When I catch up with Max Harwood over Zoom, he’s about to celebrate his 24th birthday.
“So, you’re a Virgo?” I conclude.
“Oh my God, yes, I’m SUCH a Virgo,” Max gushes. Based on my limited understanding of the Zodiac, I know this means he’s logical, hardworking, and extremely diligent in the pursuit of his goals.
Max’s Virgo tendencies definitely came in handy as he prepared for his breakout role as Jamie in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” a coming-of-age musical comedy-drama about a 16-year-old boy who dreams of becoming a drag queen, streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
The film centers on Jamie New as he turns his teenage daydream of singing, performing, and strutting the catwalk into reality. It’s an adaptation of the popular West End musical of the same name, which is based on the life of Jamie Campbell, who dove headfirst into the world of drag when he was just a teenager growing up in Durham, England.
The film is a fairly accurate representation of the circumstances Jamie Campbell endured in order to become his authentic self, including facing school bullies and an unsupportive father. With the help of his best friend, Pritti (played by Lauren Patel) and mom (Sarah Lancashire), Jamie in the film learns to ignore those who try to rain on his parade. Local drag legend Miss Loco Chanelle (Richard E. Grant) acts as a mentor to Jamie, helping him step into the light and fulfill his drag queen dreams
We caught up with Max Harwood to discuss the making of the film “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” what everyone can learn from drag queens, and the skincare products he can’t live without.
On becoming Jamie in “Everybody Talk About Jamie”
Despite his starring role in the film, Max tells me he didn’t necessarily dream of stardom in the same way his character Jamie does.
“I know that sounds really silly,” he admits. “I definitely am a creative person and I wanted to be creative when I grew up, but didn’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight.”
Unfortunately, both share the experience of dealing with bullies at school, to which Max says he “gave it back as good as I got it.” But he’s careful to articulate in multiple ways just how different Max, the person, and Jamie, the character, are.
Max came out later in life when he was 18-years old, whereas Jamie realized his true identity at a younger age. Max’s parents were one-hundred percent supportive of his coming out, his journey to self-discovery, as well as all of his creative endeavors, whereas Jamie has to contend with harsh criticisms from his father.
“We’re so different, me and Jamie,” Max says. “I think it’s just a testament to how diverse and how different experiences are within the experience of gay people, let alone the experience of people within the LGBTQIA+ community.”
On drag culture and RuPaul’s impact
To channel his inner drag, Max turned to none other than the queens who may have started as local legends in their hometown clubs, but thanks to a little show “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” became overnight cultural sensations.
“I leaned on Shea Couleé, Sasha Velour, Aquaria – the queens that are really fierce and strong. Although Jamie [may be] scared on the inside, I wanted the exterior to be sharp and fierce on the outside, especially the look and the performance.”
It’s at this point that we both take a moment to recognize the icon that is RuPaul for bringing the artistry of drag culture to the masses, for creating a platform for every type of drag to come together and be seen. Without RuPaul, there would be no Shea Couleé, Sasha Velour, or Aquaria. Most importantly for Max, there would be no Jamie Campbell.
“It’s important that we know the shoulders that we’re standing on,” says Max. “And RuPaul is one of those people. An icon. Legend.”
As much as people love the jaw-dropping looks and over-the-top personalities of some of these queens, drag culture is so much more than what’s on the glittery surface.
“They have the confessionals that document their process on the show, and they open up about their experiences in their life, [like] Trinity K. Bonet coming out about her battle with HIV. It makes those conversations easier to have with people and in our community, which is so fantastic. That’s why it’s more than just a TV show.”
On his skincare routine
As we wrapped up our interview, I couldn’t let Max go without getting ALL the details on his favorite skincare products, which are an integral part of his everyday routine.
“I think skincare is so important, not only for your skin and the health of your skin, but for your mental health,” says Max. “Skincare is so therapeutic for me. It helps me unwind from the day and gets me ready for the day ahead.”
Max’s favorite cleanser at the moment is the Selfless by Hyram Centella & Green Tea Hydrating Gel Cleanser ($20), because it isn’t too harsh on the skin. After cleansing, he uses The INKEY List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum ($8), and then follows up with The INKEY List Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner ($11). Finally, he uses Youth To The People Superfood Air-Whip Moisturizer ($48) to seal in all the skincare goodness from those previous steps.
Aside from his regular routine, Max may experiment with eye patches and face masks from 111 Skin, but overall he doesn’t really like too much fragrance in his skincare routine.
“I like to keep it simple,” says Max. “It can just be really fun and also really helpful to make your skin look nice and make you feel good about yourself.”
On going bleach blonde in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”
Max underwent a serious makeover to portray Jamie, completely dying his naturally brown hair bleach blonde. When I asked him which one he preferred, Max hesitated for a moment before answering.
“I enjoyed being blonde for the film, and I will hopefully enjoy going many different colors of hair during my career, but I’m very, very happy with the current health and length of my brunette hair two years after I bleached it to death,” says Max. “It’s now back to life.”
Before I can even ask him how he brought his hair back from the dead, Max anticipates my question and responds, “You must, must, MUST use Olaplex. Shampoos, conditioners, the treatments, you have to use them.”
On his advice to LGBTQ+ youth
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” is a film for everyone of all ages, and its message of authenticity, joy, and acceptance will resonate with every single person that watches it. But most importantly, it’s about the story of someone who has the courage to live as himself.
“My advice to any young person is to listen to the people around you that love you,” says Max. “Don’t go after changing or pleasing the opinions of people that aren’t on your side. If you open yourself up to the love that people do give you, then you can step more bravely into places in your life being surrounded by people you love.”
For Max, playing the role of Jamie has been an eye-opening experience not only as an actor, but as a fan of drag. Watching drag and actually doing drag are two very different things, but through Max’s Virgo-like methodical approach to learning, he expertly crafts a sensitive-yet-fierce character that is both an homage to the real-life Jamie Campbell and something completely of his own creation.
Although it may seem intimidating at the start, this process is what makes Max excited as an actor, and it’s what he recommends for others who are on a similar creative journey.
“Immerse yourself in the worlds you want to be in,” Max says. “And in turn, people will find you, and you’ll find your people through doing things that you love as well.”