Exclusive interview with the cast member of the Netflix’s series premiering today
At 12-years-old, one can’t really say Lincoln Square resident Max Jenkins has had a long and storied acting career yet, but he has certainly had an impactful one.
The mandolin player in the band “Cowboy Jesus and Sugar Bum” made his onscreen debut under the direction of Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) in Betrayal (2013). He followed that up working with Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski in both seasons of Sense8 (2015). Jenkins also enjoyed a recurring guest star role on NBC’s Chicago Fire.
Clearly, the kid works a lot.
Max made his feature film debut in A Family Man (2016). Here, he took on the heart-breaking role of a young boy fighting leukemia opposite Gerard Butler, Gretchen Mol, and Anupam Kher. Now, the member of his family’s Chicago-based “Midnight Circus” returns to Netflix in the highly anticipated Lost in Space which debuts on Friday the 13th.
Max will take on the iconic role of Will Robinson, a role made famous by Bill Mumy in 1965 and one that is still loved and worshipped today by the original show’s rabid fan-base.
Reel Chicago had an opportunity to speak with Max about the role and the series.
REEL CHICAGO: So Max, before we get into it, let’s get the important questions out of the way – are you a Cubs or Sox fan?
MAX JENKINS: So, I’m a Cubs fan. After I got my spacesuit fitted for Lost in Space, we were on the plane going home. It was the World Series and it’s the final game and we’re all getting really excited as I got back home. All these kids running outside. I turned on our TV and I see the Cubs win the World Series! So we ran outside in our pajamas and start banging on pots and stuff like that.
RC: Where did you grow up in Chicago?
MJ: I grew up in Lincoln Square going to my public school Coonley Elementary and performing in our family circus!
RC: Shout out to Coonley! So, how did you get into acting?
MJ: Thank you! Yeah. So I got to acting kind of by accident. My mom’s agent just kept on asking her if she wanted to put me out. She said, “I did not want him to be an actor.” And then after three years of doing that back and forth, my mom finally said, “OK” and the next thing I knew I was on a plane to Los Angeles for a screen test. One thing just led to another and here I am.
RC: How did you celebrate when you learned you were going to get cast in Lost in Space?
MJ: I learned I had been cast as Will while I was celebrating the movie that I did with Gerard Butler, A Family Man, I got the call while I was at the Toronto Film Festival and I heard “Danger Will Robinson! You’re lost in space!”
RC: How did you research playing Will? Did you watch any of the old show or the movie?
MJ: So, I’m a huge fan of science fiction and I tried to take my love of sci-fi into the role of Will Robinson. I asked our director Neil Marshall (Game of Thrones) if there’s anything I can do to research and he said watch these three movies – Black Stallion, Iron Giant and ET. So, luckily Iron Giant and ET are my two favorite movies already. And I did also watch the first season of the original.
RC: That’s interesting because when I reviewed the show I said your relationship with the Robot reminded me a lot of the Iron Giant.
MJ: Oh well, yeah I love movies like that – The Iron Giant, ET and the original Lost in Space. I love those relationships. So, I tried to take what I learned from those movies into my relationship with the Robot.
RC: Mina (Sundwall plays Penny) and Taylor (Russell plays Judy) play your sisters on the series. Did you guys develop a bond at all or did they become like sisters to you why you were filming?
MJ: Yes. From the moment we met, we went to the same school on set together and Taylor would always bug us and stop by and we’d always sign our names to each other “your space bro” or “your space sis.”
RC: I just want to come back to the Robot really quickly because I really thought in episode 10 your relationship with him gets super emotional. It’s kind of building up to it, in the previous three episodes for instance (SPOILER) when you tell him to step off the cliff. Did it affect you at all?
MJ: Well, I have really strong relationships with my pitbulls back here at home. They’re loyal, they’re kind, they’re fierce protectors. And that was a lot like what the Robot is. And that kind of emotion, I’ve lived with my whole life, because I see the way that people look at my dogs and I see the way that people look at the Robot.
RC: You got to meet the original Will Robinson, Bill Mumy. It looked like from the pictures that you guys really bonded and had a lot of fun.
MJ: Me and Bill have very similar lives and we have a lot in common. We both love music and comic books. And we bonded immediately. He helped me write a song for homework. We both love ET, so we wrote a song about him and had dinner together. He’s been so generous to me and my sister, too. Kevin Burns (Producer) always says, “You weren’t chosen to be in Lost in Space. You were adopted into our family.”
RC: Regarding the scope of Lost in Space – it’s huge and cinematic with a ton of action and special effects. What was the hardest for you to pull off some of those scenes and stunts?
MJ: Yeah. So, the most challenging thing in those action scenes is that a lot of the stuff isn’t there. It’s a lot of green screen and that was very hard for me as an actor. After the first week, I was really overwhelmed. So, I called Parker Posey, she plays Dr. Smith, and she said, “Ask questions.” She said you just to have to. So I did. Also, my sister and I pretend all the time back at home so I thought about that, too. When I was in Dubai I was on a panel with Ezra Miller and the person asked a question of the whole panel – “How hard is it to be on green screen?” He just said,”Once you let loose and pretend, forget that you know that there are possibly millions of dollars sitting on your shoulders. It’s really just pretending to be a kid in an amazing world of sci-fi.”
RC: Where would you love to see Season 2 go?
MJ: I’m really hoping there is a Season 2. We have no word on it yet. I mean the first season hasn’t even premiered yet. But if I could plan it, in Season 1 we saw Will Robinson start to grow up, but just need more of those heartfelt cues with the robot. But now that Will is becoming a teenager and stuff, I would like to see him make some mistakes.
RC: Like I said I thought you did a great job as well and everybody did a great job. I think it’s a great series and I’m a huge original Lost in Space fan, so you actually made me forget about the original Will as I got into your story.
MJ: Aw, thank you that means a lot.
You can stream Lost in Space on Netflix beginning in three… two… one…
Contact Colin Costello at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.