A new character to the second season of the hit NBC show This Is Us, Isabel Oliver Marcus is excited to reprise her role as teenage-Randall’s girlfriend, Allison. This Is Us fans first got a look at Allison in the premiere episode of Season 2, and Isabel’s character will be reoccurring throughout the season starting on Tuesday’s episode. A San Antonio native, Marcus grew up as a stage actor, and landing her first major role on NBC’s This is Us has been a dream come true. This reporter had the pleasure of speaking with the talented artist, and she revealed her unique story about how she got cast on This Is Us, what fans can expect, the importance of her family, and more.
As a child, Isabel loved watching Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz and Anne Hathaway in Ella Enchanted. But it was her role as the Queen of Hearts, in her school production of Alice in Wonderland, when she knew she found her calling.
Carter Lee: “I read that you fell in love with acting when you portrayed the Queen of Hearts.”
Isabel Oliver Marcus: “It was the walking out onto the stage, and feeling in control. I think that whatever role I was given that year, it probably would have been the role that made it happen for me because I really do believe that this is what I was meant to do. But I like to think that when people find their calling they all feel a similar way, whatever it is. My cousin does taekwondo, and my other cousin does opera, and I think that they when they do what they’re meant to be doing they come from a similar place too.”
It didn’t take long for the 17-year-old actor to go from the stage to TV. Marcus shared her unique story on how she auditioned for her role on This Is Us.
CL: “How did the audition come about?”
IOM: “I had been living in California for about a year, and I went back to Texas for the summer in June. In July, I got a call on a Wednesday from my manager who said, ‘Okay, you have an audition.’ And I was like, ‘I’m in Texas!’ The auditions were real secretive. It was like, no one should know anything who isn’t going to be in the audition room.
“But my Abrams Artist agent was just right on top of it, and they asked if I could send in a self-tape. And lo and behold, I totally could. So, on Thursday, I self-tapped. On Friday, production pinned me. On Saturday, I flew out to Los Angeles. On Monday, I did a chemistry read with Niles Fitch—who is just incredible, and it was like, Ah, chemistry!—On Tuesday, I got a contract. And on Wednesday, I was shooting. Yeah, it was totally bizarre.”
CL: “That sounds hectic, and rad. So, tell me how you are feeling now? Is it still pretty surreal?”
IOM: “Yeah! From the very beginning, it’s both surreal and totally natural. Going onto the Paramount lot, it was like, this is the lot you see in the movies, you know, these are the gates. And I’m going to be part of it. But it was also like, yeah, this is my job. This is what I’ve come to Los Angeles to do. So, it has started to settle in more, and I have started to settle in more too. I went for a fitting earlier, and I know the wardrobe people now. And I just feel right at home talking to them. It is like a home. It’s like a family. But it’s also like, oh my God, this is insane. Wow! I’m with the Pearsons. It’s bizarre and wonderful.”
CL: “When I discovered the show, I immediately binge-watched it. What about the show sucked you in as a fan?”
IOM: “I’m an actor, and so when I watch things I come from an actor’s point of view. For me, it was that everybody on the show was so good. And I looked them all up, and the info of the casting company, and they are Broadway casters too. And I realized that each of these actors has theater training, which is great for me because I started as a stage actor in school. So, they just spoke to me on an acting level. And my mom is a writer, and my dad was too, and the writing of the show is so rich, powerful, beautiful, and it feels real.
“It tells real stories in totally beautiful ways, but it’s also so captivating that it does feel almost unreal. And so, I think on artistic levels, it just captured me. And then I got sucked into the story of, you know, all of the things that make people cry. Just absolutely beautiful storylines. But at first, it was just the art.
“I was astounded by how great Milo Ventimiglia is at going between the ages. All of them are good. Mandy Moore is great at switching too. But he is playing very young jack, young jack, and slightly older Jack. I was amazed how well he was able to capture the same character at different points in the ‘young life.’ I was just blown away.”
Although she couldn’t reveal too many details, Marcus did give some insight on what fans can look forward too with her character in This Is Us.
“She does have some really cute, and very beautiful parts. And there’s some great stuff coming up, and of course, she’s Randall’s girlfriend. So, you get to see Randall and his girlfriend. I think that it’s going to be powerful, beautiful, and awesome.”
This reporter asked Isabel what other roles she would like to have, and endearing excitement could be sensed through her laughter as she responded.
CL: “I’m sure this will bring you even more opportunities. What kind of roles or characters do you see yourself portraying.”
IOM: “Disney has announced that they’re doing a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, and I would like to be in that. I went to musical theatre at North East School of the Arts in San Antonio for my first few years of high school. I’ve got some musical theater background. So, Lin Manuel Miranda, I’m around and available, and I would like to play Ariel.
“But currently, I am adoring the This Is Us girl-next-door character. I like finding the nuances of that kind of character. I always seem to test in dramatic roles, but I’m starting to kickback up on my comedy chops. I started in comedy, actually. I would like to think of myself as the next Emma Stone, being able to do, sort of, both.”
Isabel Oliver Marcus has a refreshingly strong passion for her family and in her roots of where she came from. With humor, she spoke of her love for San Antonio and of her family.
CL: “You seem to have a strong sense of where you come from. And I have read about you and your mom. It really seems like you guys are partners. That’s pretty cool. Tell me a little bit about your passion for San Antonio, and your relationship with your mom.”
IOM: “I think San Antonio is the greatest town in the world, and I don’t know if that’s true. I’ve been to Europe. I love croissants as much as the next guy, and France is beautiful, and Italy is beautiful, and everywhere thinks they’re the best. Like Leslie Knope in Parks and Rec says, ‘Somewhere has the best waffles in the world. Why can’t that be Pawnee?’ And that’s how I feel about San Antonio. There is some city in the world that is the best city in the world. Why can’t it be San Antonio, Texas?
“But yeah, you’re right, my mom has been right there with me. I came to her and I said, ‘this is what I want to do.’ And she said, ‘okay, let’s make that happen.’ And my whole family, don’t get me wrong, is just incredible. All across the board. But my mom has really facilitated this whole thing.
“A lot of people think that maybe she is a stage mom, or a momager, and that’s not what she is. She’s always said, “as soon as this is not what you want to do, then we move on. But if this is what you want to do, let’s make that happen for you. Let’s get you to Los Angeles, because that’s where actors are actors.” And she’s definitely my teammate. She is my partner in all things, and she’s incredible. She’s also my mom. So, you know, she is my mom. But she’s a really, really great one.”
Isabel speaks with grace, and you get a sense that she is grounded and strong. This reporter asked her where she draws her strength and confidence from.
IOM: “Love. It sounds cheesy, but the love and the support of my family. And my art, my craft, my ability to understand where other people draw their strength from because that’s my job.
“Being able to pinpoint what makes a character powerful, it makes me more powerful. But I think my whole life my power, my strength, my confidence, whatever it is — and, of course, you know I’ve gone through the same bouts of teenager-ism that everyone else has — but I find my strength from my family.
“That’s what This Is Us is all about. Finding how your flaws, and your strengths, comes from your family. All the way from the beginning. You know, everyone’s problems and everyone’s solutions go back to the family. Oh, and the dog. I get my strength also from my dog.”
It’s clear that art is important to the talented actor. With wise words, Isabel spoke on the importance of art.
IOM: “Art is about representing the human condition. Personally, it’s therapeutic. And on a grander scale, it is therapeutic all around. It allows people to imagine in ways that may not come naturally to them. It communicates that they are important, when they see someone that is like them getting their moment. Whether it’s an actor, or a character, getting their moment to shine on the screen, the stage, or the canvas. It tells them that they get to shine too. And when they see someone that isn’t like them getting their moment, it tells them that everyone gets to shine.”
In closing, Isabel Oliver Marcus thanked the This Is Us team and all her supporters.
“I just I want to say thank you to the amazing cast, crew, and production of This Is Us. I know that sounds cheesy, but really, I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience at all. A better, sort of, first ‘big thing.’ So, I want to say thank you to them, and I want to say thank you to everyone in my life who has ever been part of it. Because I draw inspiration from them.”