Interview: Kaylee Hottle on inspiring her community as the lead of a franchise in Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire

Kaylee Hottle made sure she announced herself in the grandest way possible when she made her feature debut as Jia in 2021’s monstrous success Godzilla Vs. Kong.

Returning to the series for Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire, the actress reunites with her on-screen bestie (that would be one, mighty Kong) as they face a colossal threat hidden deep within the planet, which challenges their very existence and the survival of the human race.

To coincide with the film’s global release this week, Peter Gray spoke with the star about the honest representation of being a deaf actress and her character’s journey.

Godzilla Vs Kong was your first movie.  Did you know a sequel was being planned when you were filming? Or was it a surprise that you came back?

I didn’t realise that we would have a sequel until it was released. And then they contacted me and let me know that we wanted me back for the second movie and I thought that was great.

Must be kind of nice to know that you’re the front woman for this giant franchise. Is there any pressure?

Honestly, I didn’t realise that it would be such a big character. You know, it’s such a crazy world that she is there in but this experience is so great. It’s cool to see it.

I understand on the first film, ASL very much changed the way the spoken dialogue was delivered. How was the experience this time around?

Yeah, I had an ASL master on set who would translate all of my lines from English into ASL. And so we would practice them in American Sign Language. And that’s how I would use that language when I was acting as Jia on screen.

And did you have to teach any of your new co-stars ASL?

No, I didn’t. They learned on their own.

Representation matters on screen. And I can only imagine how much you have inspired other deaf performers.  What message or impact do you hope your portrayal of this character has on audiences, especially those within the Deaf community?

I’m acting in monster movies as a deaf person. I want deaf people to know that they can do that too, just like me.  There are no limits.

Did you have any input into how your character was portrayed or developed?

I followed what the lines said. And based on the emotions, I figured that out on my own. And I also had a lot of discussion with Adam (Wingard, director) as well.  And we were both able to develop Jia based on the lines and my emotions.  And based on my own personality, too, I added that in there.

Without giving too much away, Jia’s had an evolution as a character.  For fans, how would you describe her journey here?

Something’s calling to her. She has to see what that is. She has to see what that call is. And we can see her finally being able to be happy and finding a place called home.

Godzilla X Kong: The New Empire is screening in Australian theatres from March 28th, 2024.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.