‘Si­b­lin­gry’ works a charm

Off-screen rap­port ra­di­ates warmth in a brother-sis­ter act, writes Fra­zier Moore

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MONDAY EXTRA -

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).

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