Isabella Pappas

Actress Isabella Pappas on Finding Alice, Fame & The Future

Actress Isabella Pappas on Finding Alice, Fame & The Future

She’s the breakout star of ITV’s Finding Alice – but how is the young actress finding fame, industry pressures and life in south west London

Paradigmatic of binge-worthy lockdown drama, ITV’s Finding Alice hit our screens in January, providing homely relief with its balance of light-hearted quips and unexpected twists. The brainchild of actress Keeley Hawes, writer Simon Nye and producer Roger Golby, the immediate creative team behind previous screen success The Durrells, Finding Alice showcased the best of British talent.

Led by Hawes, the stellar cast includes showbiz greats Joanna Lumley and Nigel Havers, Sharon Rooney of My Mad Fat Diary fame, and a name new to most – Isabella Pappas.

Isabella humbly recounts her shock at receiving the news she’d be working on the series. ‘I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think in a million years I would ever be able to be in a show with Keeley, Joanna, Nigel, and all these amazing people. So, it was just a dream come true’, she says.

Similarly to many stars of stage and screen, including the likes of Billie Piper and Tamzin Outhwaite, the 18 year old credits her steady route to stardom to London’s Sylvia Youth Theatre School, and more specifically Young herself. ‘I owe everything to them’, Isabella declares as she explains how her attendance at an Easter school led to Young overhearing her singing in the halls. This led to a move from Italy and eventual full-time attendance at the prestigious academy; ‘It was an amazing environment, and I learnt so much there.’


Putting theory into practice, Isabella threw herself into a dramatic career during her further studies at ArtsEd, building stage experience before her big break on Finding Alice. Although vague on the specificities, Pappas notes how examining her own grief was the primary groundwork for the role of Charlotte. ‘I know it sounds really cheesy’, she says, ‘but [character preparation] was about researching into myself and [deciding] what elements of myself I wanted to bring into the character.’

When asked whether her personal expression of grief is comparable to the protagonist’s emotive mania or her own character’s largely controlled façade, Isabella says, ‘I’m not quite as manic as Alice, but I don’t think I’m as restrained as Charlotte either… I think that’s the beauty of these two polar opposite characters; people can kind of see themselves not necessarily as one or the other, but a mixture of the two.’

This reasoned eloquence, be it from her international upbringing (her mother’s success as an autism specialist and father’s pilot career has taken her from Italy to America and even Japan) or stage school experience, is sure to put the young performer in good stead. Having idolised Joanna Lumley throughout her youth, she’s now seen as a confidant; something Isabella finds, quite simply, ‘so amazing’, after recently reaching out to the Absolutely Fabulous star following the return of her ITV travelogue series.

Prior to ITV’s announcement of a second series, Isabella had little doubt the team would be on board in their entirety – a testament to the compatibility of the cast and proof that the collective chemistry was just as strong off-screen as it was on it. The pandemic may have created production difficulties, but ultimately had little effect on the closeness of the cast and crew. ‘We all are very close with each other and we had fun filming, you know… we were just hanging out with each other all day, so behind the scenes of that was actually a really fun time getting to know everyone’, she says.


Fluent in both English and Italian, Isabella doesn’t rule out a utilisation of her bilingualism for future roles – ‘it’d be really amazing to be able to share that side of myself with people’. A genuine love of, and appreciation for, what she affectionately terms her ‘adopted family’ in northern Italy, is evident. Currently living in Chiswick with close family, she pairs her passions for Italian culture, food, and the verdant expanses of south west London with visits to nearby Tarantella, an authentic Ristorante Pizzeria on Chiswick’s Elliott Road. Although opportunities for a conventional gap year may be out of the question, she makes her desire for global exploration and cultural immersion clear; ‘I love travel and I’m a really big foodie. I think it’s just amazing to be able to experience different cultures and kind of pull little things from them and incorporate that into your own life’, she says.

Aside from the acclaimed ITV drama, Isabella has several roles in the pipeline – ‘I’m doing like nine self-tapes a week at the moment’, she says. A determination to wholeheartedly throw herself into entertainment is evident and appears to have been a long time coming, with the actress’ nomination for an Olivier Award landing at the tender age of 12. Having received high praise and renowned accolades at such a young age, and benefitting from a Sylvia Young education, I ask whether she feels a degree of pressure moving forward with future projects. ‘I wouldn’t say I feel pressure’, she says, contemplatively, ‘I want to do things that are, you know, well written with interesting stories and interesting characters… I just think that when you really put your heart into it. It’s all the more exciting.’

Finding Alice is currently available to stream on ITV Player and Britbox.