In The Mix

Going Places

Actress Odessa Adlon always knew where she wanted to go.

Margy Rochlin
  • Corey Nickols

Actress Odessa Adlon landed one of her first big breaks at age 15: a recurring role as Liv, a dreadlocked, living-by-her-wits street urchin on Nashville.

But the way she tells it, she was born ready. "On my eighth birthday, I asked for headshots," she says.

The second of three daughters born to actor-director-writer-producer Pamela Adlon and filmmaker Felix Adlon, she says that when it came to joining the family business, her parents were fierce negotiators. "They'd say things like, 'You can act if you stop arguing with your sisters.' And I'd be like, 'What? What if one of them takes my shirt? Tell me what I do then?'"

Reserving her right to sibling squabbles, Adlon took matters into her own hands, securing herself an agent the way a child of Hollywood does. She asked for advice from a working young actor — Mikey Madison, one of the teenage stars of her mom's FX series, Better Things.

Now 18, Adlon's the bright, big-mouthed light of CBS's new multi-cam comedy, Fam. She steals every scene as Shannon, a boundary-challenged adolescent who moves in with her prim half-sister (Nina Dobrev of The Vampire Diaries) and the half-sister's doting fiancé (Tone Bell of Disjointed).

So far, Adlon says, Fam hasn't showcased her full, throaty singing voice, even though she's the leader of a band. Still, Shannon is right in her sweet spot. "She's like the other parts I've had — mischievous, a trouble-maker. She doesn't have any morals and is kind of a badass. It's fun!"

You can't help but notice that Adlon has her mom's idiosyncratic comic timing, scratchy voice and crackling energy. And though you'd expect a show-biz family to talk shop at home, she says they rarely do. She's even gone to auditions and unexpectedly bumped into her older sister, Gideon (Blockers).

"Everybody in my house is really independent," Adlon says. "We're all doing our own thing and we'll randomly run into each other at the house and catch up for a brief moment. Then it's: go to bed, get up, go to work and 'See you next month, Mom.'"

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 1, 2019