Born and raised in New York City, actor Max Jenkins is a star on the rise. Currently starring as Max Carnegie on NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura” alongside Debra Messing, he has also appeared on “30 Rock,” “Gossip Girl,” and “Anderson.” He has a recurring role in Vimeo’s acclaimed web series “High Maintenance,” and has worked onstage at the Classic Stage Company, New York Theatre Workshop, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, among others.
This new year proves to be another exciting one as Jenkins co-stars next in “Fort Tilden,” which won the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW Film 2014. He will also be seen on the highly anticipated third season of “Orange Is the New Black.”
BELLA sat down with this funny and talented actor to get the inside scoop on the real Max Jenkins…
How would you describe yourself in three sentences or less?
Crown prince of the Upper West Side. More Parker Posey than Chloë Sevigny. I keep a list of the best cookies in town, which I am constantly updating.
Favorite part of NYC?
The South Village makes me happy. It’s actually kind of west of SoHo, which is confusing. I love it. It feels wide open, like you can stretch out. I’m very unlikely to run into anyone I know. There’s a restaurant called Giorgione, which belongs to Giorgio DeLuca of Dean & DeLuca. My dad was the first employee at Dean & DeLuca in the 70s, which gives me absolutely no pull at all at Giorgione. But Giorgio is very good at pretending he knows who I am, and he serves wonderful pizza and meatballs and fava bean salad and icy martinis. It’s important to find a neighborhood joint that you can rely on, you know?
When did you know you wanted to become an actor?
Is it everything you thought it would be? It’s the only thing I’ve ever cared about. I’m so excited and grateful to have a job; I’m just sort of perpetually shocked by it. It’s kind of exhausting to exist in an extended state of disbelief, but at the same time I hope the sensation never goes away.
In preschool I was more focused on directing. I was a tiny dictator who forced my classmates to do a scene from “Matilda” – the one where Miss Trunchbull orders her to enter the Jabberwocky. I’d also make them enact scenes from my favorite cartoon show, “The Snorks.” This tyrannical streak has served me well in my acting, I think. I hold my work to a high standard.
You have worked with some great actors in your career– any favorites or special memories?
The other day Debra Messing told me she considers me a gift in her life and I went back
to my dressing room and cried a little. I’m learning how to be a professional from her. Also, I recently worked with Eric McCormack and he was just the kindest gentleman and told me tales of when he starred on Broadway. He said something like, “You’re going to love Broadway,” as though it was only a matter of time before I achieved that goal, and I thought it was so sweet that he put it that way.
I remember once I was on “30 Rock” and Alec Baldwin was ignoring me, and I wanted desperately to talk to him, and then we did the scene a few times and suddenly we were buds. It’s nice to remember that focusing on making a great TV show can bond people in a different way than if they were just chatting.
Do you have a favorite character?
My character in “High Maintenance.” He’s simply the foulest garbage I’ve had the privilege to play. Foul garbage sort of feels like my secret truth. It’s very satisfying when I can show that side of myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on that show again soon.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Getting a TV show before turning 30. I’m so proud I could weep. I’ve become a monster lately when it comes to my birthday – I’m normally allergic to any trace of sentimentality, but I really want to “honor”” the year I’ve had in some elegant, ceremonial way. Any ideas? I went to Joshua Tree National Park with my best friend for New Year’s and
I really wanted to like, light a candle in the desert or something. But it was too windy and cold. It was snowing and I was wearing shorts and the other hikers were pointing at my quivering calves and laughing uproariously.
Aside from the TV show, I’m very proud that I have begun to respect myself in a deeper way, which I think is the most important lesson one can learn as a young person. I think the moment you stop caring what people think of you so much is the moment you become an adult, and I’m thrilled that I experienced that shift a little bit this year.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
My mom gives me consistently mind-blowing advice on a daily basis. It makes me nervous for when I don’t live with her anymore (yes, I live with my mom!). She teaches me how to live, basically. It’s because of her that I know to put vinegar on my salad first and then olive oil; she taught me how to make the butterfly bandages really tight when I sliced my hand while trying to cut a bagel, so my scar would be cute and thin. She’s in the kitchen and she just called out some advice, something about I think mortgage rates, but I’m in another room doing something else and not entirely listening. But I bet it was razor sharp.
How do you balance your personal life and career?
I’ve decided to work on my career first. Then, when I have some time later on, I’ll check out the personal life thing, if possible. This is sort of a joke, but not really.
Actually, I’m fortunate to have a few days off every now and then, because I’m not a detective like the other regular cast members. Debra, Laz [Alonso], Janina [Gavankar], Meg [Steedle], and Josh [Lucas] all go out on missions, and I tend to not. My character, Max Carnegie, doesn’t have a badge or a gun or any abilities, really, aside from Googling stuff. But he’s exceedingly good at that. Anyway, while the others are investigating murder cases around New York and chasing perps across rooftops, I’m having champagne with my friends downtown. (I don’t actually do this, but isn’t it pretty to think so?)
How do you spend your time when you are not working?
Cruising cute boys at McNally Jackson bookstore. Group texting self-portraits to my friends (they do not respond). Driving up to Millerton, NY to enjoy burgers at Oakhurst Diner and Manna Dew. I’m obsessed with that upper corner of New York State, and up into the Berkshires. It’s the most beautiful part of the whole country, I think. I steal the family Subaru and drive up and explore and listen to mix CDs that I’ve hastily burned for myself before leaving Manhattan. That way I can enjoy a healthy blend of musical theatre and confessional 90’s indie rock.
What advice would you offer up-and-coming actors looking for their “big break”?
When I got brave enough to show the most secret and embarrassing parts of myself, I started getting jobs. It took me so long to realize how to do this in auditions, and even longer to put it into practice. But for me, it was the key to success. They want to see the weird parts of you – the parts that you perhaps don’t like to reveal. And the more I’ve opened up these hidden parts of myself in auditions, the more I’ve come to love them and embrace them. So it works out for everybody.