Check out our interview with New York based actor, model and hip-hop dancer Maximilian Lee Piazza who is also a martial artist, specializing in Iaijutsu (Martial Art with a Japanese sword) called “Ryushin Shouchi Ryu”.
Maximilian got his start as the young Tim Kono in Hulu’s Emmy-nominated Only Murders in the Building before guest starring as Henry Von Biedermeyer in the iCarly reboot on Paramount Plus. He can also be seen as Josh in the film Spirited, a remake of the classic Christmas Carol, working alongside big names in the industry like Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell and Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer.
Follow Maximillian @maximilianpiazza
Hi Maximillian, please tell us a little about you?
Nice to e-meet you! I’m really thankful for this opportunity and look forward to responding to your series of questions. To start, I’m a New York based actor, hip hop dancer and martial artist, specializing in Iaijutsu (Martial Art with a Japanese sword).
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Compassionate, loyal, and creative
How did you get started into acting?
I started out modeling for Ralph Lauren and after doing that for a few years, I discovered my love for acting. My parents told me they always knew I would be an actor or performer of some sort because as a child I would always entertain them.
How has this changed your life?
It’s changed my life in that I have had such incredible experiences through acting from traveling the world to working with some of the most creative minds in the industry who also happen to be some of the nicest as well.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best part is that it allows me to express myself through the different characters I create and experience the world through their eyes. The worst part is the rejections I and every actor experiences throughout their career. Most of the time, I handle it really well but there have been times when I was in the final mix for a project that I really wanted when ultimately the role went to someone else. Thankfully I have really supportive parents who keep me grounded and remind me to never give up. Just recently, I remember feeling really discouraged after losing out on a role and my mom sent me an article about how many of the actors I admire went through similar experiences and almost quit acting, just before they got their star-making role. Reading their stories is what really helped me see the rejection in a different light.
How do you prepare for a role?
My acting coach taught me that, as an actor, you have to be a detective and look for the clues and sub text in the script. So I always start by trying to understand the character how he sees the world and the people he interacts with. From there, I look for my character’s motivation in the scene and, once I start feeling more aligned with my character, I let my imagination go to work in creating his behavior – even the way he moves and talks.
Tell us about your work in “Spirited,” and “iCarly?”
For Spirited, I play Josh Hubbins who is a straight-A student who is running for student council president against the niece of Clint Brigg’s who is played by Ryan Reynolds. I think we all know a kid like Josh – a perfectionist who on the surface seems confident and naturally good at everything he does, but if you look past his social mask, you’ll discover he’s just a typical teenager who has insecurities like the rest of us. For iCarly, I got to play a really quirky and comical character named Henry Von Biedermeyer who is incredibly intelligent but lacking all sense of social cues. I grew up watching the series so, as you can imagine, getting to work with the cast and being on set was a surreal experience, one I will never forget. And for those of you who are wondering, Miranda Cosgrove and the rest of the cast are genuinely kind, very welcoming and incredibly talented as you would imagine them to be.
How was working alongside a big star like Ryan Reynolds?
Although he’s one of the biggest power actors in Hollywood, I wasn’t intimidated working with him because right from the start he was extremely personable and made me feel incredibly comfortable on set.
He’s also a lot taller in real life and he’s also an incredibly generous person – I say that because of an interaction we had after I was done filming most of my scenes with him and Will Ferrell. He was scheduled to film another scene immediately afterwards, but he paused filming for some unknown reason. I didn’t realize it was so he could talk to me privately. As I was about to leave for the day, he took me aside and told me what an outstanding actor I was and that he was excited to see the actor I’d become when I get older. Obviously, hearing those words from an actor I’ve always admired not only resonated with me, but more importantly it also reminded me how powerful the words you speak to others and yourself are. I hope that someday I get to pay it forward by encouraging the young actors I work with like Ryan did for me.
What other projects have you been part of?
My first role was playing the young Tim Kono in the Hulu Emmy-nominated series, Only Murders in the Building.
I also have a big project coming out later this year which has yet to be announced. All I can say without giving away any spoilers is that it’s a dream role for me and a project that has everything from an incredible storyline to characters you will be rooting for every step of the way.
What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?
I know I want to be an actor with a diverse body of work playing interesting, emotionally complex characters and different genres. I really admire Matthew McConaughey, who after starring in multiple romantic comedies, decided he wanted to be taken more seriously as an actor and turned down multiple roles to the point he didn’t work for several years. I really admire the fact that he stood his ground and set his own decisive path in Hollywood.
In addition to playing more dramatic roles, I also see myself playing action roles in the future where I get to take my passion and interest in martial arts and get to integrate that into my characters.
In addition to action movies, I also have my sights on performing in plays in the NY theater scene. This is how some of the best actors – past and present – got their start.
If you weren’t famous, what would you be up to right now?
I’ve been raised by parents with an entrepreneurial spirit so I’d probably be looking into opening my own business – something in e-commerce or focusing more on investing in the stock market. From an early age, my parents taught me about the principles of investing and I bought my first stock when I was 9 years old.
Which fictional character would be the most excited to meet in real life?
Either Johnny Strabler played by Marlon Brando in the Wild One or Ponyboy Curtis from The Outsiders. Johnny because, despite his flaws, is one of the coolest characters on screen, and Ponyboy because he’s old school cool and incredibly loyal to his friends.
Can you name 3 actors/actresses you would love to work with?
When I first started acting, I created a list – I guess you could call it a wishlist/vision board of all the actors I hoped to work with someday. Ironically, Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell were on that list. There are many more names on the list but at the top are some of actors I greatly admire like Leonardo DiCaprio, Joaquin Phoenix and Gary Oldman.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is getting to see the characters I’ve played live on screen whenever I rewatch the series or film. I believe with every actor and creative artist, they leave a part of themselves in that character or work of art they create to share with the rest of the world.
What’s your advice for the newer actors?
My advice is the same advice given to me by many generous creatives I’ve been fortunate to meet along this journey. The first is to always search for truth in everything you do with your performance – it has to be grounded in honesty, otherwise the audience as smart and intuitive as they are will pick up on it. The second is to not give up despite the countless rejections you will inevitably face as an actor. The rejections really sting when you get so close to landing a role, then losing out for a reason you don’t understand or will ever know. And this leads me to the final advice and that is if you don’t get a role then it wasn’t meant to be yours. Trust that the right role will come to you – I truly believe in that.
What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?
The greatest lessons I have learned is what I shared earlier – you have to trust in the timing of the universe and remind yourself that the right role will be yours as long as you continue to put in the work and perform while taking creative risks and trusting your intuition. Nothing false is real so it’s important to be honest in everything you do.
How and when did you start into modeling?
From the time I was born, my mom always dressed me in Ralph Lauren. Over the years, friends and family members would call me the Ralph Lauren kid because practically everything I wore had the polo logo. My parents were approached by agents who wanted to represent me but they always turned it down because they felt I was too young. Just a few months after they decided to let me pursue modeling is when the pandemic occurred and the industry shut down along with the rest of the world. I was fortunate to start modeling for Ralph Lauren right before that occurred and continued working with them and other big brands for several years.
What is fun and rewarding about modeling? And what is not?
Now that I’m at an age – and size – where I have less opportunities to model for brands until I get older, I focus more on my acting and other skills that will enhance my craft. I also do collaborations with brands and coming up with creative content and ideas to showcase their product has been really interesting and rewarding for me.
Can you name a few of the brands you are working or have worked with?
Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Puma, Air Jordan, Converse, Tommy Hillfiger, and Hurley. I also love working with the brands, French Toast and Free Assembly.
The most important thing when you are shooting is?
When it comes to shooting a scene, it’s being honest and grounded and also being a great listener with your scene partner. I know every actor talks about how important that is. When it comes to modeling in front of the camera, I’d say it’s really important to connect well with the photographer and understand what the brand’s identity and vibe is. My dance background really helps me in modeling in terms of movement and understanding angles and body lines also helps.
How would your best friend describe you?
Self-deprecating, funny, and fiercely loyal
If you are a book, what would be the title of the book and why?
The title of my book would be, “Invest in Yourself” and the reason I chose that title is because I invest myself everyday from the healthy foods I eat to the books I read, the people I spend my time with to the training and effort I put into what I’m passionate about and want to get better at.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
The advice I would give to my younger self is this too shall pass – whenever I struggled with something I felt at the time it was the worst situation imaginable and I would never get out of it but sure enough it passed and I usually learned a valuable lesson through that trial.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
Atomic Habits is one of my personal favorite self-help books that I have read so far. It’s all about developing good habits and applying it into your life incrementally so that over time those habits stick and you become a better, more productive person as a result. I can personally attest to how much it’s helped me.
What’s next for Maximillian Piazza in 2023?
I’m really excited about the project I have coming up and being able to return to South Africa to continue filming a series. I also look forward to transitioning from homeschooling to high school where I will get to be a regular teen who also loves being an actor.
What is your favorite healthy food?
One of my favorite healthy snacks is sweet potato fries cooked in an air fryer.
And your favorite cheat food?
My favorite cheat food is spicy Korean rice cakes, especially the type you get in Seoul from a street food vendor. The best you’ll ever have.
What is your own definition of happiness?
My definition of happiness is living your life truthfully getting to do what you are most passionate about and enjoy. For me, acting never feels like work and I love being able to create new characters. Most importantly, it’s being surrounded by the people you love and who love you unconditionally and have your best interests in mind. I’m fortunate to have a loving family and group of friends who do just that.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, it would be my dad’s mom who passed away before I was born. From the stories my dad has told me about her, we have a lot of the same qualities in our personalities and I even inherited her signature cleft chin.
Best advice ever given?
My parents have always taught me from an early age to envision the life I want to live and to give myself permission to dream. I do that all the time.
Do you support any charity?
As an animal lover and budding activist, I devote time to raising awareness for several charities including Charity Water, 4Oceans and donate proceeds from each of my projects to Cornell Skop, a sanctuary for wildlife animals. What’s also meaningful for me is being a voice and representative of a bi-racial actor with Asian and Italian roots in Hollywood.
Where do you see yourself and your career in 5 years from now?
I see myself continuing to work on interesting projects while traveling the world and continuing to hone my acting skills by getting into a top performing arts college like The Juilliard School, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, or Yale University.
Favorite song? Why?
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen because it brings back great memories of cruising with my dad in one of his vintage muscle cars while listening to that song on repeat. If you listen to the lyrics, Springsteen called Born to Run the dividing line between adolescence and adulthood and I guess that’s the euphoric hopeful feeling you get when you’re a young kid dreaming about the future.
What do you think of Social Media?
Social media is like a double edged sword. On one hand, it connects you with people around the world where you can share your POV on life and artistry but, on the other hand, it can be a distraction from life and your time to develop other interests.
Where we can follow you?
On Instagram @maximilianpiazza
Book: The boy who harnessed the wind by William Kamkwamba
Quote: From Bruce Lee “Don’t speak negatively about yourself, even as a joke. Your body doesn’t know the difference. Words are energy and they cast spells, that’s why it’s called spelling. Change the way you speak about yourself, and you can change your life.”
Movie: The Outsiders
Tv Series: Weak Hero Class 1 (Korean tv series about teen bullying)
Favorite Food: Korean Galbi (beef short ribs)
Travel Destination: South Africa
Sports Team: New York Knicks because I’m a loyal New Yorker