Julia Butters and Maxwell Jenkins give their take on growing up on film sets, discuss starstruck moments, and manifest dream projects.
PHOTOS: Emily Sandifer
TALENT: Julia Butters
INTERVIEW: Maxwell Jenkins
STYLING: Anna Schilling at The Rex Agency
MAKEUP: Katelin Gan at TMG-LA
HAIR: Clayton Hawkins at A-Frame Agency
LOCATION: The Hollywood Hotel
PRODUCTION: Jasmine Perrier at Studio J•T•P
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Julia Butters is a star
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Check out some extracts below.
JULIA BUTTERS: Hi!
MAXWELL JENKINS: Hello! Sorry, it is super dark in my hotel room right now but the sun sets at 4PM here.
JB: I keep forgetting you are somewhere else.
MJ: Yes. I dragged so many lights over here as I could, but I don’t think it was enough [laughs]. So, I guess we will just get started then.
JB: I’m ready.
MJ: Julia, I’ve known you for a super long time. You were my first TV sister. My first question is, how did you get into acting? I had never really asked for this myself.
JB: I was a very shy baby when I was little. I’d cry whenever anyone but my parents would hold me. So they were like, “We should figure out a way to socialize her around adults, so she isn’t super shy growing up.” So, I did some baby modeling and that led to commercials. After that, one of my mom’s friends saw a commercial that I did and she was a writer on Criminal Minds. She was like, “Maybe Julia could come guest star on an episode I’m writing to see if she would enjoy acting.” And I did!
MJ: Was that the moment you knew you wanted to be an actor?
MJ: I grew up in Chicago, so I know that’s influenced how exposed I was to acting and my experience in the business. But growing up in LA, has that influenced or nurtured your interest in acting in any way?
JB: I don’t know. If anything, I feel like it would have pushed me further away from acting. Because LA is so crazy and so busy, that sometimes gets overwhelming. But I think that it’s mainly the certain sets [and projects] that I work on. And I love traveling, so that’s something that has heavily influenced my career choice.
MJ: What’s been your favorite place to visit for work?
JB: I went to France [to film The Gray Man], that was really cool.
MJ: You worked with some pretty cool people on The Gray Man. What’s been like getting to work with some incredible icons in the industry?
JB: It’s so wild because I will go on a set and I will see [and work with] people that I’ve seen on a screen. With time, it gets less and less surprising and overwhelming. I just realize that they are all people. When I worked on The Gray Man, I knew who Ryan Gosling was, I knew who Chris Evans was… They were such amazing people and they made me feel welcome immediately. On Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, I had no idea who anybody was.
MJ: I remember on A Family Man, that movie we did a while ago in Toronto, I didn’t know who Gerard Butler was.
JB: Me neither.
MJ: That’s pretty interesting. I definitely relate to you on that level. You’ve worked with some of my favorite directors of all time, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg. What was your favorite part of working with Steven?
JB: It was crazy to be able to go to work every day, be on set, and take direction from someone that I’d idolized for as long as I can remember. I enjoyed working with him. He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and he feels like an uncle or a grandpa.
MJ: That’s cool. And you were playing his real-life sister Anne, did that add anything to working with him?
JB: Yes, it’s such a personal movie to him, so it was such a big honor to be representing and immortalizing someone who is very close to his heart. And I got to meet Anne, she is so great. She gave me her high school ring, so that’s exciting.
MJ: Sweet. I know it’s hard to pick, but what would be your favorite Spielberg movie, other than The Fabelmans? I think mine would be Empire of the Sun and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
JB: I would say my favorite Steven Spielberg movie is probably Jaws.
MJ: Jaws, classic.
JB: My parents made sure that I was old enough to see it. When I was finally able to watch it, I was like, “I’m witnessing such an iconic movie right now. I have to take in every moment because I’ll only be able to watch it for the first time once.”
MJ: I grew up going to a beach camp in Manhattan Beach and surfing, which is weird for a boy from Chicago. But my parents wouldn’t show me Jaws until I was 14 or 15. Because I was a huge surfer, they were like, “You will never get into the water again.”
JB: I was scared to even go in swimming pools for a second because I would think of one specific shark from Jaws [laughs].
MJ: That’s a very valid reaction to Jaws. So, we’ve got to talk about all these cool people you’ve gotten to work with. Have you ever had a moment where you were starstruck meeting one of these people? Whether it’s at an award show, on set, or just around LA.
JB: I was starstruck heavily at the Saturn Awards by a lot of people that were there. You were there for that.
MJ: I remember.
JB: And I remember on the set of The Gray Man, I was like, “I really have to make sure that [Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling] think I’m cool.” So, I would walk around and try to have the best posture I could, and I probably looked super stupid. But it probably didn’t work because I was the little scrawny 12-year-old Julia [laughs].
MJ: Being an actor growing up working on all these incredible movies and working with all these incredible people, what’s been the greatest piece of advice you took away from your projects?
JB: I’ve learned so much that it’s hard to pick a few things. I think that staying in it is such a good lesson to learn because growing up, I was always laughing on set. It was hard to stay focused. But then, as I work with more and more people that I admire, I realize how much they stay in it on set. And I’ve always been way too shy to ask for advice straight out.
MJ: I’m filming right now and it was Nicolas Cage’s first day today. That was pretty fun, but everybody was in it. It’s a really exciting experience.
JB: Oh yeah.
MJ: I feel you on that one. That’s what I’ve been learning more and more recently. But where do you think you would be right now if you weren’t an actor and never decided to pursue this?
JB: I would probably be in public school.
MJ: I still am in public school.
JB: How do you do that? I’m homeschooled and can barely do it. I don’t know who I’d know [because] I’ve made so many friends through acting, even you. So, I definitely wouldn’t be doing this right now. But I definitely think I chose the right career. I feel very lucky to be an actor.
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