Words: Alastair James; pictures: Olivia Richardson and Amazon Studios
He’s a hit and he probably knows it! Max Harwood’s cinematic debut as the charismatic and daring Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has firmly launched the young actor’s career.
“If any role was going to break me through, it was going to be one where I showcased lots of things that I can do. It’s an important story as well, so I’m glad it’s been received the way it has,” he tells the Attitude Awards issue, out now to download and to order globally.
The 24-year-old scored the title role in the Jonathan Butterell film after flouting his drama school’s rules and auditioning when he should have been in class. However, much like his character, Max’s rebellious streak got him exactly where he wanted to be.
And he has no regrets.
The Attitude Awards issue is out now to download and to order globally. Max wears top by Marni, trousers by Louis Vuitton, jacket (over the shoulder) by Emporio Armani (Photography: Olivia Richardson; Fashion: Joseph Kocharian; Professional fashion assistant: Sacha Dance; Hair and Grooming: Nadia Altinbas at The Only Agency using Wahl Pro UK, Tom Ford, Bumble & Bumble)
“I was always going to do that. As much as I loved my time at drama school, I didn’t love it. I absolutely had to find my love for this again and the only way I was going to do that was [by] breaking the mould and finding it somewhere else.”
The film is based on Tom MacRae’s 2017 stage show, which was itself inspired by the 2011 documentary, Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, directed by Jenny Popplewell. It tells the story of Jamie New, a 16-year-old boy set on becoming a drag queen who has to overcome his closed-minded classmates and teachers.
The rising star opened up about his own experiences of feeling “othered” at school when appearing on the cover of Attitude in March 2021. But the role, he says, has helped him find himself more.
“I’ve definitely stepped into myself more boldly and with less apology in the past year", he says.
"I feel like I poured so much of myself into this, and it was such a learning experience. It was a given I was going to come away topped up in terms of self-confidence and the internalised homophobia I grew up [with] has definitely diminished hugely.”
Naturally, the up-and-comer has been flooded with messages from people seeing themselves represented on screen. One of those, filmed at a viewing of the film ahead of its release at the Oracle Park Stadium in San Francisco, has stood out in particular.
“There was a trans person whose name was Jamie, and they said the bit that really touched them was when Priti’s character says there’s a name like Jamie in Arabic: Jamil, which means ‘beautiful’.
"They said it was nice to see their name being described as beautiful because they’d chosen that name for themselves. It was touching to see someone could relate to such specific lines.
Max Harwood in Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Photo: Amazon Studios)
"It really hit me that this is a film that is telling queer people that you’re valid and beautiful.
"We made this film in a glass factory in Goldthorpe[Yorkshire], so it feels very surreal for people to be receiving it all over the world and finding things they can relate to; which is important, because as much as it’s a queer story, there’s a universal message in it as well about anyone — whoever you are, wherever you are — feeling like you can step into who you are without fear and prejudice. Anyone can relate to that."
The only way is up for the young actor, whose next project he describes as a “folk-thriller- horror about an isolated religious community in the North York Moors” (definitely not like Jamie, then!).
But for now, he’s content to enjoy the moment, which he says still feels like a dream. Too right — bravo, Max!
The Attitude Awards issue is out now.