actor, musician, Maxton Gig “Max” Beesley, Jr’s destiny as an actor was firmly
set when his mom was inspired by American, Academy Award® winning
actor Gig Young, in choosing her son’s middle name. Beesley, born and raised in his beloved
Manchester, England, was raised in a family steeped in the arts. His father, Max Beesley, Sr. is a venerable
jazz drummer and impressionist, and his mother Chris Marlowe was a jazz singer. His step-brother Jason Milligan is also an
actor and Jason’s wife Angela Griffin is an actress.
first, American audiences may not easily recognize Max Beesley’s name, but in
fact, many are far more familiar with his esteemed CV of work, which includes
numerous acclaimed acting roles in many stellar films, TV series, and also a
supreme music career, than they realize.
has garnered considerable praise and is most well known here in the States and
in the UK for his role as the unflappable Woody on all 3 seasons, (and now
filming Season 4) of the British black comedy, thriller TV series, “Mad Dogs”
which just premiered its third season June 4, 2013. The series is broadcast Tuesday nights at 9pm
on Britain’s SKY TV. U.S. and global
audiences can watch Episode 1 and new weekly episodes on SKY TV’s website at http://sky1.sky.com/sky1hd-shows/mad-dogs
also just co-starred in the nifty and thoroughly riveting indie crime thriller
film, “Pawn”, which was co-produced by the film’s star, actor Michael
Chiklis. “Pawn” was also helmed
by Chiklis’s own film production company,
Extravaganza Films, and was released direct to Blu-Ray and DVD on April 23,
2013. The film focuses on a seemingly
easy to pull off robbery by some small town hoods, (Beesley’s character Billy,
being one of the baddies) at an all night diner. But in actuality the details behind the heist
involve a delectable smorgasbord of intelligent, multi-layered, plot
complexities and jaw dropping twists. The job goes south quickly, escalating
into a tense hostage situation with dirty cops and crooks alike manipulating
and double crossing one another and the outcome. The unfolding events are told
from various different perspectives by the many characters, who recall different
key elements that reveal the many surprising and well thought out plot twists
and turns. Think “Roshomon” meets
Beesley is a prominent fixture across the pond in England via his many starring
turns on some of British TV’s biggest hit series, here in the States, many
people know of him and often first discover Beesley and his many stellar film
roles, as well as his sterling TV work and luminous musical talents, from his starring
role in the 2001 motion picture “Glitter” opposite Mariah Carey in her film
actor Beesley authentically and convincingly portrayed street smart New York
music producer and club DJ, Julian “Dice” Black, co-starring as Carey’s romantic
interest, who discovers and mentors the musical talents of Carey’s character,
Billie Frank. While the film was panned
by critics and fans alike at the time, Beesley’s gritty and charismatic
performance, however, was a stellar knockout and all but saved the film.
“Glitter”, has, and continues to attain, a growing, appreciative audience and
in retrospect holds up well as a very entertaining, dark, and realistic take on
the downsides of stardom and the music industry.
first garnered critical acclaim in the lead role on the 1997 BBC British TV mini-series
“The History Of Tom Jones: A Foundling”, which was broadcast here in the states
many diverse film roles reflect the multifaceted depth and range of his acting talents. He starred as Wullie Smith in director Mick
Davis’s inspiring and charming tale of a Scottish town’s two pub soccer teams
who play one another to settle an old grudge in 1999’s “The Match”. He’s worked with such prestigious indie, art
house directors as Mike Figgis, portraying Antonio in the offbeat and disturbing
2001 film “Hotel”, and with director Tamar Simon Hoffs, in the 2003 screen
adaptation of the award winning stage production “Red Roses and Petrol” which
won first prize at the Avignon Film Festival.
“Red Roses and Petrol”, Max starred opposite Malcolm McDowell to great acclaim as
the angry, damaged, rakish Johnny Doyle, attempting to come to terms with his
dysfunctional relationship with his family and his deceased father in this poignant
and raw character study.
worked with “Blade” and “The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman’s” cult director
Stephen Norrington, starring in the vividly dark, bleak, and shocking gothic
thriller, 2001’s “The Last Minute”. Beesley
also starred with Selma Blair in the 2001, emotionally charged drama and crime
thriller “Kill Me Later” as Charlie Anders. Max transformed into the tattooed baddie Luther, a member of the
Hellions biker gang and henchman to the Hellion’s leader Henry James played by
“The Fast & The Furious’s” own Matt Schulze in the 2004 action film “Torque”,
starring Martin Henderson and Ice Cube, and produced by Neal H. Moritz who has
produced all six of “The Fast and the Furious” films and which was also
produced by Brad Luff (who also co-produced “Pawn”).
become a lauded mainstay of the British TV airwaves starring on such hit shows
as “Bodies” from 2004 to 2006 as Dr. Rob Lake and on the post apocalyptic
science fiction series “Survivors” from 2008 to 2010 as the amoral and
remorseless Tom Price. U.S. fans will be
happy to know that Beesley also crossed the Atlantic pond, here to the States
to guest on an episode of “CSI” in 2011. But it was from 2006 to 2009, that Beesley starred in the role that
would make him a beloved icon on British television, as the roguish romancer
with a checkered past, yet utterly likable rapscallion, hotel general manager,
Charlie Edwards in “Hotel Babylon”.
before Beesley embarked on an esteemed acting career, he had already made his
name as a successful and talented musician. A gifted pianist, percussionist, and solo jazz artist, Max is also a songwriter,
producer, arranger, and film composer, (scoring two of the films he’s acted and
starred in, 2003’s “The Emperor’s Wife” and 2005’s “Her Name Is Carla”). He’s recorded, written for, produced, arranged, played, and toured
with Robbie Williams, Stevie Wonder, George Benson, Paul Weller, George
Michael, James Brown, The Brand New Heavies, Omar, Earth, Wind & Fire,
Jamiroquai, and many more. Max was a member of the jazz band Incognito, as
well as releasing several records with his own sparkling acid jazz project, Max
Beesley’s High Vibes.
Beesley’s creative path changed, when he was first bitten, or rather smitten,
by the acting bug in 1995 after renting director Martin Scorsese’s 1980 landmark
film “Raging Bull”. The young Beesley was blown away by Robert De Niro’s Oscar®
winning performance. Max’s immediate
dedication and commitment to his craft included his then taking time to study acting
in New York, honing his skills, then returning to England where his acting
career took off with his casting in 1997 in “The
History Of Tom Jones: A Foundling”,
and the rest as they say is history.
as Max and I were doing this interview, he had been cast in, and is now filming,
his first major role on American television, as new recurring character Stephen
Huntley in Season 3 of the USA Cable Television Network’s legal drama,
“Suits. Beesley’s character will be part
of the “British Invasion” of Attorneys involved in last Season 2’s merger of
law firm Pearson/Darby. Season 3 of
“Suits” premieres July 16, 2013 and airs Tuesday nights on the USA TV Network.
this interview, Max Beesley discusses how he was cast and prepared for his character
in “Pawn”. Max also expounds about his
own independent film project currently in development, “Mr. Goodnight”, which
he wrote, produced, and will star in, helmed under the auspices of his Los
Angeles based, film production company, Patricia Jean Films, Inc. Max also enthusiastically discusses what we
can expect in Season 3 of “Mad Dogs”, film composing, and the craft of acting.
Arlene R. Weiss: Hi Max, how are you. I want to wish you many congratulations on the April 23, 2013 USA release of your new movie, “Pawn”, on DVD/Blu-Ray Combo Pack. I just screened the film and it’s a wonderful and riveting crime thriller featuring an amazing all star cast, including yourself, Michael Chiklis, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker, Common, Sean Faris, Stephen Lang, and Nikki Reed. For those that haven't yet seen "Pawn", what can you tell people about the film’s storyline?
Max Beesley: “Pawn” is an edgy indie thriller about a crew of guys who basically hit and hold up an all night diner for cash. Unfortunately for them, a cop arrives half way through the robbery, Forest's character, and there starts the games of cat and mouse. It’s not told in a linear fashion. There are flash backs and cuts forward and this gives the film momentum and gusto!
Arlene R. Weiss: Michael Chiklis, who stars as Derrick, the leader of the armed gang who holds up the diner in the film, is also one of the film’s producers. “Pawn” was also helmed by Michael’s new independent film production company, Extravaganza Films. How did you become involved with the project…how did you first come to Michael’s attention, and how did he and Director David A. Armstrong approach you for the role of Derrick’s accomplice Billy?
Max Beesley: The gig came about in quite a weird fashion and goes to show how small this town is. My manager Beth Holden Garland had put together some film from characters I’d played before to send off to Director Ariel Vromen for “The Iceman”. The footage was from movies and drama series I'd done portraying dark edgy dangerous roles, as I was very keen to working on that motion picture. I’d read the book and studied all the HBO tapes of Richard Kuklinsky (the real life notorious mafia hit man profiled in the HBO documentary “The Iceman Tapes: Conversations With A Killer”) when prepping for the BBC’s “Survivors” to help build an idea of the inner workings of a sociopathic psychotic.
Anyway the movie didn't work out for me, however Beth's other client Ray Liotta was working on both the “The Iceman” and “Pawn”, and I think one of the producers who had seen “The Iceman” footage was also on “Pawn”.
In fact Brad Luff was one of the producers and I’d worked with Brad on “Torque” years ago. He saw the footage and said “let’s book him”. I met Michael in Connecticut the night before and we immediately hit it off. We have a lot in common. He is an avid muso. Michael plays drums, sings, and writes and produces. He’s a kindred spirit and a very generous actor to work with.
Arlene R. Weiss: Billy and Derrick seem to have no moral compass whatsoever. They’re just ruthless, driven men only out for themselves which spirals way out of control due to Derrick’s loose cannon malevolence. How did you immerse yourself in the character of Billy and how did you and Michael rehearse and prepare for your interplay in the film?
Max Beesley: With regards to rehearsals with Michael, there were none. We are similar in as much as we both like to get on set, hit it and see how it flushes out. More often than not your instincts are good, but there's always the other actors to work with and a director with his or her vision.
Arlene R. Weiss: “Pawn” is so intelligently and exceptionally well written by Jay Anthony White and the plot features non-stop twists, and red herrings. Every time I thought I had the characters and plot figured out, another monkey wrench was thrown at me and my heart would stop. That’s so refreshing to see in a crime thriller because if the audience can’t figure out who’s who and what happens next, and is totally surprised, that’s the best part! I won’t create a spoiler here for those who haven’t yet seen the film. But, did Michael, Jay, and David give you insight and details ahead of time about the nature and motives of the other characters in the film, many who aren’t what they seem to be at all, about the many plot twists, and especially, about when Derrick carries out “Plan B” or did they wait until the day you filmed to tell you?
Max Beesley: I knew all about the plot. I like to have an arc, however there is something fresh and spontaneous about only knowing what you’re doing. It’s the way Mike Leigh works and Ken Loach works and I think one of our great writers Jimmy McGovern. You by default have to listen to the actor in the scene with you, and by default you’re completely in the moment and hopefully truthful.
Arlene R. Weiss: “Pawn” also showcases your return to acting in films since I believe 2005, when you last featured in “Her Name Is Carla” and you’ve been primarily starring on British TV series since then. Why the eight year hiatus from film? How for you does acting in motion pictures, differ from that of acting in series TV? Is there also a different creative center that you start from and in how you approach your characters in film versus TV?
Max Beesley: Not shooting movies for a good few years was basically due to my television commitments. I was lucky enough to be constantly working from 2005 right through till this year on numerous shows for the BBC and ITV and SKY.
With regards to different techniques for each platform, I don’t tend to think there are any, other than theatre, where awareness of projection and where your audience is, always seems to be in one’s mind in the beginning. The main difference that I find with film and television is simply how much longer you have to shoot scenes. With film you may shoot four or five pages a day, roughly translating into four or five minutes of screen time, as opposed to shooting eight or nine or even ten pages of dialogue a day to be shown on a TV series episode.
Arlene R. Weiss: You’ve been developing since 2008 or so, your own original motion picture crime thriller, “Mr. Goodnight”, which you wrote and are to star in. What’s the status of that project now? Did you start production yet? How have things progressed, have you obtained financing and distribution on that? And what can you tell people about the storyline, and its relationship to Manchester?
Max Beesley: Regarding my own project “Mr. Goodnight”. I am in the process of getting financing. It is very difficult nowadays to fund something around the six million dollar mark. It is easier to get hedge funds or equity investors to risk one hundred million or one or two million. Six million is a tricky area with bigger risks. I have a wonderful cast and Adrian Shergold to direct and I personally feel the story is dynamite. If I were to compare it to anything it would possibly be close to “Goodfellas” set in rainy 1960 Manchester. I really hope to get shooting that before the end of the year or next year.
Arlene R. Weiss: Is your friend, actor Ray Winstone still attached to and involved with the film and what other cast members do you have lined up?
Max Beesley: Ray is still attached along with Stephen Graham, Ben Chaplin, Chris Fulford, and Zoe Tapper, all wonderful actors.
Arlene R. Weiss: You’ve also enjoyed a successful career as a musician, songwriter, arranger, and producer. And you also composed the film scores for your 2003 film “The Emperor’s Wife” and for your 2005 film, “Her Name Is Carla”, both films, which you also starred in. How did it feel winning the EuropaCinema award with Jerry Meehan for Best Music Composer at The Viareggio XX International & European Film Festival in 2003?
Max Beesley: “The Emperor’s Wife” earned us the best film score award which was a lovely moment. I am a classically trained musician and composition was one of my studies at the prestigious Chetham’s School of Music. My writing partner is Jerry Meehan and he is one of my best friends. We work very well together and we will be doing more scores in the future. The wonderful thing is we can cover almost any style due to our training and our natural abilities as jazz musicians. Jerry is a world class bass player and I play drums percussion, vibes, and piano.
Arlene R. Weiss: What artistic challenges does film scoring pose to you, since film composing is so different from songwriting, involving timed cues, accents, rough cuts, edits, spotting, syncing, etc.?
Max Beesley: The main challenge with film scoring is initially deciding which avenue you are to go down regarding the tone of music. The next biggest challenge is knowing when to score and when to underscore. I’m not a fan of overscoring a picture. I can look at the film very objectively as an actor, and I think I’m lucky enough to be able to see when a scene is working and doesn’t need much help musically, but also when the plot is getting a little lost and may need help musically. It’s something that comes very easily to both of us and I’m annoyed with myself for not doing more, however that is going to change. We will be doing more in the future.
Arlene R. Weiss: A director trusts your artistic sensibilities and instincts as an actor, to convey his or her cinematic vision, but you are an artist with your own distinctive vision as well. How do the two of you meet in the middle and collaborate, where you both see eye to eye and positively fuse both of your concepts, ideas, and presentation together? Yet along the way, how do you still retain your own distinct creative voice, where your own take on the character development and role serves the film?
Max Beesley: Regarding directors and their dynamic with their actors on set. It’s important to prepare as much as possible for your filming with dialect, personal choices, etc., but there has to be a window for direction. It’s inevitable that you have really flushed the part out and may have a specific idea of how to play the role, whilst the director has to do this with everyone, so occasionally you may have something he or she has not considered, and vice versa.
I like to watch directors as it’s something I’d like to gear towards over the next few years. You can tell within five minutes if you’re working with a talented director or not.
Arlene R. Weiss: One of my favorite roles of yours is as the angry, rakish Johnny Doyle in 2003’s motion picture adaptation of the acclaimed play, “Red Roses and Petrol” opposite Malcolm McDowell. It’s one of your most nuanced and emotionally charged performances and it is just beautiful. How did that role come about, and what were your experiences creating a character portrait imbued with equal parts visceral anger, frustration, hurt, love, loss, and poignancy where Johnny tries to express and come to terms with his father’s death while confronting the lies and dysfunction within his family?
Max Beesley: I loved working on “Red Roses and Petrol”. I wanted to work with Malcolm and when the opportunity arose I was very pleased. It’s also a great, great part to play. Multifaceted, tortured, guilty, loving, happy, depressed, and generally mixed up. All things one dreams of in a role. If the movie would have had a bigger platform, I think it would have done very well. Its excellent writing!
Arlene R. Weiss: You have a very recognizable and distinguished speaking voice, but what amazes me is how you master different cultural and regional dialects of speaking in your acting roles in film & TV. In “Glitter” you mastered a spot on New York city “street” accent and diction, and in “Red Roses and Petrol” you affected an Irish brogue that made the Emerald Isle proud. In “The History Of Tom Jones, A Foundling” you affect a very proper, posh English accent. Many actors take criticism for their failed attempts at correct accents in their film or TV portrayals but you are so adept and convincing. How do you perfect native accents and diction for your acting roles? Do you study dialects, what is your method or approach?
Max Beesley: With regards to dialects, I’m fortunate enough to have two wonderful dialect coaches I’ve worked with over the years. Joan Washington in London and Jessica Drake here in Los Angeles. They are the best. I also go to the specific area my character is from and take a dictaphone. I may record a young office worker of twenty five or a seventy year old guy in the bar just to get a scope of authenticity.
Arlene R. Weiss: You’re also known for doing a lot of voice acting work for commercials and ad campaigns including PC World and Energizer Lithium Batteries, narrating documentaries including the 2012 documentary “Chatsworth” about Derbyshire, England’s historic house and estate, and narrating Manchester United’s 2008-2009 Season Review DVD. Would you like to do animated feature films as well?
Max Beesley: I would love to do voice acting for animated film. I like the idea of it as it’s a nuance I’m not at all familiar with.
Arlene R. Weiss: Season 3 of “Mad Dogs” just premiered Tuesday, June 4, 2013 on the UK’s Sky 1 Television Channel. American audiences can watch Episode 1 and each new episode on Sky 1’s Official Website,http://sky1.sky.com/sky1hd-shows/mad-dogs “Mad Dogs” Season 4, which will wrap up the series, will end in a two part finale to be broadcast in 2014. It looks like your character Woody and his three trusty pals are in for more shock, razor sharp wit, and mayhem. Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about Season 3, and how the storyline, the character of Woody, and Woody’s relationship to Rick, Quinn, and Baxter develops and evolves since the past 2 seasons?
Max Beesley: For fans of “Mad Dogs” Season 3, they are in for a treat. Without boasting, we worked really hard to create something special and came away from that shoot knowing there was a bit of magic. The great thing that I feel about Cris Cole's writing and Adrian Shergold's direction, is the unbelievable situations that the show’s characters find themselves in are completely believable, just by the writing, direction, and hopefully the acting. I’m really proud of the show and have had one of the best experiences making it with three close friends, but also with a delightful crew and for me, one of the best directors in the business. I love playing Woody, a fundamentally good guy, a listener, and really a go to man if there are any major problems, of which the show is laden with!
Arlene R. Weiss: Here in the States, the FX Cable TV Network just announced that they are developing an American version of “Mad Dogs”. What a wonderful compliment to you! How does that feel for you, knowing that the UK version of “Mad Dogs” is such a critical and commercial success, that it’s being developed for a U.S. remake over here?
Max Beesley: I’m pleased “Mad Dogs” is being made here. I obviously would have been more delighted if the original UK version would have been bought by one of the cable companies here in the USA and broadcast the way we made it. But I guess America has an appetite for UK product and wants to put their own spin on it. The one good thing is Shawn Ryan is developing it along with Cris. I met him a while back. He seems lovely, smart, and his writing credits are impeccable. “The Shield” being for me, one of the best made shows of its genre. So it’s certainly in good hands.