‘Clouds’ Star Madison Iseman on Learning (Finally) to Stop + Smell the Roses

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Photo Source: Jonny Marlow

The Following Career Dispatches essay was written by Madison Iseman, who stars in the new film “Clouds,” now streaming on Disney+. 

“Stop and smell the roses.” A phrase that I never really took seriously; one my parents engraved in my brain, and I wish I took it to heart. I was always the kid that wanted to grow up too fast. At 8 I couldn’t wait to be 13; at 13 I couldn’t wait to be 21. I was always wanting more and looking for the next thing. I had big dreams and I wanted to get there quicker. If I could tell my younger self anything it would be: The best things are ahead of you, but what makes it all worth it is right now.

When I jumped into this career I was completely naive. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I think part of that saved me from all of the rejection I was about to face. I know it’s the cliche thing to say—“You hear one yes to every 99 nos”—but it’s true.  

I somehow convinced my parents to allow me to make the big move out to California when I was 16. It was literally across the country. (I grew up in a small town in South Carolina.) That time of my life almost seems like a blur now. It was so much so fast. My mom came out here with me in the beginning. She sat with me through meetings with agents and castings, as well as castings I wouldn’t even consider to be real castings (there’s a lot of those in this town). 

Every meeting we went to, she would sit in the back of the room and make me talk the entire time without saying a single word. She would always tell me, “If you want this, it’s up to you. This is your thing.” It used to drive me crazy because I was so uncomfortable and had no idea what to say to these strangers in order to sell myself. But now, seven years down the road, I’m so thankful she did that.  

I’ve been lucky enough to work steadily throughout the past few years, but even today I’m still continuing to learn. With every single project, I grow as an actress and as a person. I don’t really believe you ever get to a place where you “stop learning.” 

The best advice I could give to any young and upcoming actor is to work hard, dream big, and really don’t give up. I believe if you set your mind to something you can make anything happen. Also, don’t let negative criticism get you down. Learn from it and grow. The entertainment business is always evolving. We have no idea what will be the next best thing five, 10 years from now. And who’s to say that can’t be you? The best films are yet to be written. Don’t sit and wait for things to come your way. Get creative, make your own films, show the world what you can do. Don’t wait for it to ask.

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