Max Beesley multi talented Musician, Actor and Composer. Seasoned percussionist & pianist who has worked with the likes of George Micheal, Paul Weller, James Brown, Incognito, and of course his great friend Robbie Williams. With an incredibly busy acting career to boot…almost too many credits to mention both here and in the US. We at Those London Chicks are hugely excited that Max has taken the time out to have a good old ‘chin wag’ about his life, work and inspirations.
Max, music is clearly in your blood, with father Maxton a jazz drummer and mother Chris a jazz singer. As a kid, was there an assumption you were going to follow in their footsteps and become a professional musician. Tell us a bit about you growing up around music?
When I was a child, one of my very first recollections I have was of my father putting a pair of drum sticks in my hands. I think my mother put headphones on me, I wasn’t listening to anything. My mother was very instrumental in me taking up the Piano. I also remember my father saying to me. “You’ll never not be able to eat if you can play the Piano. Whatever your aspirations are, you’ll always have that skill set, it’s a great one to have in life”. However there were times as I was growing up I did not want to sit behind a Piano and practice. I rarely practiced!! As my old Piano teacher at Chetems would attest to Mr Burrul, were he still alive ( bless him). But the one good thing that came out of that is my sight reading became extremely proficient. So my parents were very influential in terms of me getting my music stuff together. I would be listening to melodies around the house constantly Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Sarah Vaughan. Also all the soul Motown stuff, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and a bit of Donnie Hathaway. Soul and RnB in the 70’s, those type of records. But then real ‘muso’ things like Spyro Gyra, Al Jarreau and Chaka Khan ( who I was lucky enough to work with later in life). But my biggest influences were my parents and then from that came my own journey and influences which are constantly evolving and growing. I learnt a lot from people like Bill Evans (pianist), Oscar Peterson (pianist), Steve Gadd (drums) about playing…’less is more’. I was musically trained, I could read, write and score music however I believe in the emotion behind it. The most important thing is to be able to feel, groove and ‘be in the pocket’. Again something my parents always drilled into me, something I’m very grateful for now.
As an extremely accomplished musician you’ve played with some of the ‘greats’, at what point did you realise you wanted to pursue a career in acting and how did you got about it?
I’ve been lucky enough to have played with most of the people I have dreamt of playing with as a child. The switch to acting came in 1994. I was in Berlin with George Micheal doing the MTV awards playing drums and round about the same time I was in London finishing off George Benson’s Album. So musically things couldn’t have been any better. I was very fortunate I was playing with people I really respected and loved. But then I watched the film “Raging Bull” and I had empathy at the end of the film with Ray Lamota the main character. Who is a bit of an animal to be fair…. but that was down to Robert De Niro’s brilliant, truthful portrayal of him. To be able to play a character and show those sides intrigued me. I thought wow, that is a challenge …and I’ve always been one for a challenge. I watched that film and that was it, that was the change! I found out that De Niro had used an acting coach Sheila Gray on a film he directed called “A Bronx Tale” to coach the young lead actor in it. So I thought this must be the lady, if De Niro thinks she’s the one, then she is the lady for me. De Niro and his body of work was my biggest acting influence. So I went to New York and I studied with her, which was a jamboree of method acting, a little bit of Stanislavsky, a bit of Meisner. She customised her approach according to how you respond to her teaching. Her methods and techniques are flawless in my eyes.
It’s funny as a Brit living in the US I think a lot of the producers, directors and casting like the idea of using British actors because we in their eyes are fully trained in schools like Rada or Lamda, we’re well versed in Shakespeare etc. But the irony is, most of my influences were American, I trained the American way, I respect everybody’s technique, that’s just what worked for me.
You had been travelling and working intermittently in the US alongside a career as an actor in the UK. What made you decide to finally make the plunge and settle down in LA?
In the mid to late 90’s I was fortunate enough to do a lot of work in the UK. I cut my teeth on a lot of independent movies. Most of which weren’t financially successful, but for me learning about the work was very beneficial. I’d come to the US each pilot season like most actors do, with that vision and dream of getting of the plane and changing the world. Thinking it’s all going to be great. After 7 years of that, I sort of gave up a little bit really on working in America because I didn’t have very much luck. So I embraced what I had back in England which was making some wonderful drama. However, I still had that ambitious streak in me, the little niggle in me, until you get to a point in your life when you realise there is no big ‘pay off’ really. Today is the pay off. My family. My family are healthy, I’m healthy…. that’s an Oscar for me, everyday.
I love the States, I’ve always loved the States, the films and in the last decade really loved US television. My wife is American and so by default I guess, it became more of a permanent thing me being here (LA).Which in turn then lead to more work here. That really is how it works.
Were there challenges establishing and making your mark in the US?
I’ve only recently in the last couple of years started having a bit of luck out here in America and I do call it luck, because that’s what it is, luck. Your training is what will keep you working and if you have abilities to be able to deliver as an actor, you’ll keep working….you just need a little bit of luck. I mean I love what George Clooney said at the Golden Globes, when he went to give an award he said ‘ Lets not kid ourselves, everyone in here has been given a golden ring. These awards are about who’s won and who’s not… we all winners in here. There are a lot of people out there, who are not here tonight who could be.” He’s right! I know hundreds of actors who I think are absolutely phenomenal and they’re struggling. I think if you get a grasp on things and remain grateful for the work you do. Things fall into place. it is what it is… I mean thats it, that’s the key.
As a permanent resident in LA, where do you consider home…Manchester or Mulholland LA?
I love California such a gorgeous part of the world and I love living here. It’s a beautiful day here today, I’ve just left the house where my beautiful wife and daughter are. Everybody is healthy and happy, that’s what important to me. We live just over towards the Valley at the top of the hill. Mulholland and Beverly glen. We rarely go out we enjoy ourselves. my wife and my baby. We’re lucky we have a lovely home, modest but lovely. I love driving up the coast, the highway and the coastline. I like the healthiness here, it’s much easier to be healthy and fit here. I love the weather…the life.
I miss home, I miss my folks, my sister,I miss Manchester. I love that I’m a Manchester boy, I love my roots, my parents roots, I love Salford. I love the Irish connection,with our family and it is absolutely vital that I pass some of that onto my daughter. We at some point will do a tour of where Daddy was bought up, I really think it is important. I’m happy here in California with my wife and Daughter.
Part 2 of Max’s Chicks Chat next week!
Thank you Max