In the hands of the wrong producers, actors, writer or director, A Kid Like Jake could have been a mess.
That’s because its titular character is a 4-year-old boy that prefers dressing up as Cinderella rather than G.I. Joe. But the main drama of the film takes place between his parents, Alex Wheeler (Claire Danes) and Greg (Jim Parsons), who are at odds over whether Jake is being labeled prematurely or is actually showing signs that he could eventually transition gender.
Parsons told me that he never had any worries that “A Kid Like Jake” would court unwanted controversy, though. Instead, after reading Daniel Pearle’s adaptation of his own stage play, the word that immediately came to mind for the actor was “graceful.”
“Daniel has taken a hot button topic, the idea of gender fluidity and the possibility of someone growing into being a transgender person eventually, and put it through this very specific lens of a tiny nuclear family trying to get their child into school, something that many people go through in one way or another.”
“One of the beauties of the language of this film, and the way that people talk about Jake and whether or not he is expressing curiosity about his own gender or if he is just playing as a kid, is that most people have had these conversations, just not about this topic.”
“If you have ever been in a relationship or had a child you have had similar discussions about trying to protect your child and what is best for them and what they want when they can’t express it clearly.”
Parsons didn’t see Pearle’s play when it was on at the Claire Tow Theater back in 2013. But, when the script was sent to him four years ago, he immediately saw its potential. Not just as an actor, but as a producer, too, as “A Kid Like Jake” marks his first feature film as the latter.
“I feel like by framing this particularly topic in this way it takes a bit of mystery off of it, and I hope it takes away the fear for people that think they don’t understand this issue or have never experienced it first hand. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s just another aspect of being a human being, and trying to do what is right for your child.”
Ever the actor, Parsons, who admits “there was certainly a section of time when [he] didn’t think this was going to happen” and calls the completion of the film a “miracle,” took particular enjoyment in fighting with Claire Danes, especially because of Pearle’s writing.
“What stood out for me was the way that the characters talked and fought with each other. Daniel Pearle has a real ear for how people argue and discuss things and how they get down and dirty with things.”
“As much as I loved everything else about the screenplay and what it was saying, I really just wanted to engage in those scenes as an actor.”
“Even though shooting those scenes can be awful in many ways, both me and Claire have admitted that we want to do them again. Because it is great, great fun to get involved in scenes like that that are so well crafted.”
Well-crafted perfectly sums up “A Kid Like Jake,” which is released in New York on June 1st and will be available everywhere on DVD on June 8th.