In “Don’t Make Me Go” (2022), Max (John Cho) is a single parent with a grim medical diagnosis. Max doesn’t tell his teenage daughter, Wally (Mia Isaac), but he takes her on a road trip to meet her mom in this family drama from director Hanna Marks.
Mia graciously met ArtHouseFilmWire’s Jeff Mitchell over a Zoom call, and this talented young actress shares Wally’s perspectives, the amusing and stressful learning-how-to-drive scenes, the limited prep time she had with John, and much more!
On Friday, July 15, “Don’t Make Me Go” begins streaming on (Amazon) Prime Video!
AHFW: Mia, it’s great meeting you, and are you ready to talk about driving?
MI: Yes, I think so! If you’re ready, I’m ready.
AHFW: Max teaches Wally how to drive, and the film has amusing and stressful scenes that took me back to my early driving days. Could you relate to Wally’s stress?
MI: Oh, 100 percent. By the time I played Wally, I had my license already. So I knew how to drive (which) was great because I could recall my experience.
Okay, I know how to drive, but I’m not great with highways yet. I’m still learning. I’m not great with merging, so that’s something me and Wally definitely have in common. Her struggle with merging felt very real to my struggle. I learned a little bit from (Wally), too. I guess we’re not supposed to close our eyes on the road, so I know that now.
AHFW: (Driving) was a new world that I wasn’t ready for myself, so I totally get it. (On a different topic), I love that Wally says, “I’d bet on you,” to her dad. To me, that line is more impactful than (Wally) saying, “I love you.” Did you see it the same way?
MI: Yea, 100 percent. In a lot of ways, throughout the movie, we see that Max doesn’t really bet on himself. He’s so used to playing it safe. It’s brought up that he once had a passion for singing and never pursued it because he didn’t believe in himself. I think it’s really special that Wally believes in him wholeheartedly. She loves him so much and wants what’s best for him.
AHFW: The audience knows Max’s secret. Wally doesn’t, but do you think, deep down, she knows that something is going on (because her dad is acting strangely), or is she thinking that her dad is just being Dad?
MI: Wally knows her dad well enough to know that he’s acting a little strange and that things are different, but she also gets mixed up in (the) idea of (her dad) wanting to introduce her to her mom. Maybe that’s why he is feeling nervous. She’s always felt a certain way about meeting her mom, so that meddles with (her) a little bit. (Wally’s) not sure why Max is – all of sudden – acting different, but she relates a lot of that back to (her) mom.
AHFW: Max doesn’t tell Wally about his (medical diagnosis). For (big news) like that, would you want to know right away?
MI: I think it’s different for me because I come from a two-parent household which is so very different than growing up with one parent. Of course, I’d want to know, but when (my parents) are given news, (they) go to each other first.
They’d say, “How are we going to present this to our kids, or how are we going to move (on) this?”
That’s something that they’d go through together, but what’s special about Max and Wally is it’s always just the two of them. They depend on each other. They count on each other. A kid and a parent probably wouldn’t do that in a two-person household, but Wally really would’ve wanted to know because they went through something together, and that something was losing her mom.
(Max and Wally) survived that together. There was no hiding anything. (They) have this shared grief together, so why can’t (they) share this news.
AHFW: Wally gets into trouble on this trip, but she really is a good kid. She has a strong moral center, and I think that’s a good choice for (this character), because it gives (the audience more) time to know Max and Wally. What do you think?
MI: Yea, Wally’s a teenager. She can be very annoying, and I think it’d be very easy for audiences to dislike her. But, at the end of the day, Wally is really lovable. She really cares about her dad, and she really, really genuinely loves him. That’s important to show because we’ve all seen teenagers (be) teenagers, but I think what sets Wally apart is how much she loves her dad.
AHFW: Wally is also distracted because of Glenn, who we don’t like. We don’t like Glenn at all. (Haha.) Wally gets emotionally stuck at times because (Glenn) could be (her) first love. What are your thoughts about Wally dealing with Glenn?
MI: I learned a lot about playing Wally, and we’re both coming of age at the same time. While Wally was discovering boys, I was learning through playing her. Over the course of the movie, Wally learns that she deserves more than a boy who doesn’t want her back. I learned that sometimes you shouldn’t have to settle, and you deserve a boy who will be kind to you.
AHFW: How did you and John Cho prepare for the film, and did you have a lot of time?
MI: We met in person about a week before we started shooting. It was very, very quick because I just got into the country, so I did a two-week quarantine. The day I got out of quarantine (was the day) we met in person. In any other situation with any other person, it probably would’ve been very hard to create that chemistry and that bond right away. But, because it was John, it was just so easy. I got so lucky. We fell into that father-daughter dynamic really naturally, and we spent a lot of time together on set. I couldn’t have asked for a better scene partner.
Image credits: Prime Video