It's been ten years now since creative multi-hyphenate Zach Braff made his feature directing debut with Garden State, an indie comedy that followed Braff's leading man as he's pulled back from Los Angeles to his New Jersey hometown, learning along the way that it's the people in life around us that make it so important. On July 18, Braff is releasing his second film as a director, Wish I Was Here, and, as you can see by our below examination of the film's ensemble cast, he's bringing back a lot of key people from throughout his varied career.
"Zach has been a friend of mine for a long time now," says Kate Hudson, who plays Braff's on-screen wife, Sarah. "When he started to get this project going, I read the script -- and it was so well-written and it spoke to me on so many levels. Some of it felt like slices out of my own life, and any parent will find this story of family relatable."
In the film, Sarah and Braff's Aidan are raising two children (Joey King's Grace and Pierce Gagnon's Tucker), but suddenly fall on hard times when Mandy Patinkin's Gabe (Aidan's father) falls ill.
"Kate and I have a fun friendship," says Braff. "There's a repartee between us. To have that already, and to not have to fake or force it, meant we could just dive into the scenes. She makes me laugh, and I admire her. I knew that would come across in our characters and in their relationships."
Quite the familiar face for fans of Braff, Donald Faison makes a brief appearance in Wish I Was Here as Anthony, an Aston Martin dealer. Faison, of course, is well known for starring opposite Braff in the hit Bill Lawrence medical sitcom "Scrubs." For nearly ten years, Braff's J.D. and Faison's Turk worked alongside one another at the fictional Sacred Heart Hospital.
"It's always fun working with your best friend," says Faison. "Zach and I have the same sense of humor. It's easy to make each other laugh and I can tell where Zach is going with something before he gets there."
Now best known for playing Sheldon Cooper on the hit CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," Jim Parsons appeared in Garden State in the role of Tim, a "Medieval Times" employee who, at the beginning of the film, sits down to breakfast in full armor.
"There is a positive energy and a hopefulness to the movies Zach makes," says Parsons, who plays Wish I Was Here's Paul, an actor who finds himself at the same auditions as Aidan. "…He is a positive person himself, and his motivations for making these movies are very much tied in to making audiences happy."
Braff worked very recently with young star Joey King, who plays his on-screen daughter, Grace. The pair shared a special performance capture trailer on the set of Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful with King playing the film's China Girl and Braff taking on the part of Finley, the flying monkey. King even kept a "Swear Jar" going during that film's production and the idea found its way into the screenplay for Wish I Was Here.
"I was excited," says King, "because this would be with Zach, my Oz buddy who I played pranks with."
"Joey turned out to be one of the coolest kids I've ever met," says Braff. "The father/daughter bond between Aidan and Grace is a big part of the movie and it was great to get to play opposite someone familiar."