Isabel May in "Alexa & Katie"

If you haven’t yet heard of Isabel May, chances are, you will soon. In 2021, the young actress took on the role of Elsa Dutton in "1883," alongside Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, in the highly-anticipated prequel to Taylor Sheridan’s hit show "Yellowstone." Although this is probably her biggest role to date, she had already established herself as an exciting up-and-comer. In 2018, May landed her first professional role as Katie in Netflix’s "Alexa & Katie." She followed that up with roles in "Young Sheldon," "Run Hide Fight," and "Let’s Scare Julia to Death." Plus, as of 2022, she’s already signed on to two more projects: "I Want You Back," a new Amazon film, and "The Moon & Back" (via IMDb).

She may be new to the scene, but it’s clear that May isn’t going anywhere soon, and we can’t wait to see her in more projects. Want to learn more about how this young star climbed her way to the top of her game so quickly? Here is the stunning transformation of Isabel May.

Isabel May is an introvert despite her SoCal upbringing

Isabel May in "Young Sheldon"

Isabel May was born on November 21, 2000, in Santa Monica, California. Despite being a California native, May never really fit the stereotype. As she told Entertainment Weekly, "If I’m being quite frank, I think the Pacific Ocean is kind of gross." Plus, after she saw "Jaws" at the age of 7, she was terrified of swimming.

Instead of spending her time at the beach, May was a diligent reader as a young girl. As she told Bello, "I’m a marathon reader, I can go all day and all night." Even today, she finds it hard to socialize because she’d much rather be reading. "I’m basically an 80 or 70 year old woman in the body of a 21 year old," she told Jon Foss in 2022. "You will never get me to go to a party or just venture out and enjoy the nightlife," she added. In addition to reading classics by John Steinbeck as well as a variety of essays, she enjoys watching old movies "over and over again."

Her teacher encouraged her to try acting so she’d open up more

Isabel May at a premiere

When Isabel May was a young girl, she was never really interested in acting — she was far too busy reading. However, that changed when one of her teachers suggested acting could help her break out of her shell. "All I did was read, I wasn’t very socially active, and I loved to write," May said in a 2020 interview. "My sixth grade English teacher told my parents that I should branch out a little bit in the arts and try a little harder to … interact with other people."

May first tried theater but didn’t like it much, but TV and film was another story. One thing led to another, and soon she was auditioning for films and TV shows. "I can’t really remember how it happened… but that’s what pushed me in that direction," she said in the interview. Wow, it’s pretty amazing that May’s teacher completely changed the course of her life!

At 15, Isabel May worked in retail at Brandy Melville

Isabel May on the red carpet

Even though Isabel May was an obsessive reader as a child, she didn’t stay indoors with her nose in a book all the time. As a teenager, she also had a part-time job at the clothing store Brandy Melville. "First teen job in real life: retail at 15," she told KTLA 5. "It was horrible, I lasted a year."

She went on to explain that she didn’t do "the whole modeling thing" at Brandy Melville like some girls do. Instead, she did what she called "the nasty stuff." But, even though May hated the grueling retail job, ultimately, she admitted it was good for her. "It was fine, such a good experience," she said. It sounds like May’s time folding clothes and stocking retail shelves helped her build character — but we can hardly blame her for preferring her current job!

She began to focus on acting when she turned 16

Side view of Isabel May

May was a dedicated student as a child. According to Entertainment Weekly, she even went to a French school. She and her parents decided that school should be her main focus until she was 16, even though she was interested in becoming an actress. "I was devoted to school as were my parents," she told Terroir Magazine (via Distractify). "We kind of made a pact, that I had to wait until ninth grade to really commit to something like [a TV show]."

May went on auditions for three years, and, when she turned 16, her parents agreed to let her attend school online. This allowed May to concentrate on her acting — and, just six months later, she got her first role in "Alexa & Katie," as she first said to the magazine (via Distractify). It sounds like she and her parents definitely made the right decision!

In Alexa & Katie, Isabel May had to learn the art of comedy

Isabel May smiling on stage

Netflix’s "Alexa & Katie" was Isabel May’s first major acting gig. As she was so new, she learned a lot on set. As she told Young Entertainment Magazine, "I learned so much on this show that I wasn’t aware of."

Even though May was thrilled to have a part in a TV show, she initially felt a little out of her element. For one thing, she didn’t feel comfortable doing a sitcom. "It was weird and interesting," she said, "because I never thought I was funny … so it was strange to get a comedy and try to figure out how to do comedy," she told Terroir Magazine (via Distractify). However, she soon found she had a knack for physical comedy and that her height came in handy in helping make people laugh. "I have quite a long body so I found I could express myself comedically, physically in certain ways," she said (via Distractify).

Despite being in the public eye, the actress holds on to her privacy

Isabel May at an event

Before she played Katie in "Alexa & Katie," Isabel May was just another anonymous teenager in California. However, starring in the popular Netflix comedy gave May a taste of life in the spotlight, though she has managed to keep her privacy.

As she told KTLA 5, "I’m not so much of a social media person… so I really had no idea [it was so popular]." Plus, May explained that she doesn’t really look like her character, so she only got recognized four times. However, on a trip to New York, May did happen to see her face on a huge billboard. "I almost passed out," she recalled.

For May, avoiding the public eye and leading a "private life" seems to be the goal. "I’m a homebody, what can I say? Getting to work in this industry and then race back home to a good book is my cloud-nine," she told Bello.

She learned a lot by watching the team on Young Sheldon

Isabel May in "Young Sheldon"

From 2018 to 2020, Isabel May played the recurring character of Veronica Duncan in "Young Sheldon" on CBS. Even though she had already learned a lot on the set of "Alexa & Katie," this role provided her with even more learning opportunities. "I love it, it’s so great. It’s such a great set, the cast is fantastic — Annie Potts is in it," she gushed to KTLA 5.

As May said in a 2020 interview, being on the show gave her the chance to watch plenty of legends at work. "The writers are so talented and the actors are so talented and gifted," she said. "Just watching everyone work together was my favorite part … It’s a joy to be a part of." Even though May didn’t have a huge part in "Young Sheldon," it’s clear that her time on the set helped her grow as a professional actress.

Isabel May was nervous to take on the leading role in Run Hide Fight

Isabel May in "Run Hide Fight"

After getting her first professional credit in "Alexa & Katie," Isabel May landed her first leading role in the 2020 feature film "Run Hide Fight." The movie follows a young girl trying to fight a group of school shooters — obviously, very different territory for the young actress.

When May first read the script, she was hesitant about taking on the part. "I was very, very nervous," she told The Daily Wire. "It was … totally scary." Because of the film’s sensitive subject, May worried that people would assume she had certain political views. She was also worried because she didn’t know what the other cast members would think of the subject matter. In the end, however, "I kind of took myself out of the equation and said, ‘This isn’t about you or your career,’" she explained. In the end, May chose to make the movie because she hoped it would be meaningful. We’re so glad she got over her initial fears!

She landed her role in 1883 thanks to a failed audition

Isabel May in "1883"

Even though Isabel May was already in the public eye, thanks to her work on "Alexa & Katie" and "Young Sheldon," it wasn’t until she landed a leading role in the "Yellowstone" prequel, "1883," alongside some very experienced actors, that her career was seriously boosted. Needless to say, "1883" has been a huge stepping stone in May’s career — in fact, the show’s premiere drew the most viewers of any cable series since 2015 (via Variety).

So, how did May land such a major role? Well, it turns out, it only took one audition — and it wasn’t even an audition for "1883"! "Taylor [Sheridan, the show’s creator] was doing another project called ‘Mayor of Kingstown,’ and in March 2021, something like that, he flew three girls out to Texas, including myself," May told The Hollywood Reporter. "So I auditioned for that, and I was terribly wrong for it."

Even though May didn’t get that part, Sheridan decided she was perfect for "1883" and offered her the part just a few weeks later. "I said, ‘Well, of course, I’ll be Elsa Dutton because you’re Taylor Sheridan and it’s my dream to work with you,’" May recalled.

Isabel May is interested in writing one day

Isabel May looking to her left

Isabel May constantly speaks about her love of reading — in fact, in one 2022 interview, she even claimed she likes reading books more than watching TV or movies. She also told one interviewer in 2020 that, as a child, she "loved to write."

So, it will hardly come as a surprise to learn that May has considered turning her attention to writing professionally some time in the future. "Maybe one day. I hope so. I’m going to try because life is short … but I don’t think I’m gifted or anything like that," May mused in the 2022 interview. "So I’d like to do it and fail and just say I did it."

Even though Isabel May’s acting career is still just getting off the ground, it’s already pretty clear she’s extremely talented — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she turned out to be a brilliant writer, too. We can’t wait to see what work she produces next, whether it be on the screen or the page!