In Dialogue With Alum Isaac Volbrecht - Pride '24

Isaac Eden Volbrecht (‘14) is a classically and camera-trained actor who has worked with networks such as TLC and ABC, as well as on stage in different venues on the East Coast of the United States. After graduation, he worked off-Broadway and on screen. Recently, Isaac moved to Colombia to reimagine his life after his transition and gain rejuvenation from the raw power of nature. He looks forward to sharing his light, experience, and representation in various roles on the big screen and building a career in North and South America.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

How about we start off with your story. Tell us about Isaac Volbrecht.

I was born in the north country of Wisconsin and moved to the East Coast when I was 10. After high school, I decided to audition for The Academy. I have always loved to act. It was one of those stories; you go to New York without much money in your pocket, and you take that risk.

I chose The Academy because there were some LGBT actors I was watching when I was very young, in one of those big LGBT shows, who’d gone to The Academy. Seeing a trans person in that kind of gender-bending thing on TV was really big for me. It was at a point in my life where I didn’t fully know who I was or that I was transgender. I was connected to these things so deeply. 

The funny thing is, I started my transition only a few months before going to The Academy. It was either the worst decision or the best decision I’ve made [Laughs]. There’s no verdict yet. I think going to a two-year acting program is already challenging; adding that pressure was difficult, but went hand-in-hand with the transformation that happened.

I wanted to ask about representation. What have you observed changing in the industry? How do you feel it is today?

I’m 32, and I officially transitioned when I was 20. It’s been slow over the past 12 years. I’ve seen it here and there. After the pandemic, I saw a really big increase in transgender representation. Now there are lists of famous transgender actors. Before, there weren’t many.

Before, there would maybe be a transgender character played by a cisgender actor, which I don’t see as a problem, I think you should play any role that you want, but without seeing transgender actors as well, it feels a little bit empty. 

Representation is getting better. I was inspired by the Emmys when the director of GLAAD said they’re going to hire more transgender people. It was like a light bulb for me because, after The Academy, I was only being asked for transgender roles without much depth.

Seeing more representation makes me feel more motivated and excited to work, knowing that there are more opportunities out there. There are a lot of creative transgender people; more open-mindedness when it comes to telling stories is a must.

During the challenges, what kept you going? What helped you push through?

The love of acting, I think. My love of acting has made me feel like me. 

What do you feel like you bring to the work?

Oh, that’s a good question. I think I bring a lot of experience. Not just with acting, I think I’ve been through a lot of life and a lot of different experiences. Right now, I'm living in Colombia…my wife is Colombian. We’ve been here for some years now. Do you mean just what do I bring to my acting?

If you want to open up the question more, you can.

I think I bring an ability to express emotions that many people don’t feel comfortable sharing or expressing. I can access a wide variety of things. I approach life with a spiritual perspective. I don’t mean religious, but when you’re a transgender person, and you transition, it goes deeper than a physical transition. You transition from one perspective of life to another.

One of my dreams as an actor is to be able to play any role. I received a typecast that didn’t allow me to play full-bodied individuals. I believe I have the depth to play a richer character. I want to play some of those roles that have more power and depth.

Is there a project you’ve worked on or a role you’re particularly proud of that you’d like to mention here?

I’ve had some roles that I’ve really enjoyed. I did take a break for awhile, so I’m looking for more roles. I always go back to Shakespeare. That set the tone for everything. The language can be challenging, but there’s so much room for queerness; anyone can express how they want to be. Having that from the start was a beautiful thing. There were no walls, there was no box. To live that at a young age was important for me.

The freedom of acting. What’s next for you, and where can people find out more about you?

I'm looking to make acting my full-time job, to be part of projects that go along with the vision that I have for transgender and queer people. I live in Colombia and have started the acting journey here as well. Netflix is big here and in South America. They have a lot of amazing shows. I am a United States citizen, so I’m also looking to work there and sort of bring North America and South America together a bit. I think there are wonderful things we can learn from each other.

That’s a worthy endeavor. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. You’re a very interesting person with plenty of insight. Keep fighting the good fight and keep in touch with The Academy.

It was nice to meet you August. Thank you for the opportunity to chat and hear my story.