Isabel Oliver Marcus

Isabel Oliver Marcus

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Isabel Oliver Marcus’s breakthrough role as Allison on NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us” is a classic Hollywood story of sudden success: In less than a week, she went from babysitting her brother to working alongside some of Hollywood’s top stars. Although she had been living in Los Angeles for a year prior, Isabel and her mom were both visiting in Texas when the e-mail came through for an audition with NBC’s Emmy-winning hit drama, “This Is Us.” The role was very secretive, a recurring character known as “red-headed teen girl” and the audition designated that only those actors who were in Los Angeles and able to be in the casting room the next day should see the sides. Isabel wasn’t even in Los Angeles, so her agents at Abrams Artists had to plead her case, ultimately convincing the casting team to let her submit a video read. She taped her audition on Thursday night, was “pinned” by the production on Friday, flew to Los Angeles alone on Saturday, had a “chemistry read” on Monday, and was working on the show Wednesday morning.

Like almost every “overnight” success, the role actually came to her after many years of hard work and serious study. Isabel began performing at age 3 and started actively studying her craft by 5th grade. Always at home with the camera, Isabel’s remarkable hair color and willing disposition attracted the attention of photographers, and by age 8 she had appeared in advertising for Photo District News and in Hallmark Magazine. By the time “This Is Us” came calling, she had performed in Shakespeare plays (and won an award for Shakespeare monologues), musical theater, and numerous short films.

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Isabel grew up within walking distance of the Alamo and the storied River Walk in a small house under a big pecan tree. Reared in a lively neighborhood that featured a community of visual artists, writers, and performers, as well as immigrants, working people, and professionals, Isabel had a variety of personalities to use as role models for the characters she would create in her backyard. With three giant boxes of costumes her mother had collected from thrift stores, Isabel (an only child) constructed other characters by putting costumes on sticks and flowerpots and forced her family to watch her performances.

She spent her elementary and middle school years at San Antonio’s arts and language charter school, Bonham Academy, where she learned Spanish and starred in numerous productions of its award-winning theater program. She won every performance competition she entered in San Antonio, including play festivals and Texas school competitions.

When she was 11 years old she participated in a casting showcase in Austin, Texas, where representatives from Los Angeles agencies saw her work: Of the 20 LA-based agencies in attendance, 18 expressed an interest in representing her, including Fatmata Kamara, from Abrams Artists. That summer, Isabel and her mom packed their bags for California and started a three-year annual temporary residency. They lived in Los Angeles for 3-4 months from ages 12 to 14, familiarizing themselves with the city and the industry, and returned to San Antonio for the bulk of each school year so that Isabel could spend time with her father. Isabel spent two years studying musical theater at North East School of the Arts in San Antonio before permanently relocating to Los Angeles to complete high school. Lead roles for independent and student projects followed, including many student films, music videos, and works that often never made it out of post-production.

Dallas-area actress and talent coach Lar Park Lincoln helped Isabel shoot her TIU tape, Abrams’ Domina Holbeck fought for her taped submission, and manager Addison Witt met her at the airport when she flew to Los Angeles: “Nobody does this by themselves” says Isabel, “I’m incredibly fortunate to have the support system of my community and honored to have people like Lar, Addison, and the team at Abrams on my side.”

With “This Is Us” attracting attention and giving her the chance to learn from the best directors and best actors on television, Isabel Oliver Marcus is ready to take on new opportunities. Now her sights are firmly set on what comes next: Feature films top the “#goals” list.

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