“I was going to be a human-rights lawyer,” says Marisa Abela, 24, of her intended career path. She knew what acting entailed—her mother, the actress Caroline Gruber (Disobedience), worked consistently in television, film, and the West End since Abela was young—and decided she wanted none of it. “I think I rebelled against it because I could see it took a lot of gumption,” Abela says, “and it scared me quite a bit.”

Fate won out, though: on a visit to the University College London, where Abela had been accepted to study history, her mother pointed out that the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art was just down the road. Within a matter of weeks, Abela had deferred her place at U.C.L. and was walking the halls of England’s best-known drama school.