Dressed in a retro Rolling Stones T-shirt, her braided hair topped with a black fedora, Izabella Alvarez resembles the average 13-year-old. The Irvine teen is bubbly and relaxed as she talks about shopping with her friends, doing Musical.lys and going bowling with her family (mom, dad and brother Nick).
But when you start talking about her passions, she gets serious, transforming into what some, including her father and her co-stars, would call an old soul. At about age 6, Alvarez decided to pursue an acting career. “I would always point at the TV and say, ‘I want to be in there. I want to be in there,'” she recalls. “And my parents were like, ‘Okay, let’s see what we can do.'” Her first job, a retail commercial with her family, was all it took. “I was like, ‘This is what I want to do; this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'”
Since that commercial, she has scored recurring roles on TV shows as varied as Showtime’s Shameless, HBO’s Westworld and Disney’s Walk the Prank, as well as a regular spot on the upcoming ABC comedy Raised By Wolves. “I read the script before I take the offer or the project . . . and make sure it’s not inappropriate because, you know, I am still really young,” she says. “I try to choose my projects wisely and [take] nothing, like, inappropriate because I do have a young audience.”
Even when posting to social media, she feels a sense of responsibility to fans her own age and younger. “I’m very careful what I post. . . . I need to watch [what I do] and even what I say,” she says. “They look up to that, which is awesome.”
She’s also watching to see what her young fans will take from her leap to the big screen, with Disney’s Magic Camp and the independent Collisions both set to premiere this year. The latter, directed by Richard Levien, centers on what happens to a family when mom Yoana is taken in an immigration raid. Itan (played by Alvarez) and her brother are released by Child Protective Services into the custody of their uncle, a truck driver with seemingly little regard for his young charges; the trio embark on a quest to find Yoana before she is deported. “I’m very excited to present it,” Alvarez says. “It’s the perfect time to do it because of everything that’s going on.”
Less heavy is Magic Camp, which focuses on a summer camp for young magicians. “When I heard Walt Disney Pictures, I was like, ‘YES, I want to do it!’ And then I heard our director [was] Mark Waters—he directed one of my favorite movies, Mean Girls. I was like, ‘Um, yes, I’m going to take this,'” she says. For the role, Alvarez got a crash course in magic, though, she says, you’ll have to watch the film to see what she can do.
With each production, Alvarez has been fortunate to work alongside some of the industry’s greats, including William H. Macy, Jeffrey Tambor and Ed Harris. “I feel like you can take something from anyone you work with, and that’s been a thing I’ve learned from every project I’ve worked on—that I can take something from every person, and it might be the smallest thing, but I can use it in my style of acting,” she says.
“From every character I’ve played, I’ve took that you can be whoever you want to be, and you can show who you want to be,” Alvarez continues. “You don’t have to hide inside, which I feel some teens do, you know, where I can’t be this person or I have to be someone else to be cool, or I have to act a certain way so everyone will like me. Be you, you know?”
Sage advice from a 13-year-old.
Patrice Marsters started at OC Weekly as an intern, just before the first issue was published. She is now the associate editor of the paper, serves on the board of the Orange County Press Club, and mentors aspiring writers and editors at Newport Harbor High School. In her spare time, Ms. Marsters co-leads a multi-level Girl Scout troop, creates baked goods, and rants at inanimate objects (including her computer) about her grammatical and writing pet peeves.