Max Talisman in his LGBTQ+ film debut

Max Talisman, a young filmmaker who is set to make his writing and directorial debut with his film, THINGS LIKE THIS. Instead of focusing on the struggle of coming out, he felt it was time to write a story about gay people falling in love and coming out wouldn’t be in the equation. He wanted the movie to be universal love story that hasn’t been seen on-screen with a gay couple yet.

Photographer: Bobby Quillard and Groomer: Arlene Willis

Actor, singer, writer and creative force, Max Talisman is set to make his directorial debut in his upcoming gay romantic comedy, THINGS LIKE THIS. The film stars Charlie Tahan (Netflix’s “Ozark”), Eric Roberts (THE DARK KNIGHT) and Miles Tagtmeyer (DISNEY DESCENDANTS: SCHOOL OF SECRETS), about two men falling in love. It seems like everything is aligned for them to fall in love; they have the same name, they have a lot of the same traits and it just seems like fate has brought them together. However, what is meant to be isn’t always what it seems. Max was drawn to write this story because he felt that there were stories portraying high school students “coming out” or stories about gay couples that were far along in their lives but not many stories about the in between. Growing up in Washington DC, Max started performing in 3rd grade. He participated in musical theatre, including productions at the Musical Theatre Center (MTC), one of the leading performing arts education organizations for young people in the Washington DC area. It was the moment when he played the 2nd lead role in the through-composed musical, “Caroline, or Change” that he felt theatre was his calling.When his senior year of high school began, Max made the courageous move to NYC to follow his passion for theatre. He joined the Broadway Artists Alliance, a professional training academy for promising young musical theatre performers right in the heart of New York City. After living in the big apple for 5 years, he decided to make his way to Hollywood, California. He’s appeared in The Orchard’s SUPER DARK TIMES, TBS’ “Search Party” and NBC’s “The Blacklist”.

 Overcoming Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (LCPD) and anxiety, this rising star doesn’t let these challenges prevent him from enjoying his life. He has a keen love for sports and when he’s not watching games on TV or at stadiums, he keeps up with the standings/scores on teams such as the LA Lakers, the Washington Redskins and the Baltimore Orioles. He is also an avid tennis and ping pong player, crediting Serena Williams as his role model. Consumed by wanderlust with a curiosity for cultures, Max has traveled all around the world from Argentina to Zimbabwe, Austria, Germany, Italy, England, Iceland, Greece, Africa and Costa Rica. With a life of travel, art, and hobbies, Max hopes to incorporate all his current and future life experiences in all he does. He hopes to be a role model for the LGBTQ community and break stereotypical barriers/roles in Hollywood.

When did you realize you wanted to be a filmmaker and when did you decide to make your writing debut?

The writing came first. We were two years into THINGS LIKE THIS’ process when I started to feel like I should direct it. I always wanted to write a film and direct one as well. I didn’t think I’d be doing it now but the further down the road we got with this project, it just became clearer and clearer to me that I needed to be the director for it. Handing it over to anyone else just didn’t feel right to me and so, it became clear to me, and everyone I work with that I was the only person who could direct the movie. 

Where did you get your inspiration for THINGS LIKE THIS?

I got the inspiration from everywhere and nowhere. I say that because I have been inspired by other movies my entire life, but I didn’t want this movie to be like anything that had been made before it, because I feel that nothing exists that’s the same. This movie is going to change the game for how an LGBTQ movie can be made. 

Photographer: Bobby Quillard and Groomer: Arlene Willis

How important is to be out as an LGBTQ+ individual and artist?

I think it’s incredibly important. I was texting someone who I’m going on a date with, and he said he thought it was very critical that I was a public figure who was so open about my sexuality, and my identity. I said that I felt I’d be doing a disservice to myself, and the community to not do that. I would have loved to see someone like me out and proud when I was struggling with my demons in my high school years. I think having someone who you can relate to, who you see, publicly being proud and being happy. That could change someone’s life. 

When did you decide to come out? What was this process like?

I came out when I was 19. I had just gotten college a day before. I just felt like I was starting a new life, and I wanted to be my true self from the beginning. The first person I called was my twin sister, then I called my brother, and then I Skyped my parents. The first thing my mom said was, “so?” I just remember feeling like I could breathe. Everyone says it feels like a weight is lifted and that’s such a real feeling. This pressure. This immense pressure. It just goes away and you’re actually who you are. What a feeling. 

What was your experience like growing up as a queer child?

I was always involved in musical theater and theater, since a very young age. So, I had been around queer people my entire life. I still had a lot of trouble accepting myself. I remember I would spend a lot of time thinking, “If I only have one life to live, can’t it just be normal?” Whatever the hell normal is. I had an ex-boyfriend who once said, “the hardest person to come out to is yourself.” To me, that is one of the most true statements of my life. The hardest person I ever had to tell I was gay was myself. It took me 19 years and I really believe that when I came out, my life really began. 

What advice would you give to the young LGBTQ+ children who are bullied and hide their identity?

There are people out there who love you for exactly who you are. They are there and ready to be your fiercest advocates. Use every resource you have. Reach out to queer people you respect. A big change for me was when I was in high school, I used Trevorspace by The Trevor Project and having a place to just talk to other gay and queer and transgender young people changed my life. 

Do you think there is enough LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry?

Absolutely not. I’ve been speaking about this a lot recently. I think it’s why I’m so intense about making the content I make. Every single movie, TV Show, or any other form of entertainment NEEDS LGBTQ+ representation. Every single one and show us what diversity in the community looks like too. I want to see an asexual biromantic queer Latinx person on my Netflix. I want to see a Black transgender woman who is a lead of a movie, and it’s not about how she’s trans. That’s what we need. Until we have that, I’ll be fighting for it. 

Photographer: Bobby Quillard and Groomer: Arlene Willis

Have you ever received any homophobic moment in your career?

To be honest, not to my face. I think the one thing about being a young gay man in this industry is I just feel like I’m coming out every time I go on a new set. I want to be me; I want everyone to know I’m me and it’s important I do that. I haven’t faced anyone who’s been openly homophobic to me but I’ve been very lucky, so far.

What helps you move forward? Where do you find your motivation?

In making young people feel seen on screen. Not just young people but just anyone who needs to see themselves on screen. I think that’s incredibly important. 

How are you coping with anxiety? What advice would you give to people that are in the same situation?

I mean, I think coping with my anxiety is an everyday struggle. Some days are easier than others. Some moments are more challenging than I felt five minutes before that. I will say that the greatest gift my most recent ex gave to me, was the support to work on my anxiety while being in a relationship. Because I felt supported, I never felt my anxiety was what was going to break us up and it never did. Distance did, but that’s an answer to another question. 

Do you feel that you are a role model?

That’s a complicated question. I’m aware that there are people who look to me, yes. I want to be more of a role model as I get older. I guess I would say I’m aware of how I need to work harder to become the role model I want to be, and I hope I get there. 

Do you think that the world is going to be better and easier for the future LGBTQ+ generation?

I think hopefully, yes. I mean if you look at the last two or three generations that has in general been somewhat true. I was recently interviewed for a podcast and was asked if I thought this was the best time to be gay in history. I said yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I think some people assume because they aren’t homophobic that their friends or loved ones probably don’t deal with homophobia. I once played a tennis match with a man in his forty’s through the USTA, and after we had stopped playing, I told him I didn’t enjoy playing with him. The man then said that I didn’t like to lose because I was a “f——t.” I told him that he couldn’t say that to me, and then he said, “well you are a f——-t aren’t you?” I said it didn’t matter if I was or wasn’t, he could not say that to me. He then told me to get up and fight him and then proceeded to call me that terrible word again and again. This match was part of the USTA and when I reported it, and gave a full report I heard nothing back except that we were both on watch, and if either of us had another incident with other players we would be removed from the USTA. A company that’s national center is named after LGBTQ+ living began Billie Jean King, and they did absolutely nothing to help. My point is I would hope someday everyone is accepted everywhere. But until that happens, we have to keep fighting because moments like this happen to many, MANY members of the community and will continue to happen for generations to come. I hope we can start leading the future into a place of pure love. That would be the best thing that could happen. 

How has the global pandemic affected your life and your work?

It’s made it really simple, I guess! I sleep in more and go to bed later. I text people (ex’s) because I say that there are no rules in quarantine!

Photographer: Bobby Quillard and Groomer: Arlene Willis

How does your daily routine look like now?

Wake up at 11 am, do work until 8 pm, make some sort of pasta dinner (cajun chicken pasta is my specialty), and then watch TV until I go to bed at like 4 or 5 am. 

What has been the most beautiful moment in your career and in your life?

I think it’s been the whole journey of THINGS LIKE THIS. Having this beautiful film and getting to lead it’s life. It’s been the greatest gift. I know I needed this movie when I was young, and so now getting to make it is special.

What are your future plans?

Filming THINGS LIKE THIS and beginning to work on my next feature! It’s a horror/comedy. 

*all images are courtesy of Max Talisman

More of Max Talisman here:

https://www.instagram.com/themaxtshow

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