Max Talisman is a Los Angeles-based actor with credits across film, television, and theater. He’s making his directorial and screenwriting debut with the film, Things Like This, starring alongside Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), Jasmin Savoy Brown (For the People), and Charlie Tahan (Ozark), which is currenly in production. We talked to Max about the challenges of being a plus size actor, the impetus for Things Like This, and of course, his plus size style.
You have theater, TV, and film experience – is it as challenging to be a plus size theater actor as it is in the other mediums?
I think it’s even more so, especially in musical theater. To be honest, both industries don’t really have a space for plus size people unless you’re the funny fat friend. You don’t see us as actors on stage unless we’re playing the comic relief roles or something. I think that’s been true of Broadway for decades.
There are productions like Head Over Heels that are shifting that paradigm. They had Bonnie Milligan, a plus size actress, play the beautiful princess, and she is gorgeous. It’s so exciting to see someone so talented play that role. I think we need to see more of that. Theater is a place where change has been slower.
You’ve been an actor for several years now, playing roles on shows like Orange Is the New Black. Here we are at the end of 2021 – does it feel like things have evolved as far as the types of roles plus size people can get?
It doesn’t feel like things have changed much, especially in Hollywood. Bigger people still aren’t playing the romantic lead. We don’t get to play the challenging roles, the love interest, or the lead, and I think that’s a real shame.
I began writing because I didn’t see the roles that I felt challenged me in the way I wanted to be challenged. I decided that I needed to be the one who was creating parts that pushed me to be the best that I could be.
I read that Things Like This came from you feeling like there is a lack of stories about the time in life between coming out and being established. Can you talk about that?
I don’t think Hollywood reflects the landscape of how diverse and beautiful humanity is. [Putting a spotlight on people of] different shapes, sizes, colors, sexualities, and gender identities creates a beautiful spectrum of society, and we don’t see that reflected on film.
I felt like I wasn’t going out for the roles I thought I could play. I wasn’t being put in the rooms I wanted to be in. I know my capabilities, and I know where I should be. So I just decided to write the roles that I wanted to see.
What do you hope viewers get from Things Like This?
Hopefully, people understand that love is universal. That feeling of falling in love, the fears, the anxieties – everyone goes through those things, and they can be terrifying. Still, you get to a point where you finally just embrace it.
I had kind of a groundbreaking conversation when I was falling in love almost a year ago, and my friend, who was going through it at the same time – we were both starting to fall in love with someone. She said, You know, what if we just let ourselves? This very simple sentence just kind of changed my entire life.
I’m in the best relationship of my life because of that. What if you just let yourself go headfirst into it, you know? We’re telling a gay love story, but it’s for everyone. Everyone goes through the things these characters go through, and that’s what is important to me.
You’ve got a very realized sense of style! A lot of plus size people don’t have that. Why is fashion important to you?
I just love clothes and expressing myself through fashion. I always have. Clothes are a great way to show the world exactly what you want to be and how you want to present yourself. Many plus size people shy away from bold patterns and colors, but I want people to look. It’s like, look at this outfit, look at these colors. It’s exciting, right?
Is it difficult for you to find clothes in your size that you want to wear?
Over the last few years, as I’ve started doing more events and carpets and things, I’ve found it more difficult to find clothes made for someone my size. It’s tougher to find something that fits those parameters, and that’s extremely frustrating. I’ve noticed that some of the companies that used to offer plus sizes have done away with them, and that’s a shame.
I guess they felt like they weren’t selling enough. It’s also a shame that companies would rather focus on the dollar at the end of the day instead of the fact that underserved body types deserve the same options as those who wear smaller sizes.
Do you have any favorite brands or places that you love to shop?
Definitely! Asos has been my favorite for a few years because [they offer] everyday clothing for plus size people. It seems like they recently changed their sizing, and it’s a little less inclusive, but it is still a great option. DXL is great, but their options are pretty limited and pricey. I would say that my favorite designer or upscale brand is Robert Graham. Their clothing is exciting and bold, which is better than most plus size brands out there.
Is there anyone out there who inspires you when it comes to your career or your style?
I draw inspiration from someone who isn’t in the industry but has created fashion for people of all sizes, and that’s Serena Williams. I’m a huge fan of her and the passion she brings to everything she does. If you’re gonna pick a role model, I think she’s a pretty prime way to go.
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