Daniel K. Isaac’s award-winning independent pilot presentation/short film “According to My Mother,” co-created with Cathy Y. Yan, will have its West Coast Premiere at Outfest on March 4th at the Egyptian Theatre in LA at 8:00PM and and will screen at CAAMfest on March 10th at the Roxie in San Francisco at 9:40PM.
Get tickets here: Outfest Fusion Gala Shorts & After Party
“According to My Mother” is a comedic series about a young, gay Korean American actor and his disapproving, devout Christian mother who moves in with him and changes everything.
“According to My Mother” took home two NYTVF awards at the 12th annual New York Television Festival, including Best Drama and Best Actor for Isaac, in New York last fall. www.accordingtomymother.com
Isaac can also be seen in “Billions” Season Two, which premieres on Sunday, February 19th at 10:00PM on SHOWTIME. The high-profile cast is led by Emmy winners Paul Giamatti (“John Adams”) and Damian Lewis (“Homeland”) as Chuck Rhoades and Bobby Axelrod, respectively.
Chang: Who do you play in “Billions”?
Isaac: I play ‘Ben Kim.’ In the pilot he is introduced as the new analyst (“Stanford-Wharton”) hired to work at Bobby Axelrod’s (Damian Lewis) firm, Axe Capital. In season two he has hopes of becoming a portfolio manager but…well…you’ll see… #TeamAxe.
Chang: What are you rehearsing now?
Isaac: I just finished a two-week workshop of Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, with five other amazingly talented Asian American actors, directed by the brilliant Stephen Brown-Fried, and with the help of NAATCO and the Shakespeare Society.
Chang: How did you find out about your awards for “According to My Mother”?
Isaac: Last fall, a pilot presentation I co-wrote and acted in called “According To My Mother” was awarded Best Drama and Best Actor at NYTVF. I was sitting backstage between scenes of my last play Sagittarius Ponderosa when my phone started blowing up with congratulatory texts and emails. It was surreal. Thank goodness if was on non-vibrating-silent.
Chang: How did the project begin?
Isaac: “According To My Mother” began as a series of Facebook posts! I’d have a conversation with my (Korean, immigrant, conservative, Christian) mom on the phone, or have a text or email exchange, and I began sharing our exchanges online. It’s actually how I got started writing. Simply by transcribing our conversations. Then a close filmmaker friend, Cathy Y. Yan, approached me to turn the posts into a short film which then evolved into a pilot.
Chang: What are you future plans for it?
Isaac: We now have an 18 minute pilot presentation slash short film that’s finishing up the festival circuit. We will be at Outfest and CAAMfest this March! And we’ve got a series bible we are pitching in hopes of making the series come to life. Fingers crossed!
Chang: Does your mother understand your life and career now?
Isaac: The short answer would be ‘No.’ The long answer would be…’buy me a manhattan and we can talk about it.’ We will always have our differences and believe very opposite things about lives and career paths.
Funnily enough, I was introduced to acting because my mom had heard this story of a pastor getting stage-fright and she didn’t want her future pastor/lawyer/doctor/politician/all-of-the-above son getting stage-fright so she signed me up for the church theatre troupe. So when I declared a Theatre Major on my college applications and then moved to New York to be an actor, she sort of knew it was her “fault.” But she reasoned that great actors are celebrities and thus can use their platforms for “good” aka preaching the gospel and warning mankind about the end of the world being nigh etc etc. She recently googled my name and texted “You are very famous Gey guy but I not happy”… does that answer your question? (And for anyone suddenly feeling bad for me about this text, know that it is routine and I was too busy laughing about her spelling of “Gey” to have any hurt feelings.)
Chang: How did Sagittarius Ponderosa go for you?
Isaac: It was an absolute pleasure to finally get to work with NAATCO, a company I’ve admired and loved since I’d moved to the city seven and a half years ago. I’d done readings and workshops with most of the actors, and Virginia Wing had played my grandmother back in 2011 in “disOriented” by Kyoung H. Park, so it really felt like family (…even though I played the one character outside of the family). I’d also been, and still am, a Huge fan of the director Ken Rus Schmoll, and still can’t believe we all got to work with him. He’s a genius genius genius. Working on new plays is one of my biggest passions. MJ Kaufman is such an exciting voice and it was a pleasure every night to get to breathe life into their words.
Chang: How was it received?
Isaac: How was it received. Hmm. Well. To be honest, I think the election really hurt our audience and word of mouth momentum. But after a couple days of shock, we also felt privileged and empowered to be telling an under-represented story with a trans protagonist, and an all Asian American cast, in the face of an orange cheeto who’d won on a platform of hate and bigotry. We knew it would be the beginning of an uphill battle but here was a tiny form of rebellion and a source of hope and light.
I hope we keep creating art like that. We’ll need it now more than ever.
Chang: What else are you working on this year?
Isaac: Hopefully, fingers crossed knock on wood toi toi merde etc, “Billions” will be renewed for Season Three. All prayers, good luck charms, and positive vibes are welcome. Watch the show!
And I’m acting in some readings and workshops of new plays, which, like I said, is my favorite thing to do.
I’m also writing more and trying to write about something other than my mother…so I’m working on my second full-length play about sex positivity and micro-aggressions. So, you know, a light hearted rom-com.
And we’ll see what else is on the horizon.
Daniel K. Isaac was born and raised in sunny Southern California. When he was in fifth grade, his mother heard a mortifying story about a preacher who went numb with stage fright and had to be escorted off the stage. Isaac was promptly signed up for Grace Korean Church’s theatre troupe and he’s been an actor ever since. After receiving his Bachelor’s in Theatre from the University of California – San Diego (UCSD), Isaac moved to not-always-sunny New York City where he’s been seen on large and small screens and stages. Some Film/TV Credits include: “Foshay” on The Jim Gaffigan Show (TV LAND), MONEY MONSTER (dir. Jodie Foster, with George Clooney and Julia Roberts), “Virgil” on Person of Interest (CBS, recurring), The Following (FOX), Believe (NBC, pilot), TOO BIG TO FAIL (HBO) and “Ben Kim” on SHOWTIME’s Billions (with Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis). Some upcoming projects include: Search Party (TBS), Crashing (HBO), Shades of Blue (NBC) and Drew (CBS, pilot). www.danielkisaac.com
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.