Talent. When someone’s truly got it, you just know. It’s impossible not to see it, that vibrant spark sizzling from within. Madison Iseman’s got it. No question. With her return to CMT’s Still The King (Tuesdays 10/9c) as the long-lost daughter to Vernon Brownmule (played by Billy Ray Cyrus), her role in Sony Pictures’ upcoming Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black), and a few other currently undisclosed surprises coming soon, this is looking to be Madison’s breakout year.
“I’m so in love with this business,” the actress expressed. “I love the way a camera captures a person and the tone. I feel like I connect with the directors and producers on that level because, for me, it’s about the whole project. I’m obsessed and hard-working, almost to the point where I feel like a crazy person. In no way am I where I want to be yet. I still have such a long way to go, there’s so much more that I want to learn.”
Phenomenally talented, dazzling on screen and off, determined, and dedicated, yet still refreshingly humble and sweet, Iseman is one of a kind.
“I’m from the south, South Carolina, and that’s always been number one in work and life and relationships: stay humble, stay kind,” she told Entertaining Options. “I’ve been around some people and I’ve seen things go down and I never want to be that way! If I ever do, please pull up this interview, tap me on the shoulder, and say, ‘Hey, remember when you said this?’ I never want to become that because that’s not how my mother raised me.”
Fun Fact: Madison was born in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Valentine’s Day.
When asked how a young southern girl gets to LA, Madison joked, “Well, it’s not easy. It’s very far away and there are no direct flights from South Carolina to LA.”
“When I was 14, I took a trip up to New York with my mom and got my feet wet a little bit,” she continued. “But I was super scared by the city and wanted to go back to my high school really bad! So I left New York, really fast.”
Madeline always had an interest in film and television. However, unlike most young girls, her fascination extended beyond being on camera. More than anything, Iseman wanted to be an editor.
“When I was young, I used to make silly little short films of all my friends in middle school and elementary school,” she recalled. “Then, when I was 16, there was a group in South Carolina that was going to LA to do a showcase and I really wanted to do it. My mom said, ‘I’m not going to tell you, “No,” but you need to get everything in line and take this on yourself.’ So I did everything I needed to do and went out to California with this group of people. And it went really well!”
On the trip, Iseman met an agent and a manager. They told her if she was willing to move out to LA, they would work with her. Madison’s mom said she would move out to LA with her for a year and a half to help her get settled, but after that, it was up to her daughter to make it work.
Less than two years later, Madison was offered a role on Billy Ray Cyrus’ new series for CMT entitled Still The King.
The press release states that Still The King is about “a scandal-ridden, washed up one-hit wonder Vernon Brownmule (played by Cyrus) who was kicked out of country music and emerges 20 years later as an Elvis impersonator. Charlotte (played by Madison) meets her dad for the first time after he gets arrested and sentenced to return to his hometown as the church handyman.” The series is a crazy, fun-filled romp that is packed with outlandish situations, wry humor, and a vibrant cast populated by a bevy of endearingly quirky characters. In short, Still The King is perfect 30-minute television.
“Hannah Montana… that was my generation! My inner Hanna Montana was screaming when I found out about that role with Billy Ray Cyrus!” Madison confessed. “I read for the character maybe four or five times — it was this very slow audition process, but I totally wanted it. It was a project that pulled at my heartstrings. Charlotte is this little adult in this 15-year-old body and she listens to good music… We actually had a lot in common. But it was maybe two weeks before they called us back in for callbacks, so by that point I was thinking, ‘Okay, let’s move on to the next one.'”
Then Madison’s manager called with good news and a bit of bad news. The good news was she booked the show. The bad news? They wanted her to fly out to Nashville that very night.
“We were going to be filming for a little over four months and, at the time, I was newly 18 years old. I had a cat, but no credit. I didn’t know what to do. It was really stressful,” Madison remembered. “My manager got it pushed back 48 hours and my mom was an angel, she came out to meet me in Nashville and helped me find a place to live.”
Fun Fact: The choice of who would play Charlotte had been narrowed down to just two girls: Madison, who looked like Debbie, Charlotte’s mother (played by Joey Lauren Adams), and another actress who looked like Vernon, Charlotte’s father. “They started researching on the Internet and looking at everything. They found my YouTube channel — which I was actually going to delete a few weeks before — and they saw my covers. They said, ‘Yep that’s Billy Ray’s daughter.’ So, my YouTube covers were one of the things that got me the part.”
Madison talked about what it was like during those first few days of filming season one. “It was really weird. I had to find the boundaries. I was so young, the youngest person out of everyone — even the actor who played my boyfriend on season one was 29 — and I didn’t think they’d want to hang out with me. But all that anxiety quickly went away. We all went to an art crawl together that first weekend. We also went to Billy’s ranch to play with his horses. It was so much fun. It was the coolest experience of my life and honestly, everyone I’ve met through that show has completely change my life. They are just the greatest people.”
Entertaining Options wondered, “How much can you say about season two?”
“I can’t say much,” Madison apologized. “Debbie is pregnant, I can say that because we found that out in the last episode of season one. But we don’t know who the daddy is and Charlotte is kind of having a hard time dealing with that. Last season, Charlotte was the adult of everyone, but in this season, she gets to have a little more fun.”
Another project that Madison has to remain rather tight-lipped about is Sony Pictures’ Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which is currently slated for a December 22, 2017 theatrical release.
“That still hasn’t hit me yet,” she admitted. “It was the quickest audition and shoot in my life. I don’t know when the freak-out will hit me, probably the day I’m actually sitting there in the theater watching it on the big screen, but that was just everything I’ve ever dreamed of doing. I mean, a table read sitting between Kevin Hart and Jack Black?! The little 12-year-old inside of me actually had a heart attack!”
“This whole year has been so crazy,” she continued. “It’s flown by so fast. I don’t even know what day it is. I feel very blessed and I am very grateful. I have no idea how this all happened. Some nights, I’ll be in my bed and be really confused that I’m still in Los Angeles and not in college somewhere in South Carolina with all my other friends I grew up with.”
Beyond her incredible talent and her humble nature, another reason why Madison books gigs with A-list celebrities is likely because she doesn’t ever let those butterflies in her stomach interfere with her work. “You can’t not keep it together. When it comes time to work, I take it very seriously… maybe too seriously. I remember being a little girl and watching movies and TV and I would just be in tears because it takes you out of your own world for 30 minutes or an hour or an hour and a half. That’s always been what I’ve wanted to do for other people.”
During season one, Still The King averaged 3 million weekly viewers. This new season kicks-off with Vernon fresh out of jail and determined to balance his thirst for fame with his need to be there for his family. In closing, Entertaining Options asked, “What is it about this outrageous world of Still The King that is connecting with so many people?”
“You know, I think more families deal with this crazy crap than you would imagine. Still The King takes a real life situation and makes it entertaining. If you need a 30-minute break from the day to just sit back and watch some funny southern humor and have a laugh about what people go through, then this is the show for you.”
The new season of CMT’s Still The King kicks off on Tuesday, July 11 with back-to-back episodes beginning at 10/9c.