NBA player. That was Quincy Isaiah Crosby’s first answer when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. The 2013 graduate of Muskegon High School quickly adds that his mom’s response to his initial career choice was not positive — she told him it was not going to happen.
She was right.
Now known professionally as Quincy Isaiah, the actor ironically portrays former NBA player Earvin “Magic” Johnson on HBO’s “Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty.”
Isaiah, currently on the East Coast shooting a film, says he is excited about the second season of the HBO series, which airs on Aug. 6.
Isaiah describes his experience with “Winning Time” — with a cast that includes such notable stars as John C. Reilly, Sally Field, and Adrian Brody — as one that has been his crash course in great acting and professionalism, working alongside performers he looked up to while developing his craft.
“For me, there could not have been a better first job experience, to be able to learn and watch them do the thing I’ve been wanting to do for years — the thing I want to be doing — at such a high level,” he says, adding that he is grateful and that the journey has been fun.
High school debut
While a high school senior, Isaiah had the chance to perform in a play, feeling “there was something there” when it came to him and acting. After this theater experience, Isaiah considered going to college for acting but was unaware of the process of auditioning to get into a theater school.
“It was one of those things where it just felt so inaccessible,” he says. “So, I never pursued it.”
Isaiah studied engineering, only to realize he had no interest in it, then majored in business. He says he spent three years at Kalamazoo College focused on business before taking some acting classes and finally switching his major to theater.
Earning his theater degree in June 2017, Isaiah auditioned for an acting school in Los Angeles — the American Academy of Dramatic Arts — shortly before graduation and was accepted. However, because the tuition was too expensive, he never got the chance to attend. Still, the fact that he was accepted into the school and was told he was “leading man material” was all the motivation he needed to push forward.
Actor’s reel and an agent
Isaiah says he knew he needed to be an active player to get auditions, so he sought out acting classes to continue improving his craft, deciding that if he could not do a full acting program, he would take classes. He also began submitting himself for various projects in LA and getting auditions.
With experience working in theater, commercials, and short films, Isaiah put together an actor’s reel to place on a website targeting agents and managers. After landing an agent, Isaiah says she put him on many projects within seven to eight months, resulting in a couple of callbacks. But “Winning Time” was one he booked, and, he says, the only project for which he was paid more than a couple hundred dollars.
Isaiah describes the five-to-six-week process — from landing the first audition for the series to getting the part of Magic Johnson — as one that has helped his career so far, adding that it has changed the types of projects he auditions for now.
“Being on this set I’m on right now, and seeing the whole process play out, shows me I’m good at it and will continue to get good at it and have an impact,” he says.
Having had the chance to watch himself on the series, Isaiah says he likes what he has seen, comparing the practice to a football player who watches film to see ways to improve.
Now adding movie actor to his credentials, Isaiah, who also serves as a producer for this first film, with an expected release date sometime in 2024, says that he has no favorite among the types of acting he’s done so far. He says that television, film, and theater all are distinctive and present a different experience, so right now he prefers to continue to keep working in them all.
Finding his happy place
Isaiah, 27, also wants to keep growing and maturing as an actor as he starts to get his feet wet in other areas of the industry. “Down the line, I will want to direct. But right now, I feel acting is where I need to be,” he says. “I want to make sure I am great at acting before taking on the next task.”
From his experience and success as an actor, Isaiah is a witness to finding and making a way to get to his happy place. He says he is always pushing for happiness and being in a good place, mentally and spiritually, in whatever he does.
“I do have other skills and other ambitions, and if it ever gets to a point where (acting) just isn’t working mentally, or I’m not able to handle it, I know I can make a shift and figure out from there what it is I need to be doing that makes me happy.”
Isaiah also offers advice to those who may want to follow in his footsteps: Become a student in your area or industry of interest and allow yourself to be flexible. He adds that, whatever the field or industry, educate yourself and keep going, allowing yourself to move and pivot in life.
“Stay open to your blessings because you never know what’s coming,” he shares. “You might think you want to act, but an opportunity may come to direct and produce. There are so many ways to do it, so figure out what way works for you.”