Interview: Max Adler on ‘Glee’, Why He Became an Actor and the Message of Acceptance in His New Film, ‘Saugatuck Cures’

"Oh, I always get nervous. The jitters always come and the heart rate always speeds up." - Max Adler on Auditioning

Max Adler Saugatuck Cures

Max Adler might be known to most people for his portrayal of high school jock Dave Karofsky on Glee, but since the show has ended the actor has been busy. He has appeared in Switched at Birth, playing the role of Tank, and is also starring in Saugatuck Cures, a charming new comedy film.

Adler takes on the role of Drew, an openly gay man living in Saugatuck with his mom, Maggie. When Maggie develops cancer and can’t afford her treatment, Drew is convinced by his best friend Brett (played by Danny Mooney), who is straight, to pose as ex-gay ministers in order to raise the money by “converting” homosexuals into heterosexuals. The two friends set forth on a crazy adventure, getting into a lot of trouble with the law, family conflicts and not knowing if they will have enough time to save Maggie, all while Drew battles with his sister Penelope, a religious conservative.

The film is set to be released across all digital platforms on June 30, and Max Adler took time out to talk to us more about the film, the way he works as an actor and why he still gets nervous for auditions.

I watched Saugatuck Cures and really enjoyed it. It tugs at the heartstrings yet also made me laugh out loud. It also has a really warm message of hope and acceptance. 

Max Adler: Well thank you very much! I’m so glad you enjoyed our film and got all of that out of it. That’s exactly the message we were hoping would hit audiences and I’m so glad you got it and were entertained! It means a lot!

It’s being released on June 30. Can you tell our readers a little of what they can expect? 

Max Adler: Yes, absolutely. It’s being released on all digital platforms. iTunes, video on demand, Amazon Instant, cable providers, etc. They can expect a family-friendly comedy that will make you laugh out loud but at the same time tug at your heartstrings and raise questions about morality, sexuality, and religion. All of these are of course hot button issues and topics but this script presents all of these thought-provoking questions and ideas through a wild buddy comedy which makes it all the more fun to watch and palatable to all audiences.

Did you find it easy to assume your character? 

Max Adler: I did. I feel that many actors and artists are very good observers of life and of people and in just day to day conversations or commutes or walks through the city you pick up on so much activity and so much life around you that when it’s time to tackle a character, there is a large plethora of inspiration and understanding all around you and you just kind of tap into that mentality and just dig deeper to make it all the more applicable to your character and their specific circumstances and goals and obstacles.

Where did you look for inspiration? 

Max Adler: Well it’s all around. It’s on the news on television, it’s in stories we read on Facebook and Twitter and it’s within our group of friends or family. You’re just kind of like a big tumbleweed and as you roll along you pick up bits and pieces of information or stories or ideas or knowledge and when it’s time to dig out those little nuggets, you do. There were also many amazing and in-depth conversations amongst the cast and crew and production team about our thoughts on all of these issues and where we all stood, how we would deal with these obstacles in our own lives. In just talking about it and understanding many different points of view it was easy to understand where all of these different characters in the film were coming from and what led them to that point.

Can you tell me how you came to land the part? Did you audition or were you asked to take part, and what made you say yes? 

Max Adler: Luckily I did not have to audition which I think is every actors dream; including mine! This was simply a case of who you know and good timing.

The incredible script was written by Jay Paul Deratany who had, years prior, written a play that was nominated for a GLAAD award. At the award show, he met a director named Matthew Ladensack. Turns out that Matthew is an incredibly wise, talented, ambitious, hard-working, intuitive, young director and it also turns out that Matthew and I went to high school in Arizona together and worked on a couple of school projects together!

Once Matthew was in to direct, he was not only familiar with me as a person but my work on Glee and he and Jay both thought I would fit the bill and made me an offer which I was so grateful and appreciative for. I responded to it immediately not only because I was excited to jump at the chance to work with my high school friend on a film, but because the material was so good and so cleverly written. It was also original in the fact that it was dealing with these highly sensitive issues but I still found myself chuckling out loud every few pages as I first read the script which doesn’t usually happen, so I immediately said yes.

Even crazier is that Matthew and Jay had narrowed down their choices for a few actors to play my best friend Brett and the other lead in the movie. One of those choices happened to be my good buddy Danny Mooney who had just directed me in a Vietnam film called Love and Honor so I said you have to cast Danny he is amazing and then we all ended up working together!

And I can’t say anything too official yet, but all of us are actually re-teaming for another exciting project which we will announce in the near future! Nothing better than working on material you are passionate about with friends!

The overwhelming feeling I got from the movie is a sense of community and family. It makes no difference that these people are from all walks of life, all ages, genders, sexualities; they all pull together and love one another. Was that reflected among cast members on set?

Max Adler: First of all, thank you for sharing your feelings on that aspect of the movie. I’m so glad you responded well to all of that! That was our dream and our goal when shooting! So thanks. And secondly, yes one hundred per cent! We were all different ages and sexual orientations and races and some of us were from Los Angeles, some from Chicago, some from Michigan, some were working on a movie set for the very first time, and some were working on their 20th film. It was certainly a varied and eclectic group of people but we all felt like it was a sleep away summer camp where we all came from different walks of life and different places in our lives but for this one month we were all working towards the same goal and all working long hours in a beautiful city together and were a team of people sharing personal stories and jokes and bonding. By the end of production we were all very close and many of us keep in touch quite regularly and see each other quite frequently.

Your character, Drew, is gay and Dave Karofsky on Glee was also gay, but much less accepting of his own sexuality. Was it nice to play someone who was so much more comfortable in his own skin? 

Max Adler: Well, in terms of sexuality alone, yes Drew is much more comfortable in his own skin, but where the story takes him and what his best friend Brett asks him to do along this crazy journey, Drew is still very much outside of himself and not quite comfortable in what he has to do day in and day out. But me as an actor rather enjoys that more because therein lies the drama and the obstacle and the reason to keep watching. If everything was fine and dandy and comfortable and the status quo it could tend to get boring and there is no reason to keep watching to see if the character will overcome this intense challenge or not.

Just to keep with Glee for a moment, I saw you took part in A Broaderway with Idina Menzel where you were singing. Are you forever bitter that Karofsky never got his moment in the musical spotlight? I’ll be honest, as a huge Glee fan, I am! I always wanted to see Dave sing a solo number.

Max Adler: Well thank you very much! I would agree with you! First of all, I have to say that Idina couldn’t be any sweeter or more modest or more welcoming. Her foundation is incredible and truly changes lives and the event was spectacular. I got to sing “New York, New York” which is my go to karaoke song and I got to sing it with an incredible live band backing me up. It was certainly a night to remember!

Regarding singing on Glee, yes I will forever be disappointed that I didn’t get the opportunity to. Not that I’m complaining because I feel like the character I was given the chance to play and the arc we saw him go through from closeted scary bully at the school to a suicide attempt to coming out and having a boyfriend is certainly a character I could have only dreamed of playing and the fact that Ryan Murphy and Company chose me to play him is certainly not lost on me.

However, I was one of a few cast members who actually did do show choir in high school. It was a huge part of my high school experience as I was involved with small jazz choirs that would meet after school, show choirs that involved heavy dancing, and classical choirs that involve purely singing. Every year we actually traveled around the country to compete in big singing competitions much like you see in Glee. Same wild extravagant sequined outfits, same pressures, same cheesy judges etc. So I definitely would have loved to have gotten at least one song to sing but such is life and I suppose there are reasons for everything! But thanks for having my back on that!

How did you decide to become an actor? Was it something you wanted from an early age?

Max Adler: Yes it was. From very early on, I would say age 5 or 6, I was always borrowing my dad’s video camera and recording myself making little commercials or giving silly monologues or speeches. I got involved in Community Theater at maybe 10 or 11 and started doing summer camps for singing actors very early on as well. I did my first play in middle school and was hooked and could never really see myself doing anything else. I certainly thought it was not tangible at all and so I kind of thought I could be a news anchor and that would be a safe back up plan because I would still be reading lines on television!

There were two things that happened that were kind of the big events that made me actually pursue acting as a legitimate career. Both happened in high school. My junior year of high school, a choir buddy of mine who I went on a couple of choir retreats with was named Garrett Hedlund. We were in high school together in Arizona and the next thing I knew he had moved to Los Angeles and landed the part of Brad Pitt’s little cousin in Troy and was traveling around the world shooting this incredibly big film with the top actors in the business! It was the first time someone I knew personally had actually made it and it kind of changed the way I looked at getting into Hollywood. I saw it as a tangible reality instead of just a pipe dream.

The second thing happened during my senior year and that was the tragic event of my mother’s unexpected passing. That made me completely rewire my brain and understand what living for the moment and living your life to its fullest each day truly meant because tomorrow is promised to nobody and so I figured why waste time and spend energy going after a backup plan instead of truly fighting for what I really wanted out of life. As soon as I graduated high school, I moved out to Los Angeles.

How do you approach an audition? Do you still get nervous or are you a pro by now? 

Max Adler: Oh I always get nervous. The jitters always come and the heart rate always speeds up. But I suppose the thing that’s changed is instead of going into an audition with fear and the thought of I hope they like me and I hope I’m good enough it’s now a feeling of excitement and the thought of I can’t wait to show them my take on this character and I can’t wait for them to see the choices I’ve made with this person.

What’s next for you? More Switched at Birth, maybe? (Hopefully!) Would you like to work on the stage, or is TV and Film where it’s at for you? 

Max Adler: Yes to all of the above! I’m currently in New York and have had some very exciting meetings with some big directors for a couple of films and I’m now in the final mix and I’m close to landing a couple so fingers crossed. I’m also out here pursuing theater as I would love to get back on the stage. However, at the end of the month I do return to Los Angeles to resume working on Switched At Birth as well as filming a very exciting web series that my friend/ahead of his time producer Adi Shankar is presenting. I can’t say too much about it yet but I’m sure it will be big.

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