There is something oddly misleading about Max Schneider’s modeling portfolio – that moody, (though charming) troubled stare seems completely second nature to the young performer, but an encounter with the man himself shatters the deception. Max is a bubbly, quick-witted, and positive young man (startlingly young – a second deception!) who is rapidly taking the entertainment industry by storm. Featured in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign alongside Madonna and having made his Broadway debut at age sixteen in Jason Robert Brown’s 13, Max is proving that being a triple-threat is a thing of the past; why stop at singing, dancing, and acting when you can also add modeling, songwriting, and African drumming to your skill set? In the midst of his success, he doesn’t disregard his belief in giving back, and reminds himself often of his “I Am,” and “I Will.”
All right, Max, I want our readers to know this first: How old are you?
I am eighteen years old.
You’re eighteen years old, and you’ve had a national ad campaign for Dolce & Gabbana with Madonna, and you have already been on Broadway in the new musical, 13. How does this feel?
Well, I’ve always wanted to be an actor. When I was five I was doing my first show, and I fell in love with musical theatre from then on. And then I began singing and dancing, and I just never really stopped. When I made my Broadway debut when I was sixteen, I had done fifty different shows before that, so I definitely felt like I had worked for that. I felt as though I’ve always moved forward, and I’ve always worked as hard as I could to achieve those goals and successes, but the ad campaign was different – it did feel like it sort of fell into my lap.
It’s really interesting to look at your photos, because you seem to have a very versatile face – you can be the boy next door, but you are also very exotic looking. What do you feel your strengths are as a print model?
It’s funny, because I find myself to be a very happy person; I smile a lot. It’s kind of second-nature for me to smile. But what seems to have benefited me most as a model is the exact opposite – to be serious, to have more solemn faces. But it’s actually sometimes nice to get to be the opposite, to portray someone very different from myself.
How would you compare acting to modeling in that way? Is there an overlap?
I think it really depends on what it’s for. For the Dolce & Gabbana shoot there was an acting coach yelling things between each shot. The shoot became really about capturing the emotion and situation of the characters, and I think you can really see that in the photos.
So you’ve been acting for a long time. You grew up in the theatre. Are you focusing specifically on camera or theatre work right now, or do you simply take advantage of the opportunities come along?
It’s definitely the opportunities that come right now. I see myself doing film – it’s my dream to be doing that one day, as well as putting out my own records.
So right now you’re in Tisch at NYU?
Yes, I’m in the first year of a new program called New Studio on Broadway. It’s exciting, we have incredible teachers: Sutton Foster, Michael McElroy… and it’s really been a great experience. It’s great, too, because they don’t just focus on musical theatre in the traditional sense. It’s all about learning how to sing, dance, act, and becoming skilled in all areas to excel in each independently and then working collaboratively.
Can you talk a little bit about your songwriting process and also the album that you put together?
Sure! I started writing music about three years ago, and I’ve never really taken formal piano lessons, so it’s all self-taught. I really love it. “The Coconut Song” (which is one of the four songs on my album) was actually the first song I wrote completely organically as I was walking around the streets in New York. But sometimes I’ll start with a melody that I like and take that and work on it.
What is it about the entertainment industry that makes you passionate about what you’re doing?
I would say that it’s inspiring people the way that I’ve been inspired. Helping the world in different ways using this craft – acting and performance. It’s easy to just get caught up in yourself in this business, but what I really love and feel passionate about is connecting to other people, making a difference, and the potential for actual change in the world around you.
What is it about this industry that you do NOT like?
You know… there’s always the cliché that it’s a superficial industry, and that there are people out there who are in this for a superficial reason, and that can be negative. But I think it’s a changing and developing thing. I think the shift is happening where people are given the opportunity more and more to make a difference with the fame or good fortune they receive.
What makes you stand apart from the rest of the other actors, singers, dancers out there?
I’d say my voice makes me unique, my look… but also I think I have an openness about me that is different from a lot of other individuals. I’m not just interested in what’s going on right in front of me, but I’m curious and open to new things. I’m willing to try.
Finish the sentence: “When I’m not performing, I like to spend my time…”
When I’m not performing, I like to spend my time… doing circus, dancing, playing ukulele and piano, and making music and jamming just on the side. I like going to the gym, I like working out, spending quality time with my friends… I love African drumming… I love trying new coffee…”
Okay, Max, what CAN’T you do?
I can’t whistle. I want to learn – I don’t know why I can’t. I can’t do a lot of things! I really don’t like running, doing marathons… marathons and I don’t work out so well.
What’s the best piece of advice someone in the business has given you?
Betty Buckley gave my high school a guest lecture, and she told us that you have to trust your “I Am.” Whenever you’re performing, don’t try to bullshit, don’t try to perform. Just be. Because people notice that. Trust your “I Am.”
Can you give me a little hint as to where you see yourself in the future?
I see myself owning a company and having part of that company devoted to charity. Right now I’m involved in a charity called MOVE for Autism, and this type of project is something I definitely want to be involved with in the future.
I wanted to ask you about that. What can readers do to help with MOVE for Autism?
You can check out the website (www.jpmove.webs.com), become involved, give donations.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Right now, I’d love to expand my fan base. Also, I’d like to get my music out there for people to hear. Check out my album.