their hands in all manner of criminal enterprises. Lachman joined the series during its third season, turning up as a pseudo drifter with a penchant for trouble named Frankie. Throughout season 3 and into season 4, Lachman's Frankie has continued to grow in prominence, allying with the Cody's on several jobs and briefly playing romantic interest to Ben Robson's Craig.

While Frankie's role in the Cody criminal empire is uncertain heading into the show's fifth season, it's worth noting that she has so far survived the Animal Kingdom bloodletting, and remains a legit wildcard moving forward. With any luck, Lachman's role will continue to grow on Animal Kingdom, and we'll get to see her butting heads with the series' brooding bad guys for seasons to come. That's all assuming, of course, that Dichen Lachman's gig in Universal's upcoming tentpole Jurassic World: Dominion doesn't cause any scheduling conflicts.