‘Siblingry’ works a charm
Off-screen rapport radiates warmth in a brother-sister act, writes Frazier Moore
IN no time, Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson were tight. That’s good, because they star as brother and sister on their new comedy, Ben and Kate.
Ben is a free spirit, a good-cheer gadfly blowing in and out of town without notice. Younger sister Kate is uptight, a bit shellshocked by life, and no wonder: She’s a single mother struggling to raise her little girl on a shoestring.
What will happen when Ben drops in, decides to stick around, plays surrogate dad to Kate’s daughter, and grows up a little himself?
To judge from the Ben and Kate pilot, the result is funny, frenetic and – bottom line – familial.
‘‘It was very natural,’ says Faxon, recalling last year’s filming of the pilot.
‘‘It felt like Dakota and I had known each other a long time, rather than a few days.’’
‘‘We have a – is there a word for a sibling sort of relationship?’’ asks Johnson, who, pretending to consult her smartphone, then proposed: ‘‘Siblingry!’’
‘‘We are close enough now that Dakota feels it’s OK to say how long my ear hair is, out loud, to a group of people,’’ Faxon says. ‘‘That’s how comfortable we are!’’
Co-starring with them are Echo Kellum as Ben’s loopy pal and Lucy Punch as Kate’s hot-chick BFF. Maggie Elizabeth Jones plays Kate’s daughter.
But the magic of Ben and Kate is the connection between Faxon and Johnson. The 36-year-old Faxon came to Ben and Kate with credits that included the films
The Babymakers and Bad Teacher and a short-lived sitcom, Happy Hour.
He auditioned for Ben ‘‘early, early on’’, then learned he had won the role one day after he collected an Oscar for co-writing the George Clooney film The Descendants.
‘‘I did not win an Oscar,’’ Johnson deadpans, ‘‘and I came in super late.’’
The 22-year-old daughter of actors Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith is a model
and actor who appeared in the films
21 Jump Street and The Social Network.
‘‘I got the Ben and Kate script one night and met with everyone the next morning,’’ she recalls.
‘‘They gave me 15 or 20 pages of sides to memorise. Then Nat and I read together, and it was awesome. That night they called and offered me the role: ‘And, by the way, can you be in rehearsal at noon tomorrow?’ So it all happened in, like, 24 hours.’’
Ben and Kate was created by Dana Fox, who based the show on her relationship with the real-life Ben Fox, her freewheeling brother.
Maybe this is what gives the show its dash of authenticity, or what Faxon calls ‘‘the grounding that allows us to go in fun directions without going so far that we became sad or ridiculous’’.
Ben and Kate: Monday, 8pm, Ten, Ten SC.
The stars of new comedy Ben and Kate including Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson (centre).