After Daytime Emmy-winner Olivia Rose Keegan snagged a role in HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES on Disney+, Aussie native Isabel Durant was quickly hired to take her place.
“Well, it was a bit of a whirlwind,” reports the soap newcomer, who began filming in February. “I got the self-tape request through my Australian agents. I was in Sydney at the time. I was like, ‘I’ve never auditioned for a soap opera before but I’ll give it a go.’ And I sent it off and then a few days later, my management called me and were like, ‘Okay, this is looking like they’re quite interested. They want you to do it again.’ And they gave me some notes to sort of change my hair and gave me a few character notes to play with. I sent off that second tape and then a few days later, my phone rang and they said I got the job.”
Durant, who lives in Los Angeles with her fiancé, fellow Australian Danny Robson, a music manager, was on a flight back to the States the next day. While auditioning, the character was called Zelda in the break- downs. When Durant landed, she got a call from Casting Director Marnie Saitta that she was a recast for Claire. After Saitta walked Durant through the role, the actress decided not to watch any of Keegan’s performances. “It’s a tough call as an actor because it can be a vicious trap,” she explains. “Olivia is Olivia and she’s brilliant. I sort of made the call that I would just listen to what people said. I would listen to how the character was and just do my best to find it within myself as the weeks went on. It was a welcome challenge and I feel like I was very supported before we shut down.”
She found many of her co-stars to be particularly helpful. “I worked with Deidre [Hall, Marlena] a few times, Alison Sweeney [Sami] and Lindsay Arnold, who plays Allie. I worked with Brandon [Barash, Jake] and Kristian [Alfonso, Hope], as well,” Durant relays. “I just remember watching them work and just studying them because it’s such a well-oiled machine and I think those iconic people that have been there for so long have it down to a T. The professionalism and the kindness and generosity you have when you’re in their presence was really special to me. I sort of looked up to them and I knew that I could ask them any questions. They were just so open-hearted and generous with their time. It wasn’t necessarily expected, because I think as a young person coming in, you put these people on a pedestal and you go, ‘Oh, they probably don’t have the time or energy,’ but it was the opposite of that entirely.”
A month or so into Durant’s gig, the show shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic. “I do feel like that last week before we shut down I was like, ‘Okay, I found my feet here,’ ” she recalls. “So, of course, like everyone else I’m itching to go back. It’s really amazing. I’m smiling talking about it. I can’t wait to get back to work.”