Maude Apatow is the daughter of two Hollywood powerhouses: hilarious writer/director/producer Judd Apatow and hilarious actress Leslie Mann. Given her pedigree, I wondered about the person I would encounter in our interview — a wild card with Apatow’s off-color humor and Mann’s doe-eyed delivery? Or someone who speaks only in media-trained soundbites, a cool and collected Child of Celebrities who’s been there, done that?
But what I got is someone who speaks thoughtfully, interrupting herself at one point to sigh, “I’m so bad at talking.” (For the record, she’s not). She pauses to consider questions and stops herself frequently to rephrase her answers the way a writer would — which makes sense, considering that in addition to acting, Apatow has bylines on HelloGiggles, Rookie, and Teen Vogue (for whom she interviewed One Direction) and a Twitter account that merited a write-up in the New York Times. She also wrote and directed a 2017 short film called Don’t Mind Alice.
When we talked over the phone during the last week of May, the 22-year-old was several weeks into isolation in Los Angeles with her parents and sister Iris, 17, who’s also an actress. Apatow was in the midst of preparing for season 2 of HBO’s Euphoria when production shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. With two major projects out this summer — The King of Staten Island and Netflix’s Hollywood — Apatow is stepping into her first big press tour, but instead of 16-hour days, nonstop travel, and a new outfit for the morning, afternoon, and late night shows, she was taking phone calls on her parents' couch in PJs and doing photoshoots over FaceTime.
“It's been kind of weird honestly, but also this is the first time that I've done stuff like this, so I guess I don't really have much to compare it to,” she says. “It's a lot less scary, getting to do stuff remotely, so that's been kind of nice.”
In The King of Staten Island, which is loosely based on Pete Davidson’s life, Apatow plays his younger sister Claire, the responsible straight-shooter to Davidson’s wayward Scott. It’s a project that reunites her with her father, whom she worked with in Knocked Up, Funny People, and This Is 40.
She knows that by taking the role, she was opening herself up to the possibility of nepotism accusations, but Apatow says being able to work her father "is a very special thing for me." Of course, it’s a special thing for any young actor — the director has launched countless careers, most notably Seth Rogen’s.
“I know it's probably not going to happen again for a while, and I didn’t want to be so worried about what other people would think rather than do something that is kind of important to me and something that I know I would learn from and have a really positive experience doing,” she says.
Read on as Apatow discusses improvising sibling fights with Pete Davidson, what to expect from the next season of Euphoria, and her love of reality TV.
How have you been doing in isolation? Have you been able to get outside much?
Yeah, we've been taking a lot of walks. It's hard for me to get up and [be active], but I always feel better when I do it. I've just never been super big on hiking. I went on one hike [during quarantine] and a bee stung my eye. I was like, "this is a sign."
How did you come to be involved with King of Staten Island?
My dad had talked to Pete about it, and obviously the role is loosely based on Pete’s real-life sister, and she's exactly my age. It sort of just came to be that the timing really worked out right after I finished shooting Euphoria. I've known Pete for a long time, and feel comfortable [with him] and feel like we have a relationship, so that really worked in our favor with making a movie and playing siblings.
Did you have to audition or go through chemistry reads together?
Yeah, I auditioned. I think my dad definitely wasn't sure if it made sense at first, and I had to show him that I'm capable of playing a part like this.
Before this, you hadn’t worked with your dad on a movie in a few years, was that a conscious choice?
Yeah, the last time I worked with my dad, I was 12 — it had been almost 10 years, and I hadn't worked with him since I started acting more seriously. The last time we worked together, I was so young and I almost didn't fully understand what was going on. I look up to my dad a lot, he's like my mentor, and it was important to me to be able to work with him [as an adult] and get to see how he works.
I want to show that I can do stuff on my own, but also I don't know when the next time I'll work with him is going to be. At first, I didn't want to just be known to work with my parents, but also, why would I not [work with them]? It's a very special thing to be able to do, and my dad and I are really close. I learned so much working with him, I feel like he knows me better than anyone and can direct me well because of that.
What was it like working with him this time around versus back when you were younger?
I definitely take acting way more seriously now. Before, I was so young and I did musical theater growing up and I loved doing theater at school, but I hadn't worked professionally other than working with him. And so now, it's cool to have done other things and go back to working with my dad and see how the way he works is different from other people. But I just feel a lot more responsible and just more like a person than a kid. It was different in that way. I felt grown up. My dad and I have a very good working relationship and he's hard on me in the way that I'd want him to be. And I'm hard on myself and want to do a good job for him. We've got a good thing down.
Did you meet Pete’s real-life sister when you got the role?
I did, but it's tricky playing someone who's based on a real person and obviously, the movie is fictional too. I wanted to learn about what their dynamic was, but not do an imitation of her, and I didn't want her to feel like I was imitating her. So I didn't actually spend that much time with her before we started shooting, but I talked to my dad and Pete and Ricky Velez, who's Pete's best friend in real life, who's also in the movie and who's the greatest.
We had a lot of conversations about their [brother-sister] dynamic, and it's definitely written really well in the script, but I wanted to make it my own. And then after we finished shooting is when I actually hung out with her a lot more. We hung out a few times in New York, and she's a really great person.
The older brother/younger sister relationship you guys have onscreen felt very real. How did you and Pete develop that?
One day, we did like an hour of improv, just fighting. [Laughs] I was just like, siblings have the same four fights over and over and over again. Even if they're fighting about something totally different, it always comes back to this one thing. And so we kind of just figured out what our fight patterns were, and then when we got to shooting, we had exhausted [those patterns] already, and it just felt like, "Oh, [let’s go] again?"
Can we talk about the long red nails you wear in the movie?
Do you know Vanity Projects, [the salon] in New York? I got them done there. I was obsessed with their Instagram, I've always loved nails, and I just pictured a longer nail look [for Claire], and I talked to the woman [there] and we came up with a design to do.
Let’s talk about Euphoria — in the first season, a lot of the characters got focused episodes that really dove into their backstory, but there wasn’t one for Lexi. Is that something we can expect in season 2?
I knew before I signed onto the show — or as I was signing on — that season one was not where my character's storyline was. And that it was a season two storyline, so... Yeah, it's coming!
Having grown up with parents in the industry, was there ever a time that you considered a career other than acting?
...No. [Laughs] I guess I just started doing theater when I was five, and then it really never was a question for me. And I feel very lucky that I knew that this was what I wanted to do. But yeah, I've kind of always known. There were times that I felt especially inspired in school, doing more serious theater and acting, and having my drama teachers be super supportive and inspiring. There were lots of things that helped cement that. But I think I've always kind of known.
Were you ever worried about people saying that you were only getting roles because you had connections?
I mean, yeah, but all of the stuff that I've done outside my parents, they haven't been involved in at all. And I guess with anyone who has parents in the industry, you'll get that. I think you have to keep working to prove yourself and do your own thing. Just keep making good stuff.
What’s one book you could read over and over again?
My parents told me to read The Untethered Soul, a self-help book and I guess that's the book I would choose because it's just something I might turn to when I'm not feeling great. And it always had very positive advice.
What did your childhood bedroom look like?
It was very pink. I had a bunk bed that had a desk underneath, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
What have you been binge-watching lately?
I've been watching 90 Day Fiance. That's my favorite. I've been finding it really hard to watch a lot of sad TV and movies, so I've been watching a lot of reality TV. I've binged like every show that's come out on Netflix, pretty much, like [Great British] Bake Off. I've also been watching Drag Race, and I really like Unorthodox.
What’s something you’re really grateful for right now?
I'm really grateful to be with my family, and that my family is healthy right now.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photographs by Colette Aboussouan. Beauty Direction by Kayla Greaves, all products available at Sephora. Hair in consultation with Lona Vigi. Flowers by Plants and Spaces LA. Production by Kelly Chiello.