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Isabella Pappas

15th July 2022

Interview: Jordan Arthur

Photography: Deelo Arizona Morgenegg

Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Star of Disney Channel’s latest hit comedy ‘The Villains of Valley View’, ReVamp is thrilled to welcome Isabella Pappas to talk career, international upbringing, and TV favourites.

Hi Isabella and welcome to ReVamp! I’ll start by asking you about your new show The Villains of Valley View on the Disney Channel (US) and Disney+. What can you tell us about the show and your character Havoc?

She’s so different to the kind of characters they’ve had previously on Disney in the sense she’s extremely impulsive and outspoken and has a lot of bad qualities, but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. I think it’s so interesting to see them explore the grey area. A lot of comic characters like Scarlett Witch – she’s a good example and someone I actually referenced – are very on the edge of good and bad. I think that’s something that really came into play Havoc.

The show is created by the same team behind Lab Rats which was a big hit for Disney – what was it like working with them?

They have a great eye for comedy and, especially important in our show, a great way of making people sympathise with characters you wouldn’t normally sympathise with. A lot of our characters have really bad qualities; impulsive, rude – Amy has no social intelligence, she doesn’t know how to communicate, she just yells.

It was a lot of fun to play her because I don’t think there are a lot female characters on Disney that are like that. That also means I was able to bring something new and fresh to it and I hope people can take away some confidence from it because that’s what I got from playing her. 

Now you’ll have to forgive me, I was under the impression that you were British but as we’re talking, I hear an American accent…

Don’t worry – it’s a whole big confusing thing. I grew up in Italy and went to international school, so my first language is Italian and then I learned English but with this accent because my mom is American.

Then I came to school here in the UK when I was 11 and started to develop this in-between accent where it would be sort of on the line of British and American. Then I did Finding Alice where my character spoke with a British accent, and I did that part for a really long time so my own voice got sort of stuck there.

Then we went into lockdown and I spent all this time with my mom and doing this American project so I’ve reverted back once again to my natural accent. 

I’m glad you mentioned it actually because no one’s asked me before so it’s nice to be able to explain!

So does having an American/international background make it any easier to slip into this Disney teen role for Valley View?

It does and it doesn’t. Even though the accent part wasn’t challenging, the idea of doing comedy was very daunting to me. I’d only ever done drama before which people might think is actually more challenging – like having to cry or do these big emotional breakdowns – but it’s really difficult to make a room full of people laugh.

It’s the scariest thing I’d ever done in terms of acting. I loved it though, and it taught me a lot about confidence and stage presence. Sitcoms are great because it’s the sort of in-between of theatre and television, because you’re performing to an audience but you still have to keep it tame enough to seem natural on TV so it’s a cool line to have to tip toe on.

There aren’t so many multi-cam sitcoms with a live audience these days, so I guess that makes Valley View quite a unique experience in TV?

It’s amazing and I think that it’s something every actor should get to experience because it’s so different from shooting a single-camera drama like Finding Alice. Both are amazing in their own way, but it’s really cool to see how an audience is responding as you’re shooting – that’s something you get with theatre but have to sacrifice for TV – except in sitcoms.

Shooting that way, do get some reassurance as you’re in production that the jokes and certain beats work before the episode goes out on air?

Oh definitely. But if it doesn’t, it’s very scary.

You got to do the iconic ‘You’re watching Disney channel’ TV ident. Career highlight?

100 percent. I used to practice that move when I was little.

The interesting thing about doing that was when I got there, they let me hold the wand and was told it was the same wand that’s been used for the whole time they’ve been doing it. So every other person that’s recorded one of those idents has touched that wand.

It’s the wand used by Selina Gomez, Zendaya, Miley Cyrus – it was crazy. I definitely did not expect to, but I cried after – it was a surreal moment.

How long were you out in LA shooting for?

It was seven months, and it was very different and really fun. I’ve never lived in America before and it was the longest time I’ve ever spent there. I’d been to LA once for just a few days, so this was my first time really being in LA.

It was a great experience. Everyone says ‘Disney is a family’ and before I kinda thought ‘oh, they have to say that’ – but it really is. The people there are so nice and so involved in terms of making sure you’re comfortable and settled.

Everyone would take into account how I was picking up and moving my whole life there and they were considerate of that – letting me come home on breaks – it was beautiful. And very sunny!

ReVamp readers will be especially interested to hear about your upcoming thriller Beach Boys, which is due to start shooting soon. What can you tell us about this project and your character in it?

She is a very, very interesting person. She’s definitely not like Amy Havoc in the sense that she’s very virtuous – she’s a much better person, I would say. It’s a thriller, so expect some intense stuff, but I think my character is sort of an anchor in the midst of a storm. I think in every thriller you have to have that one character that has a really strong moral compass, and I think I get to sort of embody that in this.

Looking back slightly, you’ve already had an incredible career on the stage – earning a Best Supporting Actress Olivier nomination for The Nether and a win in the same category from WhatsOnStage for your role in Appropriate. How do you think that early recognition impacted you as you an emerging performer – it must have been so encouraging?

It was amazing. It’s crazy looking back, I don’t think I even realised how amazing it was. I had just turned 12, so really young, and I think in a sense it was kind of daunting thinking like ‘do I deserve to be here?’

I was nominated against Angela Lansbury… I got to meet her, which was amazing. I met some people at those awards who I’m still friends with today. It was an amazing experience it really helped to get the confidence to approach difficult roles and not be scared because people for the most part are pretty nice – especially with child actors. I don’t think that was always the case, but now people are usually very generous and kind and it’s a nice environment to grow up in. A very nurturing family.

Finally, with a career that already spans TV, movies, theatre, and even video games, what would be a dream project or role you’d love to sink your teeth into, sometime in the future – no restrictions?

I would have to say, and it may be very cliched because I know every young actor right now is probably thinking this, but I have to say to be on a show like Euphoria… I love that show not only because of the acclaim it has, but the characters are so developed and intricate and so well-written.

Also from a cinematography standpoint, you get to shoot in these really interesting and sometimes surreal locations. They use a lot of dramatic lighting that’s not natural – they’ll use spotlights for example, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a TV show before.

It would just be an awesome, collaborative thing to work on. That would be a dream. If not, it’s super fun to watch.

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