Most of Mia Isaac’s friends in Atlanta, where she grew up, are spending this part of the summer beginning their dorm room shopping and wrapping up summer jobs or internships before heading off to college. Things look a little different for Isaac, who is juggling the back-to-back releases of her breakout films, “Don’t Make Me Go” and “Not Okay,” both of which are now out. It’s her first bout of press, first major projects and it’s all rather surreal, she admits.
Isaac, 18, has always known she’s wanted to act. “I begged my parents for an agent when I was a little kid and they were a little hesitant at first, just because they didn’t know much about the industry,” she says. “But eventually my dad took me to a casting call for an agency and since then I’ve been auditioning.”
In 2020, at the age of 16, she sent in a self-tape for “Don’t Make Me Go,” with little on her résumé and no feature film experience. It was a big casting call and she didn’t expect to hear anything back.
“It was so surreal and weird and amazing,” she says. The movie, a story of a father-daughter who embark on a road trip when he learns he has a fatal illness, is directed by young actor and director Hannah Marks, who Isaac said she instantly connected with as she too wants to both act and direct.
“I really looked up to her on that front. I felt like on set, I was able to learn so much from her and the way that she held herself and the way that she carried the energy on set,” Isaac says. “I just think she’s really, really cool. And I’m so lucky to get to call her my friend.”
The age-appropriate casting choice also spoke to Isaac.
“It felt really cool to be able to play a teenager because these shows are often about teenagers, but are played by people who are in their 20s,” she says. “And it felt so cool to be able to grow up with Wally.”
While on set for “Don’t Make Me Go” in New Zealand, she auditioned for “Not Okay,” which stars Zoey Duetch as a social media influencer fraud whose life comes crashing down. Isaac plays an activist who befriends Duetch’s character in the movie, which is very much a look at the role social media plays in our lives.
“For me, social media has always been on a much smaller scale. It’s always been just me and my friends, and just messing around, like silly videos and stuff, so now I think there’s a little bit more pressure, just because I’ve never had people that I didn’t know following me,” Isaac says. “Now every time I want to go post something, I worry about being judged and things like that, which is hard. I’m trying not to do that because I shouldn’t care about other people’s opinions, but I think that is an effect of social media.”
Up next, she’ll be shooting the screen adaptation of Charmaine Wilkerson’s book “Black Cake” for Hulu, which will have her in Jamaica for two months followed by six months or so in Wales.
“It kind of feels like perfect timing because all of my friends are leaving for college,” she says. “So I don’t feel left behind as they’re leaving, because at least I have something to do.”