Acting is work. I always feel I need to be on my toes, I need to be alert, I need to have my mind open, and be aware of so many things. It’s something enjoyable even though it’s hard to do. That feeling of “yes, I’m doing well” while working has been so rare.~ Alberto Isaac
Today’s guest grew up in the Philippines, fell in love with movies as a kid, found validation through acting, pursued his master’s degree, got fired from a big break, and still has been working for over five decades!
I met Alberto through our Rehearsal Room workshops—he was part of the Uncle Vanya scene that Libby Appel directed (thanks to Kwana Martinez for recommending him), and then earlier this year, I was able to involve him as Gloucester in our King Lear workshop. In fact, you’ll hear Alberto and I talk about this play and that role, so I guess he got his first crack at it!
Now even when you read someone’s bio or their credits, there is still so much you don’t know about how they got there and what happened and it was a lot of fun hearing from Alberto how it all came together. I’m so grateful how open and honest he is. He has such a great ease about him, though you can still tell he’s very passionate about his work. It was a great talk and I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know him as much as I did.
About the guest
Alberto Isaac is a veteran award-winning actor/director based in Los Angeles. After receiving a Master’s Degree in Drama from California State University, L.A. (where he won acting and directing awards), he became associated with the renowned Asian American theatre company, East West Players, appearing in, and directing many of their productions, as well as functioning, for several years, as literary manager.
As an actor, he has appeared at La Jolla Playhouse, the Mark Taper Forum, Kirk Douglas Theatre, The Cast Theatre, Berkeley Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, and Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C.
He has over 40 credits on film and TV, including recurring roles on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Family Law, and American Crime Story.
Please enjoy my chat with Alberto Isaac!
Total Running Time: 1:25:24
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Alberto Isaac around the web
- Wanting to change his first name because he never really liked it
- Growing up in the Philippines, being a post-war kid and learning English
- Being movie mad as a kid and the film Anchors Away inspiring him
- Coming to the US for college, following the path of his brother
- His first play in college (with one line!) and validation that he was good
- Booking his first onscreen role in a short film that took him to Nashville
- Meeting one of the founders of East West Players at an audition
- Getting more in touch with his heritage and identity through theatre
- Seeing himself able to be cast (and playing) lots of different roles, not just “Asian”
- Working with a character actor in college on Lear and it expanding his process
- The job he thought was going to be his break and then getting fired
- How the fear of acting led him to directing and writing
- Doing as much as he could: going to school, working, and pursuing theatre
- Booking jobs on TV shows with major stars but not making enough money to live
- Pursuing his master’s degree so that he could teach
- Writing his one-act play Coda and East West Players producing it
- Meeting his wife in the theatre and the benefits of being married to an actor
- The tricks of the trade when playing a judge on TV
- Figuring out if King Lear was a role he actually wanted to play
- His thoughts on being in the moment and enjoying the process of acting
- The role he was playing pre-pandemic that he’d love to tackle again
- Looking back at Twelfth Night roles he’s played and revisiting
- How he landed the job on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and the fun of doing the show
- How he keeps busy day-to-day and the need to take a break from social media
- What he wished he focused on more as a young artist
- The challenge and balance of dealing with rejection and being a vulnerable actor
- His meeting with Kathryn Grayson and what he made himself stop doing around her
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- Kathryn Grayson, actress
- Anchors Aweigh
- The Frogmen
- East West Players
- Soon-Tek Oh, actor
- Alla Nazimova, Russian actress
- Mako, actor
- Frank Silvera, actor
- Clyde Kusatsu, actor (and guest on our show!)
- The Debbie Reynolds Show
- Emily Kuroda, his wife
- Double Indemnity
- Dog Eaters at La Jolla Playhouse with Sandra Oh
- Open Fist Theatre
- Caryl Churchill’s Here We Go
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
- EMOJILAND, the musical