HERE TODAY, GONE TO MANHATTAN
Malibu Resident Isabella Coben Departs the Sunny Surf.
Here today, gone to Manhattan. In July, Isabella Coben left behind the sunny surf of Malibu (600 people per square mile) for the shady turf of New York City (27,000 people per square mile). Ascending out of LAX, Isabella may or may not have looked out and down at Los Angeles and the many facets that had shaped her so far: schools, beaches, family, friends, Hollywood and Malibu, there between the deserty, dry mountains and the deep blue sea.
Whether or not she gazed longingly out the window, she was looking forward, and leaving that all behind for a new life in New York City, where she will hone her writing and acting skills at a renowned acting studio that shall remain nameless.
Isabella is a girl on the go but she took time out to answer some questions about her past and future.
You've been in New York how long? How do you like it so far? Too hot? Too many people? Non-stop stimulation? What are you working on this summer?
Under a week. It’s good to be distanced from some of the more uniquely LA things I grew up around, like constantly worrying about your thighs. But in all honesty, I don’t think there’s much of a difference between the two cities anymore. I’ve still got all of my yoga-crystal-aura-sound bath LA stuff within arms reach if I’m ever missing home. The world is smaller these days.
I want $1 for every time a crazed fan runs up to you asking for an autograph - thinking you are Lorde. Or is that insulting?
How about $0.50 for that celebrity twin website telling me I looked 56% like her?
You attended Marymount until you were 15. What did you like and dislike about that school and how did your time there shape your outlook and philosophy? Did Marymount propel you in any way?
Catholic all-girls school was a trip... It fueled my rebellious spirit. I’d hide in the bathroom during mass, which I wholeheartedly regret because now I’ve got this fascination with religion and would do anything to be in there taking notes! Leaving school taught me more than being there did.
Which writers and actors and artists and books and movies and plays have inspired you up until this point? Big question.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Pamela Adlon, Carrie Fisher, Natasha Lyonne, Tina Fey… I’m beyond attracted to their authenticity, which is something I’m constantly trying to emulate.
I’ve always got Fiona Apple’s lyrics in my head, a Joan Didion novel in my hand, and a Bette Davis film on somewhere in the background. That’s my holy trinity.
Apple, Davis, Didion. So you are A.D.D.
Yes, A.D.D. in more ways than one.
I’m probably the most inspired by my friend Jackson Spiner, who I grew up in Malibu with. I like to think of him as my “creative soulmate” but that’s probably an insult to him. There’s a constant creative dialogue between us. We’re never not texting, on the phone with each other, or together. It’s the most magical thing to have a relationship that feels like an artistic playground, even if you want to kill each other sometimes.
You left (escaped) Marymount school at 16, got signed by Gersh and 3Arts and began auditioning for roles. Are there any roles or shows you tried out for that you didn't get?
I signed with 3Arts when I turned 15 and Gersh shortly after. I’ve only been doing this for three-ish years, but it feels like ten. Every time I look at a movie theatre marquis it’s like reading a list of job opportunities I screwed up.
Any roles you auditioned for and didn't get that went big? There's a well-known Malibu-visiting actress who said she wanted the Marisa Tomei role in My Cousin Vinny and didn't get it but she's okay with that because Marisa Tomei won an Oscar. She also wanted the Melanie Griffith role in Working Girls and didn't get it but that made her cry. Anything like that for you already?
Nothing I’ve been too bummed about. Everything happens for a reason, so they say. If I’m really excited by a character and I don’t get the part, I try to think about how lucky I was to even get to play them for a brief moment in the audition.
You took screen writing classes at UCLA and studied acting at a Hollywood studio. Which screenplays did you learn from? Which writers inspired you?
All of the classics, really. But I also do a lot of self-educating. I’ve got an information addiction, which is arguably better than being addicted to almost anything else. I’m not special, though, I just wasn’t corrupted by 4 years of high school, so now I’m on a constant mission to fill that void. If I had a proper, traditional education I would probably be addicted to heroin. Just kidding, but I do believe that school can kill the primitive love of learning that we are all innately blessed with. That’s where I was headed before I decided to get the hell out.
I've seen you in two TV roles on Modern Family and Young Sheldon and you look 100% polished and comfortable on camera and on screen. Are you hiding nervousness or are you really that comfortable?
I was going to do that actress-y, ingenue thing where I say, “who, me? I’m so shy!” but that wouldn’t be the truth. Cameras don’t scare me. People do. I’m dreadful in social situations. I’m always calling my friends, saying, “The most embarrassing thing just happened!” My foot lives permanently in my mouth. I wish I had a filter.
If you had to choose between writing and acting which would it be? If you can point to any one actor or actress that you aspire to who would that be?
Choose between acting and writing? Is slow and painful death an option? And I don’t know if I can point to just one person that I aspire to. Myself, maybe? The most creatively satisfied version of myself with better social skills and great hair. Whoever she is. Amy Adams, probably.
Amy Adams indeed. Go red! Maybe not. How long do you plan to stay in New York? And what will you miss most about Malibu, you think?
I’m a restless creature, so this doesn’t feel very permanent, nor does anything else, really. There are so many places I’d like to set up camp and stay for a while. I’m really going to miss the people, the horses, and singing at the top of my lungs in traffic.
Oh there's lots of people and traffic in NYC. Maybe not horses unless you hang out in Central Park.
I grew up riding horses in Malibu. My childhood trainer was Gina McClosky, the daughter of Egon Merz, who trained Elizabeth Taylor for National Velvet. My first pony (and the love of my life) was named Pie, just like Liz Taylor’s in the movie. Purely coincidental!
Any time is a good time for Pie!
I competed in eventing and dressage my entire childhood and I thought that’s what my career would be. My dad even had a ranch where my friends and I kept our horses. I grew up at the barn. There’s something so grounding and humbling about being with horses. They don’t care what you look like, who you are, or who you think you are, they just want you to be present and real in the moment.
So you're more of a horsey Malibu girl than a beachy Malibu girl. Your fair skin looks like it's rarely seen the sun. Which is a good call for a young lady who might have some close ups coming. Good luck in the Big Smoke. Any parting words for Malibu? Marymount? M and P?
Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Mineral, not chemical. I’m the sun protection police in my family.
Thank you for the well wishes! Be back soon.