This Too Shall Pass: The Ups and Downs of Being Amazing
Do you remember the best advice that you were ever given? Think carefully about what a friend or loved one has said to you that made you understand what life was really about at that time. Ally Iseman clearly remembers her father telling her that whatever she was dealing with at the moment would surely pass, just like other things had before. That is one of the good things about life: nothing bad lasts forever. Given this, Ally has chosen to focus on the things that are good and make her happy, like writing, producing, and acting. Originally from Derwood, Maryland, Ally has had her share of great moments in film and television. She has worked on stage in productions like Jekyll & Hyde where she portrayed four different characters, using four different dialects. Her work on the large and small screens include American Housewife, Criminal Minds, and Days Of Our Lives. In Nicole Conn’s newest feature film Nesting Doll, Ally makes an appearance opposite French Stewart, Bruce Davison, and Brooke Elliot. She will also play the lead opposite Ray Wise and Bonnie Bedelia in the feature film Life on the Rocks. As the years have gone by, Ally has changed her focus and become more socially aware as an advocate. She has spoken on numerous panels about gender parity and intersectional, inclusive feminism. Her internationally award-winning film Wedlocked, an LGBTQ comedy about gay divorce, toured at over 45 film festivals worldwide securing digital, broadcast and theatrical distribution. It was written by Guinevere Turner (American Psycho), starred Shelli Boone, as well as Whitney Mixter (Showtime), and Sally Kirkland (Academy Award nominated, Golden Globe, and Spirit Award winning actor). When you look for Ally now, you will see her in the feature film Solver and hosting the new plant-based food travel show “The Road Less Eaten”. She will also star opposite Lake Bell, Amy Landecker, Michaela Watkins, Rob Huebel, Jeff Garlin and others in her gender parity comedy series “Flip The Script”, which is being produced in partnership with Women In Film. Ally is in active development on three original scripted series and resides in Santa Monica with the hard-won knowledge that The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. Just like Ally’s dad said, this too shall pass!
Rachel: Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
Ally: Thank you for having me. :)Growing up in the subrural town of Derwood, Maryland I remember being confused and distraught when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I have to pick one thing? When I first understood what acting was, while sitting in front of my childhood television (we still watched things on TVs back then) watching the recorded version of the musical Oklahoma — oh, Curly — it clicked! That was a job! I wanted to act and tell stories and become other people, but I felt very shy as a child so I ended up going to college to study fashion design in order to be involved from a costuming standpoint. While at school, one day I noticed a casting call for a bunch of student films. I’d seen these postings before, but for whatever reason this day I took down the info. I don’t mean I just tore off the little slip with the contact info; I mean I took the whole page off the billboard! I carried that page around in my bag all day and at dinner that night I laughingly told my boyfriend at the time. He encouraged me to audition despite my resistance and so I inevitably did. Not only did I end up booking some parts in a few different films, I found my community! Eventually I ended up shooting some local independent films and national commercials in addition to taking part in my first live plays. I’ll always remember greeting my friends and family after my first live show — “Ally, your pupils are dilated!” Having finally found acting, it literally felt like breathing for the first time. I proceeded to change my major and work with the school to graduate on time, spent another year in Philly gaining experience, and then moved out to LA to pursue the life I envisioned for myself. That, and I’m pretty sure there was a radioactive spider bite at some point, otherwise it’s just my neurosis making me climb walls.
Rachel: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your acting career?
Ally: Back when I was the member of a theatre troop downtown, I was working the box office and someone approached me to pick up their ticket. He looked so familiar and I was getting distinct, nostalgic feelings from back home in Maryland, so I asked if we knew each other. He said he was an actor. I asked if he had done any stage work in Maryland or DC over the past couple decades. He smiled and said, “Probably.” I was still racking my brain; it was driving me nuts! I knew we knew each other! So I kept prodding until he finally said, “My dear, do you have a television?” Yep. Yessir, I do. He is a very recognizable face from film and TV…Oh. OH. Yes, hello. Nice to meet you. Not awkward at all… We’ve been friends ever since.
Rachel: What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Ally: I’m really proud of my gender parity comedy series Flip The Script for the way that it is addressing hard-hitting issues in a non-accusatory way. Women in Film was the perfect partner to come on board to produce the first four episodes and now we are exploring ways to continue the series in addition to it’s 30 minute version. Comedy has the power to change sympathy into empathy, which is where true change takes place. If you can make someone laugh, you can make them listen. I’m also really excited to be the host of the new plant-based food and travel show The Road Less Eaten. We are taking people all over the world to enjoy the most amazing food, exciting adventures and to meet some incredible people that are helping make the world a more sustainable and delicious place. Basically, we’re having a party. Wanna come? It just happens to be plant-based and I’m your voodie (vegan foodie) guide.J I’m looking very much forward to meeting the right partners to give these super fun, timely projects longevity and a home.
Rachel: Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Ally: The most interesting people I’ve interacted with are the various kids I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years, from Dilan Patton in Wedlocked to more recently Cale Ferrin in Nesting Doll. They’re too young to have forgotten the true simplicity of life’s core: Joy. The play of it all is very real for them and it always serves as a beautiful reminder: “Don’t take life too seriously. No one gets out alive anyway.”
Rachel: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.
- Get really clear on your why; worry less about the how.
- There is no formula for success.
- Not “fitting in” is not a bad thing.
- The obstacles you face are not a reason to give up; they are placed there for your benefit: to better prepare you to receive the gifts you have been working towards.
- Everybody poops. Especially vegans.
Rachel: Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“This too shall pass.” (Not to be confused with, “You shall not pass!” #nerd)
My dad says it all the time. It used to annoy me when I was a kid, but as an adult, it’s now become a bit of a mantra. Especially as a high-functioning depressive, the ups and downs inherent in the career path I’ve chosen can prove quite daunting. As low as the lows can be, the highs can be equally extreme. This mantra helps me maintain a semblance of equilibrium regardless of which side of the pendulum I happen to be on at any given moment.
Rachel: Who do you consider to be your role model for the way in which you have molded your career? What can you share about that person?
Ally: This is something that has changed over the years as my goals have shifted and my awareness and experience has expanded. For where I’m at now, powerhouses like Frankie Shaw, Issa Rae, Rachel Bloom, Gloria Calderon Kellet, and Sharon Horgan all greatly influence me. I am so inspired by the way they have been able to successfully balance creating game changing, influential content with robust acting careers. No small feat.
Rachel: Where were you in your career 5 years ago? What do you believe has changed in that time frame (personal, with the world, and/or with your profession)?
Ally: The biggest difference is that women are finally starting to have a voice in the industry and be taken seriously as creators. For the most part, it’s no longer anecdotal. I’d like to think that, hopefully soon, we’ll also be allowed to make mistakes!
Five years ago I still had tunnel vision for my acting career. I had gotten the message many times that multi-hyphenates weren’t to be taken seriously in this industry. Because of that I resisted the message that the universe had been screaming at me since birth — WRITE! I literally had a high school English teacher named Mrs. Wright — not kidding — who pulled me aside in the hall when we were picking college majors, to tell me that I had to be a writer. We are now in the age of celebrating multi-hyphenates and I couldn’t be more pleased! For one thing, it’s more realistic. I don’t know many artists who only work in one medium professionally. Creativity is creativity and storytelling is storytelling. My work as an actor has expanded from my writing and my writing has grown exponentially because of all my acting training. They truly inform each other and I feel that my industry is finally not only accepting that, but also supporting it. Now that I’m also producing, I’m learning so much about all the other components that go into any given project. It has given me deeper appreciation for every individual on a set or who is involved in any aspect of a project’s completion. I am so grateful for this perspective in my work.
Rachel: We always hear about the best advice we have been given. Tell our readers the worst advice you ever received.
Ally: Gee, that’s tough. I’ve been given a lot of bad advice. :) Here’s the thing about advice. It’s always skewed. It’s always coming through the filter of another person’s experience. So I try my best to take it all, good and bad, with a grain of organic Himalayan salt. That being said, the worst would have to be, “If you haven’t booked your own series by the time you hit 30, it’s time to give up, head home, or find another dream.” My response to that: I’m so sorry you gave up on yourself. It’s important to know why you’re doing something and if it’s connected to a deadline, you might want to reassess your priorities. Just because something may potentially become more difficult after a certain point does not warrant giving up if your reason for doing it is in integrity with the life you wish to lead.
Rachel: What are you currently reading that might be something I should try to read as well? Why?
Ally: Books? Yes, I’ve heard of these. I’m so retro I still turn pages. I’m actually right between books. Having just finished Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” I will soon be picking up “The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World” by Adam Grant. Why? Because thinking is good for the world.
Rachel: When you have the time, what do you binge watch?
Ally: Right now I need a good binge of the inside of my eyelids, but when that’s not on, my not-so-guilty pleasure has been the reboot of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy.
Rachel: Where have you travelled that has given you inspiration personally or professionally?
Ally: Everywhere I travel tends to inspire me because it reminds me of just how connected and similar we all really are all over the world. The foundations of what we want for our lives are all the same. We all eat. We all laugh. We all experience heartbreak and loss. We all want to matter. To ourselves. To someone else. To the world. This planet isn’t such a big, scary place. I think travel — whether it’s across the ocean, across the country or even to the next state over — is one of the most essential components of a fulfilling life.
Rachel: What would you say we need to know as a society to “move forward”?
Ally: It’s bigger than you…from an argument with a lover to passing legislation. We also need to listen more.
Rachel: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Ally: Everything I am and everything I have and will accomplish is because of the many gifts of resilience, thoughtfulness and responsibility given to me by my Grandma Jeanne Iseman. Those things of joy, humor and grace were given by my Granny Miriam Drimmer. There are too many stories to share, but these women have and continue to influence me with their memory, in how I show up in my life as a woman, a creative, a friend, a humanitarian, a business person, a partner, a sister, a daughter, and as a collaborator.
Rachel: What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I am @allyiseman on all the things. You can always reach me via www.allyiseman.com.