Isaac Powell on his journey to Broadway
The rising theatre and TV star on the places and people that have shaped his journey from North Carolina to New York.
Isaac Powell (he/him) has spent all morning reassembling his beloved bike after flying it back from filming in Los Angeles. Since debuting on Broadway in the award-winning Once on This Island shortly after graduating college, acting has taken him all over the US, from small-town North Carolina to New York, where he now lives. His meteoric rise, which started in local theatre and now includes high-profile TV and film roles, was crammed into a non-stop five-year journey he can draw on at work. ‘My craft is nothing without personal experiences’, he says. ‘To say that they influence one another is an understatement. My personal experience and what I can bring to a character is all I have.’
Growing up in his home town of Greensboro, North Carolina, Powell was the youngest of three children in a family of athletes. The influence of exercise and the outdoors is still strong, hence the bike. Although a career in the arts was never an obvious choice given his rural background, pursuing that dream has led to him playing Tony in West Side Story, appearing in anthology TV show American Horror Story, and gaining a part in the film adaptation of musical, Dear Evan Hansen. Luckily, he is the kind of actor who thrives on stress. ‘When I'm not feeling the pressure, that's bad’, he says. ‘I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Pressure is the gas that fuels my engine.’ If not being brought up around artists were a disadvantage, it hasn’t held him back.
From the midst of a New York heatwave, Powell talks about treating theatre like his gym, finding acting inspiration in the city’s neighbourhood hangouts, and following in his heroes’ footsteps. ‘And for me’, he says, ‘that’s really just continuing to work with people who excite me, on material that moves me.’
‘Seeing how people interact with the city and each other is a wealth of inspiration’