Netflix’s newest show “Alexa & Katie” follows two best friends as they begin high school. But as they enter high school, Alexa is receiving treatment for cancer, with her best friend Katie by her side supporting her.
Isabel May plays Katie, and this isn’t just her first Netflix series, it’s her first acting role ever! YEM sat down with Isabel to talk about acting in her first show, working with Paris Berelec and what she hopes the show will teach viewers.
Young Entertainment Mag: What do you have in common with your character, Katie?
Isabel May: I would say…a little bit of that awkwardness. I feel like whatever part you take, you have some connection with the character in some way. Personally for me, it would have to be that awkward aspect. Not so much awkward-ness (laughs). But every once in a while I will have people shaking their heads going “Oh, Isabel.”
I feel like Katie is really the epitome of all the things that feel uncomfortable at that age. She has her vulnerable moments and her quite awkward moments. So I hope people can watch that and go, “Oh Boy. I can relate to that.”
YEM: Where does Katie get her optimism from?
IM: I think her optimism must come from her mom. Just observing her mom and being in the situation that she is. Because everybody takes their childhood, their upbringing, their experiences that they have and carry that with them. It molds them into the people they become. Katie’s dad isn’t really around. He’s not a bad guy necessarily, he just…he hasn’t grown up fast enough to take care of two kids and be part of a family. So it really comes from her mom and the strength that her mom carries and is carrying for her children. She’s constantly moving forward, even with a sort of dry humor. Katie is so inspired by that, but that’s also why she’s nervous about doing bad things because she doesn’t want to bother her mom who already has so much to carry.
YEM: Paris Berelc plays your best friend on the show. How did you create that best friend chemistry?
IM: It was just really natural. We just kind of got each other right off the back. We did connect through music a little bit. That was definitely something, because you usually don’t find kids your own age that relate to you with the kind of music you listen to. We listen to rock and some old school, which was really amazing. Paris is awesome, she’s so talented. I totally admire everyone on the set. I really feel like the luckiest person that the first people I get to interact with on a set and work with are these people. They are the most friendly, most accommodating people.
YEM: Was it hard to balance drama and comedy on this show?
IM: I was definitely not as aware of my comedic capabilities when going into this show. I didn’t really know that I could be funny. So I just went in hoping that that would happen naturally. But for me, the drama feels more natural. Those parts, you just kind of let go and they happen. You can’t push, you just have to feel it. Where as comedy—I didn’t realize, but it can be very hard to hit those beats and those jokes. It’s all very strategic. So there were moments that were very difficult. If I needed to play a joke in a certain way, how would I do that? Because you only have so many words to play with. So I started using my body as a form of comedy and did physical comedy. I didn’t know I could do that. I learned so much on this show that I wasn’t aware of. I’m also very tall and have long arms, so that worked to my advantage. They eventually started writing that into the show, so I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to utilize that. So the comedy stuff was a little tougher, but in a great way. In a really satisfying way.
YEM: What do you hope is ahead for your character?
IM: Showing that progression in her character while still maintaining her personality. Because you don’t become a completely different person in high school, but you do change. Throughout Season 1, she just gets more and more comfortable with being in high school and being more open to things, and starting to stand her ground a little more. Because when it comes to Alexa, they are completely equal. That’s what so awesome about the friendship. You would think that one would be intimidated by the other, but that’s not the case. Katie’s definitely not afraid to tell Alexa off. That’s what’s so unique about their relationship. They lean on each other for the things that are difficult to handle. I would love more of showing their friendship and showing ups and downs.
YEM: What message do you hope viewers take away from this show?
IM: Definitely loyalty, and the ones that you cherish. The respect that forms between two families and being aware of how important family is. Not everyone is in the situation that the two characters are in, but I think everyone can relate a little bit. They either have an Alexa family or a Katie family. And just thinking, “Oh, I need to thank my mom for this, I need to thank my dad for this. I need to thank my best friend for this.” And one thing that I think would be really awesome is someone saying to their friend, “You’re the Katie to my Alexa” or “I would do that for you. I would do what these characters do for each other, for you.” I think there’s so many messages that people can take away from watching the show. That’s what’s so great about it.
YEM: Other than “Alexa & Katie,” what’s your favorite Netflix show?
IM: I loved The Crown. That was fantastic. I’m a history buff, so I was constantly looking to see how accurate the show was. I was also a big fan of Arrested Development. The cast is fantastic. I’m waiting for the next season.
Alexa & Katie is now streaming on Netflix!