California Girl


Photography by Shannon Sewell

Isabella Kai is the quintessential California girl. She was born and raised in LA with her two younger siblings, and when she isn’t on set with Casey Affleck or Rosario Dawson, she is at the beach with friends and family. Going from the surf and sand to the red carpet, Isabella Kai is full of surprises and at the age of 13, she has already appeared in some of pop culture’s most influential television shows and in the feature films The Unforgettable, and The Friend being released in Fall 2020.

The young actress has had roles in some of the biggest television shows of the past decade such as Glee, Pretty Little Liars and True Blood. In fact, her first audition ever was for a part on Glee, and she got it! What’s her trick? As Isabella said, “Don’t hold back ever in an audition. I use nerves to my advantage and as something to fuel me.”

Isabella had her sights set on the big screen and landed the role of Lily Connover, in The Unforgettable, when she was only eight years old. In the drama thriller she plays the daughter of Katherine Heigl and the soon to be stepdaughter to Rosario Dawson. When we started to speak about The Unforgettable, Isabella lit up and exclaimed, “That was my first big movie! I went in five times to audition and it was one of the best experiences of my life.”  She was also quick to note that the movie was written, directed, and produced by women, which put the developing actress at ease. She said of the crew, “I felt very comfortable on set and like they understood me.” I can’t think of a better first experience on a film set than that, and to top it all off her and Rosario remain close to this day.


In her next big film, The Friend, Isabella co-stars with Dakota Johnson, Jason Segel, and Casey Affleck! When she heard about the opportunity to audition for the role of Molly, Isabella was determined to get the part. “We were in Las Vegas when we got the news that I got the role and I cried! We then celebrated with huge milkshakes.” Her favorite flavor? Chocolate, of course!


I asked how Isabella prepares for her roles, roles that often are more mature in nature, and she said that relating to her scenes as best as she can is crucial so that her emotions can be as natural as possible. She also credits Casey Affleck as, “one of the best teachers I have ever had on set and one of my biggest inspirations.” The two often prepared for their challenging scenes together, breaking down and studying the script further to get into character.


The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) where Isabella walked the red carpet with her co-stars. “It was surreal! I’ve heard about these film festivals and I have always wanted to go, and it was more amazing than I could have expected!” She was also invited to attend the Hollywood Foreign Press party where she got to meet one of her icons, Kristin Stewart.

Isabella wore a beautiful white ballgown custom made by Mischka Aoki on the red carpet at TIFF and a fashion icon was born. “I was nervous to walk the red carpet and sometimes I will practice in front of a mirror, but I mostly just wing it.” Something tells me this is just the start of her amazing red carpet looks, with Isabella crediting her mom for her fashion sense and Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson, and co-star Dakota Johnson as her fashion icons.


So other than the ballgowns, the red carpets, her A list co-stars who become like family, starring in TV shows and movies, what’s the best part? “Crafty!”, Isabella says with excitement. Crafty, AKA, craft services, is the department that provides the cast and crew with food, snacks, and drinks. What is the first thing she reaches for? Candy, but we probably should have guessed that, now that we know she is a fan of chocolate milkshakes, but then again, who isn’t?!

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