ON THE UP
SUCCESS AT HOME INSPIRED AUSTRALIAN ACTOR ISABELLE CORNISH TO TRY HER LUCK OVERSEAS. AFTER BEING DEALT A FEW DUD HANDS, HER CAREER IS FINALLY ON THE VERGE OF EXPLODING
Isabelle Cornish is taking LA by storm.
There’s something about that bumpy journey – the one she takes down a familiar, dusty drive to her family’s Hunter Valley farm – that fills Isabelle Cornish with an instant sense of calm. Good thing, too. Because the Australian actor says she could use a bit of peace at the moment.
When she speaks to Stellar, it has been less than 24 hours since she stepped off a flight from New York, where she was shooting an ad campaign for cosmetics giant Revlon. That job came on the heels of a gruelling three months filming upcoming US television series Inhumans, part of the mega Marvel franchise, in Hawaii. And right before that, she wrapped on the highly anticipated local film Australia Day, coming soon to Foxtel.
“It’s really good to be home,” Cornish sighs, the slightest American twang in her voice, evidence she has called Los Angeles home for the past few years.
Maybe it’s the satisfied exhaustion that comes with completing a big job, or just a natural reaction to the up-anddown nature of the business. Either way, the 22-year-old sounds like she could luxuriate in languor for weeks. “The stillness of the farm, the familiarity of it, the animals, it all feels perfect – just perfection.”
Cornish won’t have long to savour it. In a few weeks, she hops on a plane to the States to continue pursuing new work. She started making that trip regularly a few years ago, after carving out a name for herself here in the critically acclaimed Network Ten drama Puberty Blues, which followed her stint on Home And Away.
“I could see bigger things on the horizon and I was like, ‘I’m going,’” Cornish says of her decision to move Stateside. “So I hopped on a flight and signed with an agency and started chipping away.” Cornish had strong personal drive on her side. Yet success, let alone luck, was harder to harness. She went to audition after audition, falling in love with a character only to watch it slip away to another actor. It would be almost three years between gigs.
“Of course it was disheartening,” Cornish says of that period. “There are so many auditions where you don’t get the role on your way to landing one. I had to trust that the roles I lost weren’t right, and that something that was would come my way. If you keep doing the work and be the best you can be, it pays off eventually.”
And it did when Cornish landed a major part in Inhumans, a small-screen fantasy epic about a genetically altered race of people who have outrageous superpowers. Cornish plays Crystal, who can manipulate the four elements. It’s something of a wish fulfilled, as she is a self-confessed sci-fi geek.
“Who wouldn’t want to [play the role]? You get to transform, to do things you wouldn’t normally get to do in your life.” But when it’s suggested the entire profession of acting offers a form of escapism, she concurs: “True – so this job is like a double whammy, getting to act and play a superhero. It’s a dream.”
Many actors who finally land that one crucial job quickly discover the old adage is true – when it rains, it pours. Just as shooting on Inhumans came to an end, Cornish was signed as the face of Revlon’s Colorstay foundation. She fronts a major campaign that launches in Australia tomorrow. It was no ordinary job, either. Cornish got to hit the streets of Manhattan and play photographer, tapping into another of her passions. As part of the brand’s new #Goslay campaign, “Revlon challenged me to go around New York and shoot 24 photos of 24 women who I thought were slaying it in their own unique way, all over a 24-hour period,” Cornish explains. “I found women all over the city that never sleeps.”
Cornish is aware that a rising profile makes her a role model to young women, particularly due to her growing social media following. So partnering with an “accessible” brand was important, she says. She recalls her own youthful experimentation with make-up, and arriving at school wearing mascara and foundation for the very first time, to the delight of her friends. “It was like discovering an art form,” she says with a laugh. “Such an exciting time for us… they were like: ‘Oh, my god, you’re wearing… make-up!’ Putting it on for the first time, and feeling more like a woman than a girl, made me feel good. It was a confidence-booster.”
She probably didn’t need it all that much. She was just four when she enrolled in drama classes and took lessons in modelling for the runway; instantly she realised that performing for others could be her calling.
Growing up, Cornish says she also watched older sister Abbie – star of films including Candy and Sucker Punch – and saw what was possible. “She was such a wonderful role model,” Cornish says. “To watch her do well and see her work definitely inspired me.” Despite their 12-year age gap, Abbie was happy to let her little sister follow her everywhere.
“It was kind of like she was another mum to me,” she says. “I would go stay with her for weeks on end.” Now she admittedly pines for those less hectic days; the downside to the busyness of this year has been not being able to spend as much time with each other in person.
“It’s been hard lately – she’s away and I’ve been all over the place. But we’ll hang out soon when we’re both back in LA,” she says, before cheering at the thought of an occasion that typically reunites far-flung families. “And we’ll both be home for Christmas this year.”
“I HAD TO TRUST THAT THE ROLES I LOST WEREN’T RIGHT. IF YOU KEEP BEING THE BEST YOU CAN BE IT PAYS OFF EVENTUALLY”