In Hollywood as a middle-aged, high-school-aged actor on screen a decade after separating, Mia Isaac and her racy performance in Don’t make me go stand out. Isaac turned 17 on the first day of filming for Hannah Marks’ movie Coming of Age. You play Wally, a teenage daughter who reluctantly goes on a road trip with her father (John Cho), who keeps his cancer diagnosis a secret.
Isaac, an Atlanta native, has long known that she wants to be an actress, but her parents have been reluctant. Hoping to break the détente, 11-year-old Isaac asked her parents for an agent—for Christmas. “My dad told me I should learn to multiply first, up to 12,” Isaac recalls. After conquering those hit scales and landing an agent, Isaac did some business and auditioned for Nickelodeon and Disney’s color gamut series, but “never felt too connected to the script,” she said.
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When it comes to teen-dom on screen, there’s the super sanitized kids network version, and then there’s the trance end of the spectrum. Don’t make me go (From Jul 15 on Amazon Prime) Occupies the sparsely populated areas in between. Isaac explains of her character: “The way she was moving around growing up felt a lot like me. I felt seen.”
Filmed in New Zealand, where Cho had to be in his Netflix series Cowboy Bebop. With some effort, the country doubled for the American Southwest. A year after getting her driver’s licence, Isaac filmed scenes of driving on roads that had to be closed and regulated as cars passed in the opposite direction of local traffic. Then there were the imitation kegs that Isaac did for a festive scene that was supposed to take place at a summer party in Texas but was shot in the middle of the night in a New Zealand fall on a working cow farm.
Just as Wally was seen coming of age with many of the first things appearing on screen, Isaac experienced a series of first things on set. She was working in a feature film studio, in her first starring role, and faced early on the fact that she was doing her first big emotional scene. “I was nervous because I wanted to do well and felt like there were a lot of people watching,” she recalls. She finished the first shot but wasn’t completely satisfied with the result. Zhou then pulled her aside: “Tell me what I think I’ll remember forever: ‘One scene doesn’t define the entire character or the entire movie. “”
Courtesy of Tamar Munch / Amazon
next Don’t make me goIsaac flew to New York to shoot the upcoming satirical movie Searchlight Not okayin which she plays a survivor of a school shooting. Next, Isaac plays an adult role, leading the Hulu drama series black cake, adapted (scheduled to be 2023) by Charmaine Wilkerson, whose creative team includes Oprah Winfrey. You’ll play Kofi, a Jamaican swim star in the ’60s who encounters an unwanted marriage and seems to disappear into the ocean.
Since wrapping up her two films, Isaac has been in Atlanta, hanging out with former classmates who were finishing their senior year of high school. (Isaac graduated at age 16) Between working on her Jamaican accent and meditating on Wilkerson’s source material, she’s enjoying time with her friends before they head off to college and moving on to her next project—”just being kids and doing stupid things.”
A version of this story first appeared in the July 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.
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