ACTOR MAXWELL JENKINS IS MAKING HIS MARK!
At just 17 he’s already racked up some pretty MAJOR career credits! From huge hits like Sense8, starring opposite powerhouses like Mark Wahlberg & Nicholas Cage, to seamlessly reviving the iconic role of ‘Will Robinson’ on Netflix’s ‘Lost In Space’ readaptation! Maxwell Jenkins is UNDENIABLY making his mark! No stranger to the spotlight, the Chicago native has been wowing audiences since age 3, beginning his journey as a part of his family’s now legendary Chicago based CIRCUS!! While acting appears a primary talent, many would be surprised to know that the young star is also an avid musician (playing mandolin, guitar, bass guitar, violin, drums) AND a highly skilled acrobat! With the world at his fingertips & a lifetime of talent to tow, we’re sure it’s only the beginning of us witnessing the rise of a megastar in the making! We were lucky enough to chat with the multifaceted young entertainer as he continues his ascension. Transitioning from child talent to adult actor, we talked everything from Ferraris, flying through the air & the hindsight gratitude of fiercely protecting his childhood!
SO GROWING UP IN A CIRCUS!!… IS IT A 10/10 ‘WOULD RECOMMEND’ YELP REVIEW? TELL US ALL ABOUT IT? WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE? …WHAT WOULD WE BE SURPRISED TO KNOW?
It absolutely is a 10/10. I grew up around people from all over the world; to me, they were real-life superheroes. They could fly through the air or defy gravity or seemingly make multiple objects float in the air all at once. Our rehearsal studio is right behind our house, so as a kid, I would race home to see people flying over the fence line! I couldn’t wait to get into the studio and learn and watch.
Circus people are also the most disciplined, hard-working, and generous people I have ever come across. So of course I wanted to be just like them, and they were always willing to share their knowledge with me. I am super lucky and so grateful to them all. Growing up in a circus also made the world seem a bit smaller to me. I worked alongside people from France, Russia, Mongolia, China, Australia, Canada, and Africa. I knew the world was a big place, but it somehow seemed more manageable to me because I had friends and chosen family in all those places.
Circus has given me so much. Growing up in a circus has broadened my worldview, it’s given me a great work ethic, it’s given me a belief in myself and my abilities that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to as long as I work hard. Growing up in a circus has probably had the biggest influence on who I am today as an actor, student and human being. I highly recommend it! Yeah… 10/10!
YOU’LL BE TURNING 18 THIS MAY! ANY BIG PLANS FOR THIS 'BIG' BIRTHDAY?
I don’t have a plan yet. I’m not a great planner lol. Growing up, my parents would throw these outrageous parties for my sister and my birthdays. They would call mine Maxfest, and the entire neighborhood and all my friends and family would be there. So as I got older, I kind of started wanting a more low-key celebration. In an ideal world, this year, if all goes well, I’d like to head to Miami with my family for the Formula 1 race. I love Formula 1. I went to the Canadian Grand Prix last year with my parents and it was incredible. But likely because it’s during AP exam time, I’ll have to gather some friends and go go-carting which would be a lot of fun.
BUTTON DOWN SHIRT, PANTS: DOLCE & GABBANA BRACELET & NECKLACE: DAVID YURMAN
HOW HAS NEWFOUND FAME/NOTORIETY IMPACTED YOUR LIFE? WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU THE VERY FIRST TIME YOU WERE “NOTICED” IN PUBLIC?
You know, I’ve been really fortunate because I live in Chicago. Chicago is a really down-to-earth place. I go to a public school with 5000 kids. There are lots of kids at my school who do incredible things… elite-level athletes…musicians…we even master chess players. People are really nice and supportive, but they don’t really treat me differently. I’m glad about that. So it hasn’t really impacted my life in a negative way. I think also, because I literally grew up on Netflix, by the time a new season would drop, I already looked so different than what we had filmed, a lot of times people didn’t connect me with the character. That brought me some anonymity which was really great. But also, when people do recognize me, they are all really respectful. Maybe because I was so young when I started? I don’t know, but I have always loved meeting fans of my work. A lot of them are sci-fi fans, and I am a huge sci-fi fan so I can totally relate to them.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW SEASON OF ‘DEAR EDWARD’ & WHAT IT’S BEEN LIKE TRANSITIONING FROM A SHOW WITH WILD LOCATIONS LIKE LOST IN SPACE TO ALL OF YOUR PROJECTS THEREAFTER?
I mean, Lost in Space prepared me for anything really. The locations were insane- tops of glaciers in British Columbia, black sand beaches in Iceland at sunrise, and the badlands of Alberta where finding dinosaur bones is an everyday occurrence. But it was also an intimate location on Jupiter 2 - our space home. Having the opportunity to film Dear Edward in New York City was an experience I will never forget. It was pretty epic. New York is loud and iconic and incredibly diverse. I love New Yorkers because they will let you know where you stand, but they are also kind and hard-working… real people. I appreciated that. It was a huge honor to be part of Dear Edward. I really love the series and it was a perfect follow-up to Lost in Space for me. It’s a beautiful show with an important message of resilience and hope. We need more stories like this right now especially. And being able to work with Jason Katims was something I will never forget. I am a huge Friday Night Lights fan. He’s an absolute legend and it’s well deserved because he really knows how to tell a story. I am proud to be a part of the series. It has allowed me to transition from being a little kid on a show to tackling older material.
"I'D HAVE THE REST OF MY LIFE TO HAVE A CAREER, BUT I'D ONLY GET THIS FINITE AMOUNT OF TIME TO HAVE A CHILDHOOD!"
WHAT LED YOU TO THE ART OF ACTING?
I actually got into acting by accident. My parents were performers and for that reason, they weren’t too excited to have their kids in the business. After passing on several auditions, my mom brought me to an interview, and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Los Angeles for a screen test. It kind of took off from there. I booked a series in Chicago with James Cromwell and Henry Thomas (who was an idol for me as I was a huge ET fan). From there, the Wachowskis cast me in Sense8 for Netflix. At that time, I didn’t even have headshots and had never taken an acting class. I got really lucky because I was fortunate to work on really incredible projects over the years with incredibly talented and generous people and I got to learn on the job. And of course, when I was cast in Lost in Space, my whole life changed. I am super lucky that Zack Estrin, our showrunner, prioritized protecting my childhood during that time. He expected a lot from me, but also never forgot that I was a kid with a family and he really invited us all into the process. But I think I am most grateful for the parameters my parents put on my involvement in the industry. When I booked Lost in Space at 11 years old, we had a serious talk about my career and made sure it didn’t become the only thing I did. They said, I'd have the rest of my life to have a career, but I'd only get this finite amount of time to have a childhood! So from then on we measured every opportunity with the question, “Will this project enhance my childhood?” This has allowed me to have a really well-rounded upbringing and now that I am turning 18, I am really grateful for that.
LANDING INCREDIBLE ROLES ASIDE, HOW HAS THE ENTIRE JOURNEY BEEN FOR YOU SO FAR?
I’ve been really lucky. You always hear stories about how the acting world can be harsh, but I’ve worked on a wide array of projects in incredible places all over the world with amazing people. I mean, who can ask for more than that? I’ve learned so much and not just about the industry. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what my priorities are. It’s been a really full journey and I have never had a bad experience. I’m grateful.
LEATHER TRENCH COAT: RED SEPTEMBER. SWEATER: CELINE
PANTS: DOLCE AND GABBANA
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE ANYONE (ESPECIALLY SOMEONE STARTING @ YOUR AGE) ABOUT ACTING AS BOTH AN ART FORM & A BUSINESS?
So art and business are so often at odds with each other, right?! I guess if I was giving advice on the art form, I would say that acting is like being the best version of a person you can be by that I mean staying present. Truly being in the moment is hard but essential for acting. Practice that. I watch my rescued pit bulls and they are always living in the moment I try to stay that way in life and in art. It’s not easy. I would also say that acting is more about listening than anything else. This is another great skill in life. Practice truly listening. In terms of business advice, I would have to say that the industry is really about relationships. As a kid, I used to be so sad when a job would end. I would truly be devastated, and so my parents would remind me that the job always ends, but the relationships continue. That’s some of the best business advice I’ve ever gotten because you don’t have control over a job ending, but you have absolute control over cultivating the relationships you made on that job. I would also have to say that in terms of the business, don’t be afraid of the word no. My manager once told me that a career is built on the projects you say no to… I think this advice is incredible because it reminds us to stay true to our values.
IF YOUR 26-YEAR-OLD SELF WERE TO READ THIS ARTICLE YEARS FROM NOW… WHAT’S A MESSAGE YOU’D WANT TO SEND TO HIM?
I’d like to say that I hope you are still learning even though you’re not in school anymore, I hope you’ve stayed curious and motivated, and I’d like to ask what it was like to finally produce and act in the film version of that novel you wanted to develop ever since the 7th grade.
SUIT, SHIRT, TIE & BROOCH: DOLCE AND GABBANA, GLOVES: SERMONETA SHOES: PRADA
ARE YOU ABLE TO TELL US ANYTHING YET ABOUT ‘SAND & STONES’ WITH NICHOLAS CAGE? :)
I can’t say much, other than it’s an action-packed survival-thriller about a father (Nicholas Cage) and his twin sons (me and Jaeden Martell). I can say that it’s the most intense, fast-paced, transformative project I have worked on to date. I am so excited for people to see what we created. We filmed in Ireland and I fell in love with the country and its people. The crew was absolutely incredible. Working with Ben Brewer, the director, was an adventure. He’s so unbelievably talented. He can do everything, and he knows what he wants from a scene and he is able to accomplish it without compromise. The cast was beyond special. I learned a lot from working with Nic and watching him work. He’s so committed to every moment, he really brings out the best in his scene partners. I also had the chance to work with Jaeden Martell who I have always admired. Now I get to call him a friend too. That’s the best part of it all.
MANY OF US MET YOU ON 'LOST IN SPACE', WERE YOU AWARE OF THE LEGACY OF THAT SHOW & THE BIG ROLE YOU WERE FILLING AS 'WILL ROBINSON'?
I was aware of the legacy of Lost in Space and I knew going in that I had huge shoes to fill. Bill Mumy is a legend and he was so beloved for his Will Robinson. One of the best parts about getting to play that role was getting to know Bill. We bonded over comic books and Pete Seeger, and from there, forged a really important relationship. He was so generous in passing the torch to me. There was no Will Robinson without Bill Mumy. He was so supportive of me and for that, I will forever be grateful. We actually got to spend a lot of time with the original cast because our executive producer, Kevin Burns, was really so protective of the Lost in Space legacy. I think because we were so aware of the legacy, we were able to pay homage to the original while at the same time making our own version. I am really proud of Lost in Space. I always will be.
YOUR SHOTS WITH THE INCREDIBLE BEN COPE FOR OUR COVER ARE MODEL-LEVEL AMAZING! WE’D GUESS THAT BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR YOU’LL BE INVITED TO WALK IN MAJOR MEN’S FASHION WEEK SHOWS LIKE MANY OF YOUR PEERS! IS MODELING ON YOUR RADAR OF GOALS AT ALL?
First of all, Ben Cope is an incredible photographer. He really creates a space where I can be free to express myself through the photos. I love shooting with him. In terms of modeling, I definitely wouldn’t say no! I am more drawn to acting but I love the freedom I feel in front of the camera without a script. Maybe that’s my circus background. It would absolutely be on my radar of goals to walk in Men’s Fashion Week! I am a huge fan of fashion. I love the creativity and spectacle. I’ve been so lucky to work with Enrique Melendez since I was 12 and he has really helped me to cultivate a personal style and shaped my tastes. And if I’m going to be perfectly honest, when it comes to fashion, I always check with my sister Sam, she’s the ultimate authority in our house.
WHAT’S YOUR DREAM ROLE MAXWELL? & DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER HIDDEN TALENTS YOUR FANS WOULD BE SURPRISED TO KNOW?
I’m not sure there is ONE dream role. There are so many roles I would love to play. But there is a film I’d love to see made, and that’s the story of Michael Schumacher. I’d love to play him. He’s not only one of the world’s greatest athletes, but he’s also an incredible humanitarian. And as for hidden talents, I think I am a pretty open book. Circus acrobat, actor, snowboarder, and skateboarder. I like to share all that I do beyond acting. However, if there is anything people don’t know about me, it’s that I am a competitive cheerleader! Because of my background in the circus, it was a very natural transition and I have loved learning a different side of performing. I hope to continue it in college.
LASTLY, OUR STAPLE QUESTION. OVER THE YEARS THE ANSWERS HAVE BEEN EVERYTHING FROM A THOUGHT, A THING, A FAVORITE OR A FEELING…..MAXWELL JENKINS….WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF LUXURY?
Luxury is a Ferrari 812 Superfast. It’s also spending the entire day on a warm beach with nowhere to be and nothing to do except chill with my rescued pit bulls Rickie, Bobbie and Rosie Rae!