Isabella Kai is one of the stars of the new film ‘Our Friend.’ HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Isabella about what she learned from co-stars Jason Segel, Dakota Johnson, and Casey Affleck.
Our Friend is based on the inspiring true story of the Teague family — Matt (Casey Affleck), Nicole (Dakota Johnson), and their two young daughters — and how their lives are upended when Nicole is diagnosed with terminal cancer. As Nicole’s condition worsens, Nicole and Matt’s best friend, Dane (Jason Segel) offers to help out. He puts his life on hold and helps the family in their time of need. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Isabella Kai about playing Molly, Nicole and Matt’s oldest daughter, and what she learned from her co-stars.
“When I first got the sides for Molly, I immediately felt a lot of empathy for her,” Isabella told HollywoodLife. “I felt a lot of empathy for the whole family, but I did relate to her in some ways. I haven’t gone through exactly what she’s gone through, but I have gone through things in my life that I find to be hard.”
Isabella worked closely with Jason, Casey, and Dakota throughout filming. She loved the bond between Molly and Dane. “Molly and Dane’s relationship is my favorite. I think they have such a wonderful bond, and Jason and I really had a wonderful bond off set,” Isabella said. “He never failed to make me laugh. He’s so hilarious and so sweet. He just really cared about Violet [McGraw], who played my younger sister, and me because we were together most of the time. When Molly’s with Dane, she’s the kid that she actually is. She can really be happier with him, and he really brings out the light in there. Jason really is the light in this film to me.”
The young actress filmed her “hardest scenes” with Casey and collaborated with him to establish a real father-daughter type bond. “We spent a lot of time together trying to create the relationship and just make it really, really natural for us to play on screen. I think he really pushed me. He really became a fatherly figure to me,” she continued. Isabella noted that Dakota was “so wonderful” when they first met. “She really made it so easy to connect to her, which is really important because I’m playing her daughter, and the scenes that have with her are just me being me and just being in the moment,” Isabella continued.
Isabella is 14 years old now and was only 12 when she filmed Our Friend. Being a star on the rise, Isabella learned so much from her co-stars. “I learned completely different things from all of them,” she told HollywoodLife. “Something I always do when I’m on any set is I really like to watch people. Especially being so young in some of the projects that I did, just watching the older people on set was really important for me because I like to take away from everyone. I think one of the things I learned from Casey was to really put what’s going on in your own life into the character that you’re playing because it makes relating to the character a lot more real. What I said about Molly is that I haven’t gone through exactly what she had gone through, but the things I had gone through in my life I kind of made a parallel with my life and Molly’s life. With Jason, he was really the light I feel, and he taught me even when I had those really hard scenes and some really rough days just to never lose the happiness even when things get really hard. I think finding the humor is really important. And for Dakota, being really caring is what I learned from her, being genuine and caring and really just seem natural.”
The actress believes that Our Friend portrays “life in a really beautiful way and a really genuine way. I think friendship is one of the most important things in life, and to have the people with you that will do anything for you, no matter how awful it gets, is really important. I think I really learned to treasure and to keep real, true friends.” Our Friend is in theaters and On Demand now.