Interview with Actress Isabel Oliver Marcus, who plays Allison on ‘This Is Us’

On April 11th, I had a chance to have a phone interview with the wonderful eighteen-year-old actress, Isabel Oliver Marcus, who plays the outgoing young redhead Allison and girlfriend of the teenage Randall (Niles Finch) on “This Is Us” (you can also check out my refresher articles for Season 2 here) as she greeted me with a enthusiastic “hello!” before we began:

Joe Newman: I heard that you have a dog, and tell me if I’m pronouncing this right – Peppertries?

Isabel Oliver Marcus: (laughs)

Her name is Pepper and on Instagram she’s Peppertries

Ah, Pepper tries.

Because she tries really hard. (both laugh) She’s a dachshund-mix, y’know she’s a shelter puppy. Um.. adopt! So, I don’t fully what she is, but she is, at least, mostly dachshund.

I saw that your favorite show was Doctor Who?  Are there any other shows that you like too?

(laughs) Yes. Y’know, I think I love Doctor Who cause-it’s just been my favorite show for so long, that it’s hard-I’m so loyal to it, but I also tend towards comedies like Parks & Rec and 30 Rock and New Girl and that’s what I really dig, y’know half-hour comedies.

You’re originally from San Antonio, Texas, but you’ve been out in L.A. for awhile, is there anything different that you miss from either?

Yeah, so I’ve been coming out to L.A. for six years and I moved out here officially permanently about a year and a half ago and the biggest thing that I miss from Texas is the Mexican food.  With Los Angeles, I just haven’t found it in Los Angeles and when I say that people think “oh, you mean Tex-Mex” and I’m like “no, I mean like the interior Mexican food.”

I’ve heard that in Southern California there are some good ones, but you have to look for ‘em.

I heard the same thing, so I used to be like “it doesn’t exist in Los Angeles” and now I’m just convinced that I haven’t found it yet. But yeah, the food, that’s basically the rundown. They’re not as different as everyone thinks.

Aside from “This Is Us”, have you been auditioning for other roles while you’ve been out there?

Yeah!  I’ve been auditioning actually a lot recently. Y’know it’s pilot season, so there’s been some pilots coming through my door and there’s also been some films and film auditions and yeah-basically anything I can get my hands on. I will say – I can’t, y’know I obviously can’t tell you everything about the projects, but I will say I went to the Disney lot twice in one week. So, that’s cool.

That’s awesome. We’ll let the rumors go with that one.

Yeah, that’s what I’m doing-just trying to stir up talk. (both laugh)

On “This Is Us”, you play Allison. This show is known for its mysteries and its reveals and she’s still kind of a mysterious character as we only know a little bit about her. So, I didn’t know if you had any theories on how the show may take the character further?

(laughs) Y’know I do really enjoy speculating, but I don’t want to speak for the writers in any way.  As to that, I think she played a really important role in the Jack’s death process. She was there for Randall in a way that Rebecca (Mandy Moore) couldn’t necessarily be give that she just lost her husband! And I don’t actually know where they’re gonna take her. Part of the genius of this show is how often they allow themselves to just find a new path. I certainly enjoy speculating, but I don’t want to stir up any gossip that’s gonna make the writers’ job harder.

Yeah and, of course, I see theories online and I saw one that was that you were (laughs) Miguel’s daughter for awhile.

Yeah, that’s what everyone around me was saying for a long time and I love- I got to work with Jon Huertas and I love him.  He’s such a cool dude that I was sort of- i was definitely getting on that bandwagon because I would love to work with him more.  

Yeah, I’ve been a huge fan of his since “Castle”. He’s a good actor.

Yes!  Yeah, he’s a fantastic actor and a fantastic guy and just all-around really cool to talk to.

You obviously can’t talk too much about Allison’s future in this show, but can you tell me if you guys have started filming or if there’s dates for filming?

Um, I can tell you that they started filming season two in in the middle of July. The first episode I shot was middle of July and that was the first episode of season two. So, I assume they are probably going to start writing again in May-this is again, mostly speculation-and start shooting in July. That’s my educated guess.

Actors usually find a part of themselves to put into the character they’re portraying, is there any of Isabel in Allison?

(laughs) There’s a whole lot of similarities between Isabel and Allison. We’re approximately the same age, we’re going through the same grade and, y’know, were from similar socioeconomic background and we’re both really smart and fun-loving and overthink everything. I don’t know if you noticed the line in the first episode that says “Allison, don’t overthink this” and I was like “wow, this is meant to be” cause that was a line destined to be said to me. But, there are differences too y’know, she lives in a different place and in a different era. So one of the steps that I took to get into the mindset was I made a playlist of music she probably would’ve been listening to at the time because I’m not surrounded by ’90s music, I’m surrounded by 2018 music. So, there are definite differences and definite characteristics that define us, but we are so similar in many ways and that’s become part of my process and recently it’s become more obvious to me how similar actors really are to their characters. You have to start with you. You can’t be anyone else if you don’t start by being you and then you go and you find the differences and you find the character from that, but you have to find you first.

I think that’s a very accurate description of the process of preparing (for an actor).

(laughs) Thank you and y’know everyone’s process is different and the acting process has changed so much. You can see it just watching old movies, but you also see it when you think about the Greek tragedies. People’s processes have changed so much that I don’t know if this will continue to be true for the rest of my career cause some new Marlon Brando might come along and open all of our eyes to a new process and a new technique, but as of now that’s where I am in my process and I think that’s where acting and entertainment is now.

I completely agree, you never know if there’s a Sam Rockwell or someone coming out.

Exactly!

Can you confirm that you are coming back for the next season of “This Is Us”?

I cannot confirm nor can I deny, because I don’t know. (both laugh) They haven’t told me either way, so I don’t want to say- y’know I can’t tell you yes, but I certainly don’t want to say no because I don’t want to put that message out there. I want them to bring me back. Allison deserves a story!

Me too!  I think it could be very interesting to see where they could take that character and what happened between her and Randall in the past and into the future.

Yeah.

You said you were on the Disney lot, is there any possible dream projects that you could mention?

Y’know… (laughs) I have thought recently that I would love to play the live-action Ariel and they’re making a live-action Little Mermaid and I actually went to Chrissy Metz, who plays Kate on the show, and I went to her book signing recently cause small plug – she just came out with a book, it’s called This Is Me – I’ve read nine pages and it’s great – and she mentioned that one of her dream projects would be to play Ursula and I was like “wait, wait, wait, you guys – dream pairing.  It’s not just “The Little Mermaid” that’s my dream project anymore.  It’s “The Little Mermaid” with Chrissy Metz as Ursula.  (both laugh)

That’s a really exciting possible project. I could totally see that and I think it would be great.

Well, thank you.

I believe we have covered most of my questions, so how about you? Is there anything you do for fun and relaxation there or in Texas?

Yeah, I mean I do have a kind of hectic life. Luckily, my job is also my hobby and so, y’know I come home form set and I got this energy that just takes me places. In many ways, that’s my roller coaster. It is my jungle gym, being on set, but I also love to hang out with my dog obviously (laughs) Peppertry. And it’s been awhile since I got to just read for fun, but I went on vacation recently and I took this 700 page book and I just read on the airplane. I just read and it was fantastic. So, that’s been a really relaxing thing that I’ve gotten to fall in love with again.

That’s awesome. It’s hard to get to the reading relaxation when your doing it so much. What book was it?

It’s called “The Name of the Wind”. My friend gave it to me-well, my friend lent it to me like three years ago and then I moved to Los Angeles and took it with me and I don’t think he’s gonna get it back. (both laugh)

It happens. I have books everywhere.

Yeah. Yeah, I’m a book hoarder and it’s really bad. ‘Cause my mom was like “You need to get rid of things. You’re gonna have roommates” and I’m like “but, books!”

They can sleep by the shelf.

Yeah! They can sleep on the books. (both laugh)

That’s right. That’s cushion.

We’ll make a bed out of it. It’s paper, there’s air in there. It’s fine.

Do you have any favorite authors?

Oh gosh, no… I do… The books that I choose to read for like true pleasure are fantasy books and the one book that I can come back to always, even though I sort of technically grown out of it, in terms of reading level or whatever, is “Ella Enchanted”. I just come back to it. I can read it – I think at one point I read it three times on a plane flight. I just finished it and reread it and then reread it again.  And, so I think all of her books, Gail Carson Levine, really stick with me in a way that book don’t always even though they are logically below my reading level. Y’know they’re more seventh grade than they are twelfth grade, but I think for me… yeah they’ve just meant a lot to me, so I would say those.

That’s great! I haven’t read those, but I know that I’ve seen the movie a while ago.

Yes, I watched the movie over and over again too. (both laugh)

We all have those pleasure ones we go to. Well, you’re really easy to talk to. I don’t know if anyone’s told you that.

Well, thanks!  I like to talk. (both laugh)

Well, it’s been great talking to you. I’m really hoping that I see more of you around.

You too! Thank you so so much for talking with me. I really appreciate it.

Thank you, thank you for having me.

Thank you for having me!

You can see Isabel Oliver Marcus in “This Is Us” on Hulu, Amazon Video and NBC.com