Maya Hawke – always inevitably referred to as the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke – is experiencing a phenomenal year that smells like a breakthrough. Along with her mainstream appearance in Stranger Things, the new and last season of which will soon begin filming, a new diverse body of work has been released front-acting with Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bernstein biopic Maestro, and playing the role of Southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor in Wildcat, directed by her father.
Maya has done some prominent work modeling for the likes of Vogue, and she also worked with Sofia Coppola in the Calvin Klein campaign she directed in 2022. Despite being in a family of Hollywood stars, from a young age she was thoroughly dedicated to studying the craft of acting at drama schools, never taking success for granted. Now the effort seems to be paying off. After some minor roles in memorable films such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, she’s taking the leading roles for formidable directors. She accompanied her father who was receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at Stockholm Film Festival to promote their new film, where we had the opportunity to talk about this blossoming moment in her career as an actress and also flourishing as a musician and poet.
We were just informed that the actors’ strike in Hollywood is finally over. What’s your take on it?
I’m very grateful that it happened. And I believe that artists as a community need to collectively understand how to restructure an industry that is drastically impacted by the internet. Also excited to go back to work and glad we made a deal.
So will the new Stranger Things season go ahead then?
Yes! It won’t happen anytime soon, it takes a long time to put it together, but it’s going to happen. We can’t really talk much more about it (smiles).
This year you have a lot of new work with incredible directors coming out: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, and Wildcat, working alongside your father, Ethan Hawke. That’s quite a wide range.
I’ve been very lucky in my life to work with people who all approach their job differently. It teaches you about how we like to work. Those people are all incomparable and so are the films. You would never make Wildcat the way that you made Asteroid City, they’re totally different experiences. My relationships with all the directors are very different.
I was talking to your father about Reality Bites, and how that script would have not worked well nowadays. For example, back in the day if a music band put a song in any commercial they were seen as sellouts, whereas today there’s no other way for musicians to make money with their recordings. What’s your opinion about that?
I would love to turn their nose up at doing that. But there’s no way that the industry pays to record music anymore.
In fact, you are a musician. I think you have released a couple of full-lengths to date. How does that connect with your acting career?
For me, all creativity stems from a similar place. It’s the desire for storytelling, community, and collaboration. Those are my favorite things, where I feel the most excited. One of my favorite aspects about getting even a little bit older is the feeling of being able to contribute. I’ve spent the most time learning about acting and acting is my life. Now when I come on set, whether or not this is true, I have the feeling that I could contribute, that I’ve spent enough time working and thinking about these subjects that I’m truly prepared to be there.
I’ve spent much less time as a musician. It’s intimidating and highly nerve-wracking to be in the student position while we are still putting out work, but I like to do that because it reminds me to stay in the student position as an actor too and try to stay there all the time. Because there’s always more you can be learning and growing, it’s good. It’s the David Bowie quote that you want to be in the ocean just deep enough that your toes can barely touch the bottom of the floor, you want to be just a little unsure. So both things react and respond to each other, and I feel so lucky to be able to do them.
Talking about how people’s mentalities change and how a script like that of Reality Bites is seen today, Stranger Things is the perfect example of the opposite: the show has had a cultural impact on a generation. Do you think about whether this will be perceived differently in the future?
I do think that my generation values friendships really highly, and they’re valued really highly in the show too. I’m not saying there’s necessarily a quotation there, but I know it is really about friendships, and I noticed more and more with my peers that it’s way less about romantic relationships, who you end up with, or if you’re gonna get married. Instead, it’s becoming more about what your friendships are like, and your community. There’s a real emphasis on being an honorable friend. So I don’t know if that’s connected.
Stranger Things has given you the opportunity to reach the mainstream, and younger audiences resonate with your character. What does this mean to you?
God, I think it’s really hard to have perspective now. It would make sense to have that conversation in the future because there would be twenty years to look back on and see what was important about it and what resonated, but it’s harder to understand what’s happening it that moment.
I think that the show as a whole resonates with audiences, and therefore, it has so many people who watch it, there are groups of people who care about one character or another. I remember being a kid with the Twilight movies, and the passion that some people had in the Jacob/Edward debate was just vehement. It’s hard to have perspective. I don’t know, but I feel grateful to be a part of it.
In your new movie, Wildcat, you play American writer Flannery O’Connor. I think you have followed her work for several years and her character resonates with you.
I actually auditioned for one of her texts. I think my paternal grandmother showed her work to my father when he was young. And then I got fronted by an English teacher. I just got obsessed with it. I used it as an audition for a bunch of different drama schools. My interest in it is from such an emotional, communal language and landscape of conversations with my father for my whole life.
Was it difficult to take your personal relationship with your father onto the film set?
We’ve been talking about the intersection of creativity and your relationship to whatever higher power my whole life, so the reason we would do this together was very simple. You’re in conversation, then the film is an extension of that conversation.
Did you discover anything new from your father while working together?
This is the first front-facing public artwork we’ve done together that we’re sharing with the world. But making things together didn’t feel particularly like uncharted ground. We’ve been talking about movies, music, and play readings in the living room forever. Being a family and trying to have a public relationship with that, that feels dangerous and scary. But the making of it was just a blessing.