Max Harwood Is A Hit (And You Don't Even Know It)

Max Harwood Is A Hit (And You Don't Even Know It)

By Alex Gonzalez

In the new movie-musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, 16-year-old Jamie New dreams of a lifelong career as a drag queen. While he’s not sure of his post-school path, he is aware his journey will be fierce and sensational. That could likewise describe the path of star Max Harwood, who responded to an online casting call for the role of Jamie on his own (he didn’t have an agent at the time). To make for the role, he familiarized himself with the real-life story of Jamie Campbell, on whom the film and its original stage adaptation are based.

“I watched the documentary [Jamie: Drag Queen at 16] and while in my audition process, I was making the choice to anchor my efficiency in his essence and energy,” Harwood tells MTV News.

That energy is on full display in the film, streaming today (September 17) on Amazon Prime Video Its description might propose its a regular queer coming-of-age story, although Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is far from it. While Jamie does face the hurdles of bullies, an absent father, as well as a discouraging school administration, he is aware what he wants, and he’s not afraid to go soon after it — making his tale more about boldly creating his own destiny.

Throughout the film, Jamie fights for his right to wear a dress to the school prom, despite the stern objections of his teacher Miss Hedge (Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan) along with a bully named Dean Paxton (Samuel Bottomley). Any time we meet with Harwood at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas while in a stop on the film’s press tour, he has traded the dress for a robust lavender Paul Smith suit along with a pair of bright pink Manolo Blahnik Oxfords. His personality is similarly as eye catching as that of his onscreen debut character. “Hi, MTV! Welcome to my Crib,” he says as we exchange introductions.

Harwood, 23, grew up in a town called Basingstoke in Hampshire, England, which he says is “nothing like Sheffield,” the Northern industrial city where the film takes place. As a child, he grew up on movie musicals like Annie, Oliver, and The Wizard of Oz, and he would sing show tunes around the home. His love of theatrics stuck with him a teenager, any time as soon as he worked at a cinema and would “steal posters of Jennifer Lawrence” and keep them in his room.

In the film, by the time Jamie is 16, he is out, overjoyed, and unabashedly expressive, and yet Harwood is identically as radiant, he says his journey was a little bit different.

“It took me a little longer in my life to get to a stage where I was comfortable with my sexuality,” Harwood says. “But my head was certainly routinely out of the classroom and my imagination is very vibrant, much like Jamie's,” often daydreaming of taking the stage; although as an actor, not a drag performer.

While in filming, which took place before the pandemic Sheffield, Harwood worked closely with the real Jamie Campbell to bring his story to the screen. If he had seen Campbell’s documentary, and also because the stage adaptation, Harwood felt it was essential to portray Campbell as sensitively as possible. It helped that Campbell was present on set while in much of the filming process.

“He was very open and straightforward and generous with his time,” Harwood says. “It really made the process far less daunting. Often or not, the people that these stories are inspired by are not alive or [not] around to be involved. So I felt really grateful.”

Although Harwood is a fan of the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise, he had never put on wigs or makeup before filming Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. He says the method of becoming  Jamie’s drag person Mimi Me took two hours.

Even more elaborate were some of the dance numbers, which incorporated complex, precise choreography. For “Work of Art,” a song in which Jamie announces he’ll be introducing Mimi Me at a nightclub called Legs Eleven, Jamie and the students and employees in his school perform in countless costumes, which, in the film adaptation, change instantaneously, à la Beyoncé in the “Freakum Dress” video.

“There were marks on the floor [indicating where we required to step],” Harwood says. “The hair had to be precise, and everything was so tough due to the specificity and the technical characteristic of producing those shots. It's that balance between being an actor and being a technician within your acting. It was a big learning curve for me, although I really enjoyed watching the outcome in the end.”

While in the film, Jamie gets by with support from companions and close family member. He has his mother (Sarah Lancashire), who gifts him a pair of shiny red heels for his birthday; Ray (Shona Gulati), a friend who sits with them any time called to a meeting at Jamie’s school; and his best friend, Pritti Pasha (Lauren Patel), who supports Jamie in all of his drag-related endeavors.

Pritti assists the Jamie put on makeup at school and stands in back of him in his choice to wear a dress to prom, even once Miss Hedge expresses disdain. While Jamie and Pritti come of age on-screen, traveling and promoting the film has made for new adventures for Harwood and Patel.

“We started this weird journey with each other, plus it was a really unconventional process for us both, being our first time [onscreen],” Harwood says. “We’ve right now flown across the world with each other. It's just really lovely that, immediately after two years, we still click and still really get along. Any time As soon as I first met Lauren and I read with her for the initial time, I'd already got the job. And I really admired Lauren. I met loads of great actors, however I really really admired Lauren. And I remember staring across the room like, ‘You've got this,’ because we just really bounced off of each other. We're so similar in several ways.”

Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
Before arriving in Dallas, Harwood, Patel, and director Johnathan Butterell had just premiered Everybody’s Talking About Jamie  at the Outfest LGBTQ+ film festival in Los Angeles to a star-studded audience, which included 9-1-1: Lone Star’s Ronen Rubinstein and Good Trouble’s Sherry Cola.

It was Harwood’s first time in L.A., Where he enjoyed healthy bites at Sweetgreen and got close to his idol, Judy Garland, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where Outfest L.A. Contained its initial gala.

“It was honestly like a dream come true for me, to have my film played once Judy Garland is buried,” Harwood says. “Which sounds peculiar, although The Wizard of Oz was such a large movie for me growing up, and seeing those good sparkly red shoes from The Wizard of Oz being projected years on as Jamie sparkly red shoes felt magical.”

Harwood may just be getting began, nevertheless he hopes that as Jamie and as himself, he can inspire younger queer people to be unapologetically themselves and survive with authenticity. Like his character, Harwood credits the companions and family member around him for encouraging him to express himself and live freely.

“I had a hugely positive coming-out experience,” Harwood says, “But I realize that's not everyone's story. However I hope in hearing that there really are positive coming-out stories, people will visualize this and not be afraid, and visualize that they can share that segment of their lives.”

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