Upon introduction, it is hard not to get caught up in the fast-paced world of Max Schneider. Quickly approaching the eve of his 21st birthday, Max’s entire 5’7” frame seems to continuously vibrate with an energy for all things entertainment. A YouTube performer, singer, songwriter, actor and model, Max started in the entertainment world at the age of 16, receiving his big break when he was cast as Zander Robbins in the Nickelodeon show “How to Rock.”
From there, Max has acted in numerous Nickelodeon shows, landed guest roles on television series such as “Law and Order SVU,” modeled alongside Madonna for Dolce and Gabbana and developed a devoted YouTube following which he has named “Schneidermonkeys.” And when others lecture him that someday he’ll have to choose between music and acting, Max laughingly responds: “Why?” As he puts it, “I have one life to live. I want to do all these things and give it my all.”
With an acting resume that reads 10 pages long, Max comes across at moments as far more mature than his age. But sitting atop his cast chair from his Nickelodeon days, feet dangling as he animatedly shared stories about his best friend-turned-girlfriend and zip-lining dates, Max seems like any other young man who enjoys going on late night adventures with his friends. Today, Max dropped the first single “Nothing Without Love,” a preview of his debut album that will drop in August. Following the release of the album, he will be moving to Chicago to film the new NBC show “Crisis.” Sitting in his recording studio, Max talked about his dream of owning a talking monkey, what YouTube has given him that television can’t and why he refuses to choose between film and music.
For interview in video format, please go to last page.
What does a typical week look like for you?
Max Schneider: I would say it involves a lot of music making, singing and dancing and making videos and figuring out new concepts for videos, and then I do a lot of auditions for acting stuff, and sometimes I’m shooting something, sometimes I’m not. And then on my free time I try to do random things with my friends like going bowling or going skydiving, something like that. Try to switch it up.
If you had a completely free day, what would you want to fill it with?
Completely free days always kind of freak me out, ‘cause I’m like, “What do I do?” So I definitely get a good workout in so I feel good for the day, and then I love doing something new on that free day, like whether it’s– I love ziplining. I like making it an adventure day, and then yeah, just getting a good dinner with my friends or something. A nice ending to it all.
Do you get recognized a lot when you’re out and about?
I get recognized a lot, yeah. Depends sort of the place I’m at, and what I love these days — I’ve been really lucky to like work in YouTube stuff and Nickelodeon stuff — so the different people that come up to me sometimes it’s young people like 12 or 13 and sometimes it’s– I was in this Starbucks — I love telling this one — I was in this Starbucks in an airport, and I’m standing there and I’m waiting for the drink, and the guy is like, “Max Schneider,” and I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Wait, you’re Max Schneider. I watch your YouTube,” and I was like, “Word, man.” This guy, like this 35-year-old guy at Starbucks, was like, “Yeah man, keep doing your stuff.” And I left and I just didn’t think that would happen. That kind of stuff happens sometimes; it’s cool.
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Do you feel a different connection with your different groups of fans? Because with YouTube it is really you being you and with television you’re playing another character.
It is definitely different in a lot of ways for sure. I definitely feel like people who watch my YouTube stuff definitely know me in a very genuine sense, but I’ve also been really lucky that a lot of the Nickelodeon stuff I did, I really just played myself with like little different character differences. I did a show called “Beauty and the Beast” where I played this character Jake Riley who is just like the biggest jerk ever, so if I meet people that only saw that — actually my friend had a friend who was like, “I saw him on that show.” I didn’t know if I should talk to him though ‘cause like I didn’t know what he was going to be like, so people like that might think I’m a jerk, so it’s funny to see how different things give you a different portrayal.
How do you think people view you on your YouTube channel?
I don’t know. I hope that they enjoy it for one, and I hope that it makes them happy. That’s my main goal, but I really try to keep it as real as possible. My one thing is I talk a lot; I’m doing it right now, and I try to not really have a filter because I feel like you can tell when things are scripted, and I really want people to get a sense of me in the most genuine way possible.
Have you ever put out a video that you looked back and thought, “Why did I do that?”
[laughs] I’ve definitely put out some videos that I’m like, “Oh man,” especially some old ones. I would say when I first started doing YouTube videos when I wasn’t really into it, 16, 17, I was like super vain. I was looking at the camera, I was like, “Hey guys, how’s it going?” I look back, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, what am I doing?” So things like that and then some videos like even from recent years I look back and I’m like, “Why did I think that was going to be awesome?” But you got to take the risk, and sometimes it’s going to be kind of crazy but you just got to do it ‘cause that brings in new cool stuff.
If someone was to play you in a movie, who would you choose?
Oh man, I would love Joseph Gordon-Levitt to play me. I love him; I think he’s awesome. He’s older than I am, so I don’t know if that would work but if it could work I would love that.
Who would be the leading characters in your movie?
Probably me. I’d probably be in the movie, maybe. My mom and my dad ‘cause they’re awesome, and then my grandma who passed away recently because she was the coolest southern woman who said like hilarious things all the time. A bunch of my good friends, for sure some in New York, some in Los Angeles, and then I feel like there would have to be a talking monkey — somehow we would have to incorporate that. That is not something that is in my life currently but if it could be I think I’d be even happier than I am now. So in the movie world if I could just have a talking monkey pet that would be pretty awesome.
Just to hang out with, yeah.
Just to hang out with and play music. Just do stuff.
Do you think in the next couple of years you will steal a monkey from the zoo and train it to talk to you?
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to steal the monkey from the zoo. I’m not good at stealing things, but if I could, you know, possibly adopt a monkey — I know that’s hard to do but I’ve looked into it, and I’m hoping that that will be a possibility.
I think it’s illegal in California but since you’re moving, I don’t know how Chicago feels about that.
Hey, I don’t know. Chicago might be cool with the monkeys.
And Canada is right up there, and god knows they don’t have any animal laws there.
I could just somehow get a little shack in Canada and have my monkey there and go there all the time, but I’d want a beautiful house for my monkey so I would have to wait. I’d want to invest; I got to take my time just for my monkey. Obviously we’d get together like, “Monkey, what up! I missed you.” I want it to be a perfect name, so right now it’s “Monkey Untitled.”
What projects do you currently have on your plate?
Currently I’ve got my album coming out, “Nothing Without Love,” and I’m really excited for that. I’ve been working on that for about a year and a half now, and the first single is coming out on May 21st and it’s called “Nothing Without Love,” and the rest of the album is going to be coming later in the summer, and with a single here and there before the full album drops. So I’m really pumped for that, and there are even some music videos coming out that might involve monkeys, we’ll see, we’re working on it. And then I just found out that the pilot I did for NBC just got picked up for full series so I’m really pumped for that; it’s called “Crisis,” and it is this action, political thriller where basically I go to this show with the president’s son and a lot of very powerful people’s kids, and we get kidnapped, and they use the kids to manipulate the government through all of these powerful CEOs and the president and all these people, and so it is unlike anything I’ve ever done for sure. And the pilot itself was so intense to shoot, but I’m so excited to get to experience this new kind of show and see where it goes, and aside from that, trying to do other fun YouTube stuff and a lot of music stuff, and we have some very exciting news coming out for YouTube. I’m doing some stuff with Kurt; we’re going to be filming Sunday, which is really exciting, with a special guest for one of our medleys with Victoria, and so we’re pumped for that so a lot of stuff like that.
How have your experiences working in YouTube and traditional media differed?
I love YouTube because YouTube when– my thing is being an actor, being a singer, you never know when things are going to come. And the beautiful thing about YouTube is you make your own and you make your own schedules, you make your own videos, you really get to express yourself and share what you’re doing with people on your time, on your schedule. For me I love being able to control that and know that I can put a video up every week no matter what else is going on, so I think that is the brilliant thing about YouTube is that you’re really giving your content directly to the people that want to see it or anything like that which is amazing, because in traditional media there are so many incredible things you can do that you might not be able to do on YouTube, but it’s not as personable, and I love YouTube because it is very personable like that.
How do you see YouTube fitting into your portfolio? Does it have advantages for you as an actor and are there are disadvantages?
I’d say in a lot of ways there are only advantages, and it’s tough because I realize doing this new show it won’t be as easy for me to put out regular content like I have been with the schedule that there will be, but I’m going to work my hardest to do that. I think there is only advantages because, you know, as long as you don’t give over too much content I think there is the point of really letting people know exactly what is going on with you in that moment like telling them about different things, and I think that can only help. It’s your own PR in a way; you’re telling the public what’s going on, so it’s really great to have that and have that tool and be able to just use it and spread love and magic and stuff.
Do you spread love and magic all the time to people?
I try to spread as much love and magic as possible. Not always successful but when I am, it’s the best feeling in the world. I just say that a lot; I think that’s like– I’m very happy, I like smiling, and so I say random things like that, like love and magic, and I just hope that it makes somebody else smile, and that is why I say it.
That’s so sweet. Who have been your favorite collaborations on YouTube?
I mean, of course Kurt Schneider is like a brother to me. We’re not brothers. We put that out there all the time. Everybody thinks that, but we might as well be. We hang out all the time, we do so much stuff together, he’s definitely one of my favorites. I love Victoria Justice; I love working with her. She is so down to earth and does such great stuff, but recently I’ve done a lot of collaborations with other YouTube people and that’s been really awesome because it’s so cool to combine the worlds. I did one with Megan Nicole recently, and she’s awesome; we had a great time. Alex G we did one recently, and it’s so cool because you bring different parts out of yourself collaborating with different people on YouTube in the same way when I write with other people for songwriting you bring the best out of yourself from someone else writing with you, so it’s very much like that in the collaboration world too.
Now for some real talk: can you give us any YouTube dirt? Things we don’t see on scene — anything about this Kurt Hugo kid for instance. I seriously thought for a long time you and Kurt were related.
It’s so funny ‘cause we met at this shoot for a friend of mine named Avery — we did this iPhone band for her — this was like the first thing I really did with him, and then one of my best friends Dan Karp was in that too. He does a lot of the video stuff for me, plays in my band. We all met as the iPhone band in her video, and I went up to him and I knew him from YouTube stuff, and I was like, “Dude, we have the same last name, like this is crazy. I don’t think we’re related.” And he was like, “Yeah man, that’s nuts.” So that was anticlimactic, but that is how we met, there you go. And it’s also funny because everyone thinks Dan Schneider — he’s this guy who did a lot of Nickelodeon stuff like everything from “All That” to “Drake and Josh” to all those shows — and so everybody thinks that I did Nickelodeon because my dad is Dan Schneider, and funny enough, my dad is Dan Schneider, but it’s a different Dan Schneider so I’m not related to that Dan Schneider. So it is all very confusing, but in the end I’m not related to Rob Schneider; we’re all just sharing that good old Schneider last name and trying to make the most of it.
I had no idea there were so many Schneiders out there.
There is a lot. I had to do my research. I was like, “What other guys are out there with Schneider? I got to know.” And none of us are related, maybe distantly.
So you were just about to tell us about all the YouTube dirt.
Man, talking dirt I don’t know. I can talk some crazy stuff. Kurt, I don’t know if you guys know, but Kurt can play six games of chess at once blindfolded. He’s a genius. He went to Yale, and he’s a brilliant mind, he’s a brilliant musician, and one day, he always says that, he was a chess master as a kid, and we were like, “Alright Kurt, sure you can play.” One time we had a game at my house; there were two games at once. We didn’t want to go full, so let’s try two. Two, him blindfolded, beat both of us, and we played good games too, and he demolished us blindfolded, so that is not very dirty but it is pretty intense, right? I was like, “What!” He’s just full of tricks. He just comes out, and he’s like, “I play harp too,” and I’m like, “Cool, Kurt. Thanks, that’s awesome,” so that’s one.
How does a blindfolded game of chess even work?
See, he knows the board in his head; it is all there, he can see it. And just one board for me, thinking that, and he won’t even look at the piece to move it. He’ll tell someone else, “Can you please move knight to …” and then I tell him what piece I’ve moved, and he keeps going and he beats you, and it really kills you. It really demolishes your confidence, but you’re really impressed because that is awesome. That is a fun fact about Kurt. He is the man. I’m trying to think if there is any other dirt I know.
YouTube hookups? YouTube fights? YouTube bar fights specifically, that is what we’re here for.
Bar fights? I haven’t gone to many bars with YouTubers yet, but it’s my new goal I am trying.
You have one month, and then you’re going to look back and think that was an awful thing to wish for. I never want to go to a bar with a YouTuber again.
[laughs] I have to wait till I’m 21 soon and be like, “YouTubers, it is time to go to the bars.”
Do you have any big plans for your 21st birthday?
You know, right now I’m just trying to do a lot of random stuff. I have not been skydiving yet, and I want to go skydiving on my 21st with some friends, so we’ll see if that happens. I also have this desire to get sumo suits and have a lot of my friends who are over 21 get really drunk and fight in the sumo suits and see what happens there. I think it will be part of a full party scenario, but that’s just something I want to happen at the 21st. I don’t know if I’ll be participating, but you know, it’s a little weird but I love it at the same time.
I don’t even think you need a party for that.
I think you can just have it on the street with two guys, have a video or something.
You’d be Brad Pitt from “Fight Club,” but they are a little bit more protected.
We’ll call it “Sumo Fight Club.” It will be really– not a birthday thing, it’s going to be a weekly thing called “Sumo Fight Club.” Maybe it will be a YouTube series like, “Sumo Fight Club: ‘Your Favorite YouTubers Fighting in Sumo Suits.’” Don’t steal it.
That’s a brilliant idea. Technically you’re moving to Chicago so …
Max Schneider’s idea. I was really planning on the Vegas thing and playing a show. I love playing shows, so if I could play a show on my birthday I would be down for that, but right now it’s up in the air and I’m down for suggestions.
Will this be your first drinking experience?
I don’t drink. Just for random reasons and stuff.
So you’ll have a good time on your 21st. Fun for you, probably more for everyone else.
I don’t even know if I’m going to drink on my 21st. Everyone is like, “You got to drink,” but I just don’t drink, so I’m like, “I don’t think I will.”
Do you hang out with a lot of the same friends you grew up with before fame and fortune?
I do when I go back to New York. I love hanging out with my same friends. It’s tough, like I call them all the time to just check in. When you are living somewhere near you try to keep those people in your heart, but I’ve been really lucky to make some awesome friends out here in L.A., and I hang out with them a lot and try to combine, like I have a New Year’s party every year in New York, and I bring some L.A. friends every year, and it’s awesome to combine the worlds and see where it goes. One of my best friends he goes to a school in Northern California, so I try to visit him sometimes and it’s awesome. It’s important; friends are everything.
Because you became involved in the entertainment world at a very young age, was it ever hard to make friends? Were you ever nervous they would only be interested in you because you were famous?
Yeah. I feel really lucky, because I really started working when I was 16, and I had a lot of friends. I went to a performing arts school for high school, and a lot of my friends they started working when they were 10, 12, and so it was great to be in that environment because it was a school and these different people kind of know what you’re going through, so it was great to be friends with those kinds of people. Growing up in the city it’s so easy to meet people, and I love meeting people and befriending them. I would definitely say as I started working more and meeting more people it became something that I became aware of when I meet people. Sometimes there are disingenuous people out there who will go for that because it’s natural to be into that, and that’s totally cool, but I definitely after a while started to realize who my true friends are and why they’re my friends. Have to stay true to those people.
Was this something that affected you when building romantic relationships as well?
Yeah, sometimes. I was always– but again, I could sort of tell when if I started seeing someone how that was going, if it was because of one reason or another. After a while I started to realize who was dating me for me and who was dating me for that, and I separated the two and stuck with people who were dating me for me.
Are you dating anyone right now?
Yeah, I am dating someone now. She’s cool.
How long have you guys been together?
Not too long. We were best friends for a long time and then started dating very recently, like exclusive dating three months ago. It’s been really cute.
How’d you two originally meet?
Through a friend, and she was there for me through a lot of like crazy stuff, and we’re always super tight. It is the first friend that I’ve ever dated, so it’s been a new experience for both of us, and it’s been really awesome though because she knows me better than anyone else, and I really love that, that’s cool.
Is she from out here?
Yeah, she is from Maryland. She lives in Los Angeles. She dances and is super cool.
Are you nervous about long distance moving across the country?
Yeah, that’s a tough subject. We haven’t talked about it. I was in a long distance relationship for three years. First she lived in Florida and I lived in New York, and then I moved here and she moved to New York for school, so it all kind of got destroyed. It was weird and it was tough, but if you really genuine care about someone then you make it work, and if it gets too hard then part ways but happily.
What is your long distance relationship advice?
I’d say it is all about knowing when you’re going to see each other next for sure. You have to know, even if it’s six months away you have to have that one date and doing cute things when you don’t think it matters, like sending random gifts or sending flowers to her house or whatever it is just on a random day. I think that’s important because when you’re not seeing each other everyday, random things like that remind you why you’re with this one person who might be far away. That’s my advice.
What has been your favorite date you’ve ever been on?
That’s tough. My favorite date … I would say one of my favorite dates was I was seeing a girl, and we went ziplining as like one of our dates. We’d been seeing each other for a while, but we went ziplining and it was super cool. She had never done it, and we went upside down on the zipline, all this crazy stuff, and then we got dinner afterwards, and it was just really cool experiencing like that together ‘cause it’s definitely like, if you go to a good zipline place it is thrilling stuff. It was cool experiencing that with her.
You’re really big into ziplining! But tell us more about the move to Chicago and what your next six months of filming will look like.
The show is super intense, which is awesome, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes next. The pilot keeps you on your toes. It’s intense; there are all these twists and turns, and the cast doesn’t even know where it is going to go, ‘cause everybody is like … I tell people about what the full pilot is — I don’t want to give it away. I tell people about it, and they’re like, “So what’s going to happen next?” And I’m like, “I don’t know! It’s going to be crazy.” I’m excited for that and moving to Chicago. I’ve been there before; I’ve been there like two times, and I have some good friends there and I’m excited. You’ve got to take these opportunities in life; you got to grab them, and you got to go for them, so I’m excited to see what it is like to live in a new city. It is sort of New York-esque, so I can walk around; that is one thing I miss being in L.A. I can’t walk everywhere like in New York, so Chicago is somewhere in the middle where I can walk a lot of places and take the subway and stuff. I’m excited for it; it’s an amazing opportunity, and even though at times you feel like, okay, my whole life is about to change, and what am I going to do about that? You got to just go for it. I’m pumped.
Do you get nervous about change and moving, or is it something that you’re really comfortable with?
I guess I’m comfortable with actually doing it. I have a lot of help from like my family and stuff. The thought of moving, I got to find an apartment, and then I have to figure out where I’m going to go to the gym, and then I’m going to figure out all these different little things, what’s my favorite coffee spot going to be, all those things. In one way it’s daunting, but in another way it’s beautiful. It’s like I’m going to have my new spots, and I’m going to learn to love this city, so I guess for me, I never moved somewhere for this amount of time for a show. I moved to Los Angeles sort of because I knew I was going to live here, but I’ve never moved for six or eight months to a new place for something, so I’m just excited to see what it’s going to be like.
What is your character on the show like?
He is a good guy. Funny enough, one of the other regulars is a girl named Halston Sage who was on my Nickelodeon show “How To Rock,” so it was weird that we both were on this new show, and everyone was like, “Really? That’s crazy.” But in the show I actually have this major crush on her, and my character is the best friend of Dermot Mulroney’s daughter in the show, and we go to this school and we’re both kids that are on scholarship at this school, so our parents aren’t very powerful people — we’re just the scholarship kids in a lot of ways. I’m an artist on it, and that’s so crazy to me too because I’m like, that is the least thing in my forte. I cannot draw anything, like stick figures and that’s it. This character is very visual, and that’s how he expresses himself. He draws Halston in the show and these different things. Basically, I am very internal. His name is Ian, and we get kidnapped. He kind of figures out that this isn’t just about the president’s son — they’re using everybody’s kids because everybody has pretty important parents. It was a really intense role because it was very internal, which I’m not as used to from the “How to Rock” stuff and things like that. It was more about like, “Oh sitcoms, what’s up?” and now this is like I really have to step back and take everything in more, which has been a really amazing experience to try that out and really explore that. That is sort of what Ian’s like.
Were you ever nervous until this point of being stuck in a niche of Nickelodeon kid shows?
I was definitely. People even said when I first started the Nick show, they were like, “Are you scared? What if this show goes for six years and you can’t break out?” And I guess even knowing that, I was like, “I’m excited. It’s a cool show. I’m really excited to do it, and I think that in the end if you can just accept your past and know that I did that and I love that.” I loved everything I’ve done on Nickelodeon, and knowing that, you work hard and you can be your best and hopefully do something new, and that’s just the mentality I’ve had. ’ve like worried in some ways, like maybe I won’t get this role because of that, but otherwise I’m like, if they like me and this work speaks for itself, then hopefully they’ll see past that, and they’ll see that maybe I have a future in doing something more dramatic or doing something in more of their vain of work. That is sort of how I’ve thought about it: let the work speak for itself. If you can do it, you can do it; if you can’t, whatever.
You seem like someone who never really takes a breath but is just constantly in motion.
I sleep a lot, funny enough. Probably why I have energy is that I sleep a lot. Sometimes I sleep too much. Sometimes I’m like, “I have to wake up at 8. I want to sleep till like 12,” and it freaks me out. But I drink coffee too; I like coffee. That contributes to my energy, and I do like moving a lot though. It’s hard for me to relax and like take in my favorite shows. I’m just like sitting out and saying, “Max, you’re going to enjoy this. It’s going to be awesome.”
What are you ultimately working towards?
Honestly, it’s so tough because I get somewhat lectured from people a lot about like, “You want to do music and acting? You have to choose,” and I’m like, “Why do you have to choose?” For me, my philosophy is I got this one life, I want to do these things and give it my all and hopefully be able to do what makes me happy, and I really admire the careers of Justin Timberlake and people like that who, I think Justin Timberlake is like such a nice guy. You can tell he is just a kind person and does it and does anything he wants to do and just gives it his all. People may be like, “Oh, he’s not a Daniel Day-Lewis,” but whatever, he has done great projects and been great in them in my opinion, and then he can get out there and sing and dance and be awesome. That is definitely something I aspire to someday do. In my ideal world if I could do this series and then on a hiatus go on a tour for my album and then come back and do a little movie, that would just be awesome. I hope I can keep working hard and try to make that happen for real.
This will be your debut album coming out in August?
Yeah, so I put out a small EP five years ago, just my first song I ever wrote. This is my first full album, and I think that was a big part of why I wanted to get out there. I was in this label deal, and I was sort of in an option where I couldn’t release music, and it was super important to me to get it out and share it with the people who have been listening, and so I’m so pumped because I’ve been able to do a lot of great covers on YouTube with some great people. I’m excited to show people the original stuff I’ve been working on.
How have you built your fanbase?
My big belief about having fanbases is it’s individual people, and I think that I don’t need to see a number that is 10 million fans or whatever it is if I know that the people that are out there are supporting me and they’re individual people that are into it. That is all I need to know. You have an audience of 500 people; those are individual people watching your show, and it is my belief in having a fanbase, making sure you’re letting everybody know that you’re not talking to 300,000 Twitter followers — you’re talking to 300,000 individual people and giving them that personable vibe when you tweet or talk to them.
Is Madonna one of your fans after you worked with her?
You know, I hope so because she was awesome. That was the most surreal day of my life. I had an incredible time working with Madonna, and I went in — I’d never done really a lot of major modeling stuff before — I was always too short for it, and I’d done some photography stuff, but I met this guy because they wanted to do this piece on actors in New York for this GQ Italy thing, and I was 17 at the time and they wanted someone over 18, but he was like, “I’ll keep you in mind.” A couple weeks later he calls me up and says, “Can you go to this casting right now?” It was right after school, and I was like, “Yeah, okay.” I walked down, and I see it says Dolce and Gabbana, and I’m like, “I’m not going to get this.” They take three Polaroids, I leave. I’m like, “Alright, that was fun,” and I go get a haircut right after. This was a Friday; I get a call on Tuesday from the guy, and he’s like, “Hey Max, check it out. You sort of booked that Madonna thing.” I didn’t know this guy well, and I was like, “No way, this is sketchy. No way did I book that Madonna thing.” He’s like, “You sort of did. This is the deal: So she’s chosen you, but the casting director has chosen another boy, so you’re going to both show up tomorrow and they’re going to look at you and see which one they want to use.” So it was like the most conflicted feeling I’d ever felt. I was like, “What does that mean?” The whole night, like i couldn’t sleep; I was freaking out. I get to the set — craziest set I’ve ever seen — like black walls barricaded around this church, crazy men in black security like guarding the doors. I was like, “This is crazy.” I walk up to this guy, and I’m like, “Hi, I’m looking for … supposed to choose for the Dolce and Gabbana.” And he’s like, “Come on in, Max, yeah.” I’m like, “Okay,” get inside, nobody speaks English — Italian or Japanese. I don’t speak Italian or Japanese. I’m walking around, and everybody is talking to me, and I just want to know where this is going to go down? Are they going to choose us? So I’m looking around, and there are all these busky Italian men with like facial hair, and I was 17 with no facial hair, and I’m just like, “Is that guy going up against me, ‘cause I hope not.”
After hours of fittings, and they’re doing my hair and all this stuff all in a different language, finally this British guy comes, tries this suit on me, and it doesn’t fit at all; it was huge. So we used this old L.A. costume shop suit which I used for the entire campaign which wasn’t Dolce and Gabbana, which was crazy to me, but we did that, and it fit perfectly; it was a sign. I walk into the room, and I was only supposed to do this one shot with her. I’m dancing with her, and she’s supposed to be like my mother, and I’m supposed to be kind of disgusted she’s dancing with me. We’re doing two shots with her stand-in, and I ask the stand-in — she’s Australian — like, “Oh my gosh, you speak English. Do you know what’s going on? Like are they choosing people?” And she’s like, “Has nobody talked to you all morning? Yeah, that other guy they called him last night and let him go. You’ve had the job all day.” I was like, “What?” Literally I take this in, so I’m doing this today? Ten seconds later she is like, “Oh I have to go,” walks out of the room and boom, Madonna just walks in with her coconut water, puts it down. It’s this tiny little bathroom, and I’m kind of freaking out like, oh my god that’s her. She just walks up to me, and I’m like, “Hi, I’m Max.” She’s like, “Hi” — doesn’t even say her name ‘cause she’s Madonna. So she starts dancing with me, and I have this disgusted look on my face, and she’s like, “Why are you making that face?” And I was like, “I don’t …. uh …. what face do you want me to make?” And she like pulls my back up like this [pulls posture up to straight ballroom dance pose], and she’s like, “I’ll teach you how to dance,” and I was like [whispers], “Oh my god, okay.” So after that I was only supposed to be in that one shot, but she was like, “Max, come on,” and I ended up being in five out of the seven shots for the campaign. She just brought me to them and they worked around it and we did all this new stuff. The whole day I felt like I was in a dream; I was like, “Is this going on?” The photographer was like, “You have the same nose,” and she was like, “That’s why I chose him,” and I will never forget her saying that and that whole day. I left and I walked out of the building and got into my car to leave, and I was like, “Wow, that was real.” After that I haven’t seen her since but I was walking down the street in New York one day, and this woman comes up to me, and she’s like, “Max, what’s up?” And I was like, “I don’t know you,” and she’s like, “I’m Madonna’s trainer. I saw those shots,” and we talked about it. And I was like [whispers], “You talked about it. How was that?” That’s the story.
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Photography by Robin Roemer