Mia Isaac claims she wasn’t popular in public high school. As she explains it, missing school for auditions doesn’t necessarily build social capital. Still, it’s hard to believe that an actor who comes across so self-assured and magnetic both on screen and off didn’t once helm a squad of It girls.
It doesn’t matter—she’s on her way to becoming one now. The 18-year-old is having the kind of busy summer most actors only dream of achieving. She recently starred opposite John Cho in the well-received Don’t Make Me Go, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Then there’s Hulu’s satire Not Okay, which premieres this week. She appears in that alongside Zoey Deutch and Dylan O’Brien as Rowan, a school-shooting survivor wrestling with how the public exploits trauma. Next up: the lead role in the Oprah Winfrey–produced series Black Cake.
“I struggled a lot with worrying that I take up too much space or that I’m too loud or too big or too confident,” she tells Glamour. “I love that Rowan is unapologetically taking up the space and having a big platform. She is who she is, and she’s not afraid of it or sorry for it. I’m learning from her in that way.”
For a career that was founded on a bet with her dad—she learned the multiplication chart up to 15 in exchange for an agent—it’s clear that Isaac is in the first of many heydays. Here, she opens up for Glamour’s latest installment of New Here about navigating the industry while young and what she dreams is still ahead.
Glamour: Is there any preparation that you normally do for your auditions? Do you have any superstitions around them?
Mia Isaac: I definitely have some. When I auditioned for Don’t Make Me Go, I wore the same shirt for almost every audition. I even brought the shirt with me to New Zealand when we were shooting. When I auditioned for Rowan in Not Okay, I wore the same shirt again because I had this weird superstition that it was my lucky shirt. So, that’s my little superstition.
In Not Okay, a privileged woman capitalizes off her performative allyship but leaves the brunt of the true activism for your character, Rowan. Did you feel like you related to Rowan in the movie?
Yeah, it’s weird because I feel very, very close to Rowan. Obviously I’ve not been through the trauma that she has, but I relate to her in so many ways. One of the biggest things that stuck with me was Rowan’s relationship with Danni (Zoey Deutch). It’s so common for me as a Black woman growing up in predominantly white areas and white schools—I’ve had those kind of tumultuous relationships with white women. There are these subtleties that are hard to relate to if you haven’t been through it. Reading the script and being in the moment, I could relate to the ways in which Danni took advantage of Rowan and used her. I’ve felt used like that before.