Talking about illness or death is not an easy subject for many families, especially for people of color. In Hannah Marks’ Don’t Make Me Go, John Cho plays Max, a single father who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is given less than a year to live.
Not wanting to burden his teenage daughter, Wally (Mia Isaac), with the news, he acts like everything is normal. Instead, he is determined to make things right for Wally by introducing her to her birth mother, who ran out on the family years ago.
The film sets an emotional tone as Max and Wally drive across country and really spend time together, while one holds onto this heavy secret.
“It was very on the surface for me,” said Cho in an interview with The Nerds of Color. “The sentiments. It wasn’t a character that I had to work very hard to access the primary feelings for me.”
Cho was surprised at how secretive Max was about keeping the illness from his daughter did reflect his own family. Asian families — like in the film The Farewell — tend to hide illnesses or bad news from each other, which makes it even more surprising that the film initially was meant for a white family. It only changed when Marks really wanted Cho to be the lead in the film after watching him in Searching.
“We had a lot of conversations about that very thing and how it made sense to have it be an Asian American family,” said Marks. “We did adapt the script in certain areas to feel like it was customized to them and reflect to them.”
The film also touches on grief and moving on from that grief. Isaac, who is lovely in the film, wanted audiences to feel appreciation for what and who they have in their life and hug them. Cho agrees.
“One of the nice things in the film for me, as a viewer, was seeing two vulnerable people — when sharing vulnerable people become stronger together,” Cho added. “I think that’s true in life. You feel alone. You feel weak, but if you could share that with someone — the two of you can become stronger together.”
Check out the full interview below:
Don’t Make Me Go premieres on July 15 on Prime Video.