Laugh it off. It’s easy to get bogged down in the drama of it all — but no one cares as much about you as they do themselves, so it’s likely they’ll forget whatever embarrassing thing you’re obsessing about. I must frequently remind myself of this.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Izzy Stevens.
Izzy Stevens is an LA based Australian/American Actress, Writer, Producer, and Award Winning Director known for her lead roles in Occupation, Occupation: Rainfall, Underbelly, Puberty Blues, and Another Mother. Izzy will also be starring as the lead, Maddison Wakefield, in the Australian thriller ‘Him’ which will be released in October 2021!
Izzy is best known for her lead role as Bella Bartlett in the Australian film franchise ‘Occupation’ & ‘Occupation: Rainfall’! The first film can be found on Netflix and the sequel is gearing up for a Worldwide Release following its national release in Australia on January 28th! The film will have a full cinematic release starting in New Zealand on February 18th, North America/Canada in June 2021, UK in September 2021, and the rest of the world is TBA. Izzy will also be starring as the lead role in the Australian thriller ‘Him’ which will be released in October of 2021! Amidst the pandemic, Izzy started her own business, Creative Luminaries, which is an online film school helping young actors and filmmakers reach their full potential.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thanks so much for having me! Absolutely, I was born in Sydney, Australia to an Aussie Mum and an American Dad. Even though they separated when I was four, I grew up surrounded by a lot of love. I’m lucky enough to have four parents (step parents included!) and a big brother who are all kind, hilarious, and loving people.
Growing up my mum was a single mother who worked tirelessly to provide us with a (freakishly clean) home, comfort, and a home cooked meal every night, whilst sustaining a demanding corporate career. I still don’t know how she did it all whilst instilling this core belief in me that I can be whoever I want as long as i’m kind. She’s an amazing woman and role model.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started ballet classes when I was three years old, and from there I spent more and more time in classes and performing in concerts as a dancer. That led me to audition and receive a scholarship to a Performing Arts high school, but when I got there I realized how different I was from the rest of the ballerinas. I wasn’t disciplined and quiet, I was loud, performative, and very outgoing.
I had this urgency as a teenager to live big and experience so much so quickly. I had matured fast and I found myself relating better to the older kids in the drama stream. So, eventually I bucked up the courage to discuss switching my performing arts focus with my mum, who of course could absolutely see that it was the right path for me. I feel so lucky that I pursued dance for so long because it led me to this school where I got to express myself as an actor for hours each day. I booked my first role at 17 as a series regular on a great Aussie TV show called ‘Underbelly’ and of course I became totally hooked with on screen work from there.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Because I had such a strong start working in TV in Australia, I had this sort of false belief that I was prepared for anything. Really it was a total lack of awareness of how much preparation it takes to walk into an audition in Los Angeles and actually kill it.
So, at 19 I came out to LA for pilot season. I’d been working in TV roles steadily for two years at that point, and I was going in to audition for ‘Pitch Perfect 2’. I just had no idea what I was walking into. Elizabeth Banks was in there running the audition! I wasn’t expecting that, and of course she is brilliant and talented and one of those women I look at and think ‘well that would be a wonderful career’, and at the end of the audition scene I had to sing a song. Oh my god, what came out of my mouth was not music, I don’t think it was even a tune, but rather like garbled throat sounds!
I was so nervous I couldn’t even make proper sounds. We both knew it too. I think I saw her mouth twitch in discomfort, haha! I just ran out of there, I didn’t even finish the song. I learned how important preparation was throughout that first LA trip — pilot season felt like the olympics compared to the Australian audition climate, where you’re lucky to be getting out once or twice a week. I was auditioning 3–4 times every day, running across town, and changing in my car.
People had told me that it was like that, and I was all like ‘yeah yeah i’m sure it’s totally fine,’ but when your car air conditioner breaks in between the second and third audition of the day, and you’re running late for a producer’s session, stuck in traffic on the 101 in sweltering heat, trying to get your makeup to stop running down your face, and learning lines at the same time — you have to just laugh and say, ‘Well it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be!’
There isn’t anywhere I’d rather be though. What a journey. From that trip, I learned I couldn’t just rely on raw talent anymore. Everyone is talented out here. You’ve got to be masterful, ballsy, and not take anything too seriously. Being able to laugh when it all goes terribly wrong (which it will) is the best way to let it all go. In the end, it’s all just made up anyway.
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?
Honestly there are so many people I could discuss, but my Mum is an inspirational force for good and love and strength, and she’s never doubted that I will be just fine. That has always given me such confidence.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
I would say that the best prep you can do when embarking on a creative career is to prepare to fail fast and a lot. The quicker you can fall on your face, the better. I remember what my high school English teacher said to me when I told him I’d gotten my driver’s license, he said ‘Fantastic, next step is to get in an accident.’ I was horrified that he said that to me! He laughed and said, ‘a small one, but you’ll see. You’ll see that once you have that moment, the weight of your responsibility as a driver truly sets in, and it will teach you far more than your driving instructor ever could.’ He was right. Let the failure teach you, rather than rule you, and then just get on with it and do what makes you excited to wake up every day.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
Better representation of our world’s incredible diversity, more stories that make us feel connected, understood, and empathetic, and a greater array of voices expressing themselves. Storytelling is how we relate to the world and each other and I believe it’s how our society evolves. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re starting to hit our stride and it feels like a very exciting time. It’s no big surprise that TV and film gets better and better as we involve more diverse creators. More more more!
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
Thank you so much. I have just wrapped on a short film I wrote and directed called ‘Seafoam’, which I am really excited about. It’s a psychological thriller about a young woman who makes a terrifying discovery about herself. We’re in post now. It’s the first time I have acted and directed simultaneously, which was such a fun challenge because usually I just do one or the other.
‘Occupation RAINFALL’ has also just premiered in Australia. This is the sequel to ‘Occupation’ (on Netflix). I’m excited for it to be released internationally this year, it’ll be in US theaters soon. Working with Ken Jeong was hilarious, this is a sci-fi film with a lot of intensity and explosions, so it was unusual to be on set just trying not to laugh with him. It was great.
I am excited to keep learning and growing as an actor and a director; to work on fulfilling projects that deepen my development as a creative and a human. I tend to gravitate towards comedy as well as psychological thrillers — which are total opposites I know! I’m working towards directing my first feature film, and I’ve got some exciting acting projects on the horizon.
I also recently started a film coaching business called Creative Luminaries. I’ve always been attracted to helping other creatives develop their ideas and get their work on the screen. Working with my clients has brought me a lot of joy and connection during these strange times.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Wow, it’s just the most important thing. It makes our society kinder, more connected, and more adaptable. We look to cinema and TV to tell us what’s normal, so it’s a no-brainer that our screens should represent the vast and wonderful diversity that our world brims with. It’s just baffling that it’s still even a discussion or a sticking point. Kids of all walks of life need to see themselves represented, it will not only make the world far more harmonious, but it’ll also continue to give us new ways of thinking and of understanding ourselves, which is why we’re here on the planet.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Speak up. I was terrified to voice my opinion early on in my career. I never wanted to ruffle feathers or take up too much space, and that can lead to being taken advantage of, or underestimated. It’s so important to be kind, but you don’t have to stand by and let people walk all over you.
- Follow your gut. Sometimes people will tell you things that may not serve you, because they’re human. When you hear that voice inside you, listen to it.
- Ask questions. I am still terrible at asking questions! I get really worried that people will get frustrated with me or think I don’t know what I’m doing. When I went through film school, one of my best friends would just ask questions about everything, she became so skilled so fast and I saw how excited people were to help. Asking questions is a great skill.
- Every experience exists to teach us something. The same stuff will happen to you over and over again in different ways until you learn whatever it is you need to learn. This perspective helps get out of a victim mindset and into a feeling of empowerment which, let’s be real, is so much better.
- Laugh it off. It’s easy to get bogged down in the drama of it all — but no one cares as much about you as they do themselves, so it’s likely they’ll forget whatever embarrassing thing you’re obsessing about. I must frequently remind myself of this.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Meditation! I’ve become a bit of a self-care nerd because I used to just go go go and work super hard all the time, and then burn out. So now, I have a morning routine of coffee and meditation, reading something by Gabby Bernstein or Deepak Chopra and reminding myself that life is GOOD.
I also truly enjoy steaming my face at night whilst I listen to some wildly weird and funky gong music and visualize my future beachside mansion where my entire family is sharing food and wine, and I own a giant sauna. It’s a pipe dream, but I think I’ll really feel I’ve made it once I own a big ass sauna. I love to be sweaty.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I recently read this one from James Clear, which I loved: “Being underestimated is a gift. You don’t have to find motivation.”
However my favorite still remains: “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Wayne Dyer.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Yep I’m on instagram: @izzystevens
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you so much for having me!