Silas Howard adapted Daniel Pearl’s screenplay ‘A Kid Like Jake’ four years ago.
He wanted to explore an open-minded view on parenting, and the struggle and emotions parents feel when their child turns out to be different from the majority of people in their classroom. Clare Danes (Alex Wheeler) and Jim Parsons (Greg Wheeler) play a married couple looking to enroll their four-year-old son Jake into private school. To capitalize on financial aid, they seek advice from Jake’s pre-school teacher, played by Octavia Spencer.
Spencer suggests that they should emphasize on Jake’s non-conforming gender identity, a topic they didn’t think was a unique issue beforehand.
Jake’s liking to dolls and fairy-tales suggests that his gender identity could be more than just a phase.
Clare and Jim are both at odds on how to deal with the situation. The audience sees the parent’s struggle play out in instances when Jake wants to dress up as a princess for Halloween or wear a pink tutu.
We were at the New York screening at The Landmark at 57 West and talked to the cast members to learn more about what being apart of the independent feature meant to them.
Silas Howard- Director
What made you want to be a part of this movie?
The play was written by Daniel Pearl, and it was his thesis play, and it put up at Lincoln Center, at the same time, so he’s a hot-shot young playwright. Jim Parsons auctioned it, and he brought it from the play to the screenplay with Daniel, they did the first adaptation with him. Then Clare Danes came along, and then they were looking for a director, and it came to me. I was just really blown away. I had some changes that I wanted to make, and then Daniel and I worked together for a couple of months over the phone just talking. It was a beautiful collaboration, and I like the chance to sort of look at this from a different lens–to turn the camera away from the kid and turn it on the world around him and I like the messiness of it. I liked that people were making mistakes and doing the wrong thing, and trying to figure stuff out. We have to do the wrong thing to figure out the right thing.
So often we’re shown that we do the right thing, but no, it’s not like that. You can’t get there until to you get to really difficult, sometimes painful places. That’s what appealed to me.
Did you have Clare and Jim in mind for roles from the beginning?
They were on when I came on to the project, and then I saw them and was like ‘oh, they’re perfect.’ I mean they’re so perfect, and they’re so fearless. They’re just amazing and the more time I spent with them, I was like ‘oh yeah, it’s so clear.’ And I know for Daniel, Clare was always who he thought of, and Jim as well. And then Octavia was one of the people they talked about before I came on. I couldn’t have asked for better casting.
What message do you hope that viewers take away from the movie?
I hope like a curiosity and you know it’s not all heavy, there’s some humor in this exploration. So hopefully curiosity and a little compassion for others or themselves if they’ve wrestled with things or felt judgmental. Maybe there’s a moment of ease that comes from watching people sort of wrestle with it.
Octavia Spencer – Cast Member
What attracted to the role you’re playing in this movie?
What attracted me to the role was a project as a whole. Jim, it was a great script, to get to work with Clare [attracted me] you know I’ve been a fan of her’s her entire career. We watched her grow up. I think it’s a very compelling story, and it’s something that I didn’t know a lot about, so I was able to grow as a person in playing this role. I hope that by offering this information, people will have a bit of entertainment, but also be enlightened by what they can contribute to this narrative so I felt obligated in a sense to be a part of it because there’s a growth and there’s a large community that will benefit from having these types of conversations early, so it’s about time a movie like this happened and leave it to Jim Parsons of all people to find it.
How do you prepare for a role like this?
Well, you have to do all your research and she’s a teacher who obviously has seen it all and knows all this stuff, so I had to do a lot of research.
Jim Parsons – Cast Member
What does being a part of this project mean to you?
Well, it’s been such honest labor of love. I loved the script from the moment I read it, and that was over four years ago now, and at the time I felt very hungry to make it. And that hunger never died, even though I thought for a span of time there that it wouldn’t happen. And when the ball started rolling, and people like Octavia and Clare said yes, suddenly it looked like things were falling into place, it really felt like a dream and up until we were shooting, the day before even, there were still things trying to fall into place with funding and stuff. It felt like can this possibly be happening? So to be here tonight and to be showing to an honest to God audience in a movie theatre it’s just really fulfilling, and I feel very strongly about the project, as I did from the moment I read it. It was worth fighting for, and it was worth viewing. It’s not only important messages aside, but it’s also an entertaining film, and it’s been written in such an organic and real way. It’s just fun to watch these people argue with each other.
Daniel Pearl – Writer
Where did the inspiration for the play come from?
There are different sources. I was reading an article about a family raising a gender, non-conforming child, just all the different pressures they felt from all the different places and the different opinions. What to do, what not to do. And you know as someone who went through my own princess phases when I was like four or five, I guess I was struck thinking if my parents had been raising that kid now, it would be an entirely different conversation. And for good reason. We’ve come a long way, but I was really struck by just how many choices on a day-to-day level that these parents were making. I think another thing that struck me was that my day job was always tutoring, high school, middle school, up until I moved to New York. Up until recently, that was my day job that sort of kept me afloat. I was always struck by the fact that all parents want their kids to be special, but no parents really want their kids to be different. There’s this weird paradox where everyone wants their kids to be unique and stand out but not too much. There’s this sort of bizarre push and pull. That was a paradox I found interesting. I think that was the original seed of it for me.
In Theaters June 8th