How Max Harwood Channeled Lady Gaga for 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie' (Exclusive)

'This is my first film, so it's all a bit crazy,' the actor tells ET of his dragtastic debut.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie star Max Harwood knows the movie musical is going to ruin your makeup. "They did a screening of the film in London at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern and my friend cried her eyelash off," he reports. "More of that, please!"

The film, which is adapted from the stage show of the same name, which itself is based on the true story documented in Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, is the song and dance-filled story of Jamie New (Harwood), a small-town teen who wants to make his drag debut at prom. Everybody's Talking About Jamie marks Harwood's own debut -- it's the 24 year old's first movie -- and on Zoom with ET's Denny Directo, he reflected on his own journey to stardom.

ET: How does it feel now that the movie is getting out into theaters and people are having this sort of reaction?

Max Harwood: It's really, really wild. It's really humbling and incredibly exciting, as you can imagine. We've obviously been through a complete crazy whirlwind with this film. I'm in L.A. right now, and I've never been here in my life. I'm from, like, a small town in the south of England called Basingstoke, and this is my first film, so it's all a bit crazy. But I'm so, so excited to be in the States and for people to respond so well to this very specific story about this kid from Sheffield, which is so far away from the States but somehow, it's got this universality about it which we hoped that it would have. But it seems that it is having that effect.

It's quite poetic knowing just how inspiring this story is, but also the fact that you get to live out your dreams because of it. As a gay theater kid, I was watching thinking, "This is a dream role." What has it meant to you to play Jamie?

Yeah, a complete dream. I'm a movie-musical fan, I'm a musical fan, complete theater kid -- unashamedly, like, I love it and I'm open about that -- and [it's a] dream role, like you say. I watched the show in London in 2018 when I was in my first year of school, and I thought, "Oh, this is maybe a role that I could do one day. Finally, a role that could really be for me," where I wouldn't have to mask my queerness. I was like, "Yes, success." Never did I think-- You know, I've not done the show but going on to do the film version, it's just wild. It's really crazy.

For your first movie, you really hit it out of the park. What was your favorite musical number to film?

My favorite one to film was probably... Oh god, they're all so much fun. There's so many, as well. The one that was really fun was "Don't Even Know It," I suppose. I was told that I could be a pop star every time we shot that. And that's a dream. I make music as well, so that was another dream of mine. [Director] Johnny [Butterell] would go, "Right, I need you to be in music video mode, serving me the face, serving me the vocal, go for it." I suppose, the theater kid in me and the actor in me, really, really loved doing "My Man Your Boy" at the end of the movie with Sarah [Lancashire], for a completely different reason. I felt that in that moment I could truly, truly pour my heart and soul out onto the table, which felt really cathartic.

Which pop star were you channeling in the middle of these huge production numbers?

Oh my gosh, so many. Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga. The icons, really, to be honest.

Amazon Studios
Max Harwood with Jamie Campbell at the film's world premiere. (Getty Images)

RuPaul posted about the film on his Instagram. What does it mean to get the seal of approval from literally the queen of drag?

I sent so many messages when I saw that on social media. I was like, "Oh my god! Stop! Oh my god, this can't be real!" I love Drag Race. I love RuPaul. And wow. That was just crazy to me. I hope one day I get to meet Ru and to express how much Drag Race and that has all meant to me growing up and seeing queer people on the TV and on these channels has just meant so much to me. So cool, like!

Do you have a drag name or a drag persona?

I don't do drag myself, but on the job, I worked with Niall Mann, who did my makeup, and he also doesn't do drag, but we often joked about, like, what our drag names would be if we had them. He had already thought of his and his drag name would be Lydia Dustbin. And I was like, "Yeah, OK. I want to be part of that sort of family." So, I was like, "What about I be Trisha Can?" It has a nice ring to it, but it's shocking. It's a shocking drag name.

Both were unexpected! How was your own prom experience?

My prom experience was fun! I went with my two best friends and my best friend's boyfriend. We all went in a souped-up limo. I was wearing the most awful outfit. Like, a tweedy blazer and I had Justin Bieber hair. But the best part of prom for me was the getting ready and going. Then you get to prom, and my prom wasn't as fantasy and fantastic as Jamie's. We all got there, we all sat there a little bit awkwardly like, "Oh, is anyone going to dance?"

Obviously, this film is adapted from the West End musical but it is also based on a real story. What was it like meeting the real Jamie and his mom?

I got to meet him and his family before we started shooting. I was up in Sheffield rehearsing and the producer, Mark Herbert, was like, "Jamie's in town. You're going to meet him today." And I was like, "Wow. OK! Here we go." I wanted to use him as my anchor for the role in terms of creating the character. I went right back to the documentary and that was it for me. So, I wanted him to be open with me, to have these conversations and give me information and insight that I could really use and really tap into. You know, subtext-wise, stuff that isn't written and stuff that the audience doesn't know but might know if you watch the eyes. And he was so incredibly open to this process, and I'm so grateful that him and his family continue to be a part of this ever-growing Jamie universe family moment.

And what do you hope people learn from Jamie and this story?

I hope that communities around young people just take a really small shift to create safe spaces so that people can step into themselves -- whether you're queer, whether you're not queer -- and really just for people to open their ears and listen and learn and go and seek their own information. And be themselves, really.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is streaming on Prime Video on Sept. 17.