Max Harwood is a breakout star

The very first time the coming-of-age musical Everybody’s Conversing About Jamie bursts into music, it’s staged as a neon-hued daydream. In the center of class, 16-yr-previous Jamie New fantasizes about lifestyle in the spotlight, glammed up and strolling the runway as he belts “And You Really do not Even Know It,” a typical “I Want” song with a boastful twist. Jamie believes he’s destined for a greatness beyond the so-and-sos of his sleepy hometown, with the art of drag as his pathway to fame, singing, “You’re in my lane, you’re in my gentle / Get out my way, I’m having flight.” It all can make for a bombastic introduction—until his instructor provides him back again down to earth. In the sobering gentle of classroom fluorescents, Jamie’s desire of drag superstardom prompts snickers amid his schoolmates. He’s humiliated, but not defeated.

By way of his overconfidence and his meekness, his optimism and self-question, Jamie helps make for a relatably conflicted teenager protagonist: The type that’s so ready to take the following significant leap in their everyday living that they often excursion around on their own to get there. As Jamie, newcomer Max Harwood produces an electrifying initially impression, navigating the complexities of younger ambition with winning naturalism. He’s just as convincing nervously displaying off a pair of high heels to his best mate as he is when he’s strutting across the stage in full drag. Warm and understated, Harwood provides a breakthrough general performance that should established the stage for a extended career—in other words, everybody’s heading to be conversing about Max.

With just a couple a long time of musical theater training less than his belt, 24-12 months-aged Max Harwood never ever predicted his debut function would make him pretty so substantially interest. “My trajectory was going more toward theatrical [work],” he told The A.V. Club. “But then this position came along, I auditioned for it, and now quickly life’s mad. Like, what am I undertaking in LA?”

Jamie’s starry-eyed appeal is obvious in Harwood, in particular when he reflects on his lifelong love of musicals. He was lifted on classics like On The Town, My Honest Girl, Oliver, Annie, and, his own favourite, Grease: “Me and my sister, we utilised to look at Grease all the time. We’d generally gown up—I’d place on a wig and a skirt and would tell my sister, ‘Sorry, you just cannot be Rizzo now, that is heading to be me.’” (He jokes his Rizzo produced for a “rubbish” drag debut.) His fascination with musical theater finally experienced him skipping course to see a demonstrate on London’s West Close identified as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, alone based mostly on television documentary known as Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, pursuing the existence of drag-queen-in-the-earning Jamie Campbell. Harwood was enchanted, seeing himself in Jamie and the way he dreamed over and above life’s constraints.

Everybody’s Conversing About Jamie marks the aspect debut of director Jonathan Butterell (who also directed the initial phase production), and he says he established out to obtain an actor with a comparable freshness and feeling of excitement for the title function. “I experienced to forget what I knew, about what I’d noticed of the role,” admits Harwood. A handful of actors have played Jamie over the years—including John McRae, who would make a cameo in a going flashback selection, “This Was Me”—but the star produced an intentional choice to develop the character from the ground up, setting up with its authentic inspiration, Jamie Campbell. Harwood recalls his “deep” and “personal” discussions with Campbell prior to filming, which had been instrumental in discovering confidence in his personal ability to stage into a role he’d admired from afar. “I was not when I was 16, but I’m now an overtly gay male, and I have my possess ordeals that relate to the character,” Harwood shares. “I wished to have [Campbell’s] essence through, and then pour some of myself into it.”

With Butterell behind the digital camera, as well as Jamie’s composer Dan Gillespie Sells and lyricist Tom MacRae on set for assistance, Harwood felt emboldened to trust his own instincts. “They allowed me to pull points around and to truly explore the material in a new way. They weren’t rigid, they weren’t inquiring me to do matters that anybody else experienced accomplished right before.” That freedom and belief carried by way of to the musical figures, way too. Harwood suggests his theatrical schooling prepared him, “stamina-smart,” to sing, dance, and act all at the exact same time, but that, “it’s a entire various matter carrying out 12-hour times, seeking to movie at the leading of my amount for nonetheless lots of requires, angle immediately after angle.” He considers himself lucky to have these a support web in the film’s solid and crew who seemed immediately after him by means of each move of the course of action.

But whilst Harwood’s musical track record may have readied the actor for all of the track-and-dance razzle-dazzle of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, absolutely nothing could’ve well prepared him for his drag debut—not even years of Drag Race fandom. Harwood’s original pleasure about seeing himself in drag for the 1st time immediately gave way to an anxiousness. As the character Jamie arrives to comprehend, drag is additional than a costume it’s an art form steeped in queer history, in activism. That heritage weighed seriously on Harwood, much too: “Drag is a form of armor, and an extension of yourself.” This was not a instant he desired to consider flippantly. Butterell remembers the actor’s nerves when filming Jamie’s transformation into “baby queen” Mimi Me, and was thrilled to seize the authenticity of the instant. “Drag is a process,” the director shares, “and even with an awesome makeup artist, in individuals early times it can glance strange! But then the lashes go on, the lips go on, and eventually the wig goes on, and this creature arrives in the most superb way. I could see a minor fierceness get there as [Harwood] seemed at himself in the mirror, and it was remarkable to check out.”

To see Harwood phase out on stage for the very first time as Mimi Me is to witness the depth of the younger actor’s performance: The bravado, the uncertainty, the hope, and the fear—it’s all there on his perfectly conquer face. At that moment, Jamie might not know what his classmates or the relaxation of his hometown will imagine of his efficiency, but he’s specific this is only the beginning of his tale. When Jamie sings about his dream of making it massive, you simply cannot enable but believe that in him—and you will believe the exact of Harwood, much too.

You can view our complete interview with Max Harwood previously mentioned. Everybody’s Conversing About Jamie is now actively playing in choose theaters and streaming on Amazon Primary Video clip.

About the author: Robert Anthony

Writer. Certified organizer. Avid tv scholar. Coffee fanatic. Web nerd. Alcohol maven. Reader. Food advocate.

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