They are the kind of jokes 11-year-old Yamilah Saravong might have heard from classmates at York Middle School.

But she didn’t. She heard them from Oscar winner Mel Gibson.

“What’s black and white and red all over? Two nuns in a fist fight. What’s green and red? A frog in a blender,” said Yamilah, recounting her time with Gibson earlier this year. “The other adult actors sort of stayed to themselves, but he would come over and hang out with the kids. He talks to everybody.”

Yamilah’s first-hand assessment of Gibson comes after she spent 14 days this spring on the set of “Daddy’s Home 2,” a comedy starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, John Lithgow, Linda Cardellini and Gibson that opens Nov. 10. Though she only has one speaking scene – with the wacky Ferrell – she’s seen and mentioned throughout the film. She plays Casey, a girl whom the son of Wahlberg’s character has a crush on. The film was shot in Massachusetts, creating opportunities for New England actors.

Besides Yamilah there’s one other Maine actor in the film, Matthew Delamater of Portland, who plays a store clerk dealing with the film’s stars as they venture out on a gun shopping trip.

For Yamilah, her role in the movie came about because she models. So she has an agent, and her agent let her family know “Daddy’s Home 2” was looking for a girl around her age, preferably of Asian descent and living within an easy drive of Massachusetts. She’s been modeling since she was about 3. While many parents muse that their babies are as photogenic as the face on the Gerber baby food jar, Yamilah’s mother put that thought into action.

“She was just such a happy baby, smiling all the time, that I thought she’d be good at it,” said Jill Saravong, sitting in the living room of the family’s York home.

Yamilah Saravong, 11, shown at home in York, auditioned for and earned a part in “Daddy’s Home 2,” starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Mel Gibson, John Lithgow and Linda Cardellini, which opens nationwide on Nov. 10. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Yamilah’s first photo shoot was for Dollar General diapers, when she was about 3. She says she remembers it vividly because she was recently potty trained, and proud of it, and did not want to put on the diaper. She eventually did, but the image that appears on the diaper box shows her fully-clothed, no diaper in sight. She also appeared as a toddler on the box of a Playskool toy tea set, and more recently she’s done shoots for children’s clothing lines. She goes to auditions in New York City a few times a month and probably does five or six modeling jobs a year, her mother said.

She had never acted on film before, but she’s been in theater productions, including shows at Ogunquit Playhouse that were part of theater camps. She’s also been in larger productions at the playhouse. When Yamilah was about 5, the theater was putting on a production of “Miss Saigon” and needed several local boys to share the role of Tam, the 3-year-old son of a Vietnamese woman and an American soldier.

A staff member at the theater approached Yamilah’s father, Ti Saravong, a mail carrier originally from Laos, and asked if his daughter might play the part.

Yamilah’s memory of playing Tam is that there was a frightening – to her – discussion of cutting her hair. But the hair and makeup folks decided that would not work, and they fit her for a boyish wig instead.

“Would you have let them cut my hair?” Yamilah asked her mother.

“I would not,” her mother firmly replied.

Yamilah, right, as Casey, with Adriana Costine as Adrianna and Scarlett Estevez as Megan and in “Daddy’s Home 2.” Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

When the Saravongs found out about the auditions for “Daddy’s Home 2,” Yamilah had one day to memorize three or four lines. She said it wasn’t too hard. Then, at the audition, they asked her to say the lines in various ways, including yelling them. She got a call back for a second audition, then an email saying she was hired, pending approval from Paramount Pictures, the Hollywood studio producing the movie.

Yamilah ended up filming for 14 days over a period of about 40 days in March, April and May. Locations in Massachusetts included Lawrence and Concord in the east and Great Barrington in the west.

The film, a sequel to “Daddy’s Home,” focuses on the rivalry between Wahlberg and Ferrell. Ferrell plays the stepfather of Wahlberg’s children, and the two compete for the children’s affections. In “Daddy’s Home 2,” Lithgow and Gibson play the fathers of Ferrell and Wahlberg, who come to visit for Christmas. Video trailers for the film show all four getting involved in snowball fights and wrestling each other and saying outrageous stuff.

Yamilah is seen in the trailer wearing a purple parka and snow pants and standing near a snowman as she waves to young Dylan, played by Owen Vaccaro. In another scene, Ferrell is talking to Dylan about girls, telling him he should get in the “friend zone” with the girl he likes. Wahlberg jumps into the conversation and tells Dylan to take a completely different approach.

Yamilah Saravong, 11, with her mother, Jill, at home in York. Yamilah has a part in “Daddy’s Home 2” with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Though Yamilah only has one speaking scene – with Ferrell – she’s seen and mentioned throughout the film. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Though Yamilah only has one speaking scene, her character is important to the plot, and her face and name pop up throughout the film.

Yamilah had seen “Daddy’s Home,” and her favorite Christmas movie is “Elf,” a tour de force for Ferrell. So getting to act with him was a thrill – and an adventure. In her scene with Ferrell, Ferrell’s character is in a grumpy mood, upset about his family situation, and Yamilah asks him what’s wrong.

Ferrell starts projecting his despair and anger onto Yamilah, even blaming her. And Ferrell starts improvising, throwing lines at Yamilah she was not prepared for.

“Will improvised, off script, and I was like, ‘ah, yeah, uh-huh.’ I stuttered. I was thinking, ” ‘You’re going off-book, you’re not supposed to do that,’ ” said Yamilah. “The director (Sean Anders) said he liked it and told me to say something different. It made the scene a lot funnier. I hope that’s the one they used.”

Yamilah and the other child actors were prohibited from working more than nine hours a day, and when not working, they had a tutor teaching them. While filming in Great Barrington, they took a field trip to the nearby Norman Rockwell Museum.

Because of she could only work nine hours at a time, Yamilah had a double and a stand-in. The double, a girl her size, was employed in case there was a need for later shots of Yamilah’s character that didn’t show her face. Maybe a shot from the back of the head. And her stand-in, an adult, stood where her character was to stand as shots were being set up.

Ferrell, despite his often manic roles, was “chill” and very quiet when off camera, Yamilah said. Lithgow, she said, was a “talker.” But Gibson was by far the favorite of the child actors for his humor and his willingness to talk to everyone.

Yamilah knew little of Gibson’s career before she met him. She was surprised to find out, during an interview for this story, that Gibson had directed movies and even won an Oscar in 1996 for “Braveheart.”

“Mel Gibson directed a movie? What?” she said.

Some people who find out Yamilah’s in a movie have a similar reaction. When she first got the part, some of her friends didn’t believe she’d be in a major Hollywood movie, especially a series so well-known to kids. Now when she runs into kids who don’t believe her, she shares the video trailer, in which she’s clearly visible.

Besides modeling and acting, Yamilah plays soccer on two teams. Her only sibling, an older brother, is also a soccer player.

Yamilah Saravong with actor Mark Wahlberg, who is one of the stars of “Daddy’s Home 2.” Photo courtesy of Jill Saravong

The Saravongs plan to invite family and friends to a local theater to watch the film on opening night. They have not been, at least not yet, invited to any official premiere. But Yamilah did go to the film’s wrap party in Boston, where she had pictures taken with other actors and was given presents and notes of thanks by crew members she worked with.

Now that she’s been on a film set, Yamilah looks at TV shows and films differently, always trying to figure out what’s “fake” and what’s not. In one shot during “Daddy’s Home 2,” she watched crew members lay some wood on the ground to replicate the floor of a bowling alley. The shot was edited into actual bowling alley shots taken earlier.

Though she liked making new friends and acting in front of the camera, watching the overall process was fascinating to her.

“I’d really like to make another movie because it’s really fun,” she said.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at:

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