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On the Apple TV+ series Shrinking, Lukita Maxwell plays the emotionally distant daughter of an unconventional therapist (Jason Segel), both grappling with the sudden loss of her mother. It’s a multifaceted role that requires Maxwell to be darkly inscrutable, imminently likable, and wise beyond her years in many, many scenes alongside Harrison Ford (who plays her dad’s elder colleague). The New York Times simply referred to her performance as “touching.”
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and raised in Utah, the actor got her first big break in 2021 on HBO’s Generation, a smart, kindred spirit to Euphoria in which she plays a teen activist. Maxwell is expert at playing strong, outspoken women bent on paving their own paths.
In reality, she also happens to be proudly queer and embodies all the best qualities of those characters. Still, as remarkable as she is, she’s only human — which is precisely why she adopted Roscoe, her rescue cat, who’s now three years old. “I had moved to LA before the show started shooting, and it was during COVID. I felt very isolated, and I was living on my own for the first time and just feeling very alone,” she says. “Roscoe was the perfect little dude. The second we saw him, my friend was like, ‘That cat with the skunk tail, if you do not take that cat home, I am taking him.’” This, of course, changed Maxwell’s life — and Roscoe’s.
The Wildest chatted with Maxwell about everything from mitigating on-set anxiety to celebrating wins, and how Roscoe quickly became both her bestie and emotional rock.
(Editor’s Note: Maxwell spoke to us prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.)
What was that learning curve like, getting Roscoe as a kitten?
Oh, he just had his zoomie phase, which was crazy. He’s three, and he’s just starting to slow down a little bit. As I was living on my own, I wanted to incorporate another little dude to take care of, because I needed motivation to get up. It wasn’t a terribly hard process to acclimate. I think it was more just a surprise, and then annoying, and then endearing — how often he would, like, get zoomies at 3 in the morning or, like, scream for food. But we’re just best buds now.
What’s his personality been like as he gets older?
He is a little gentleman and a human lover. Every single time somebody new walks in the door, he will immediately start weaving between your legs and is very gentle. He wants to be around people. And he has a little-dog personality. He’s a little cat-dog. I’ve never had cats before: I kind of assumed that cats were all very aloof and wanted you to do your thing and allow them to do their thing. But he loves people. When he was a baby, if I woke up in the middle of the night to grab a glass of water, he would follow me into the kitchen and fall asleep by my feet. And he sleeps right here on my shoulder in bed.
Where does the name Roscoe come from?
It was kind of an homage, I guess, an LA name. A street that I used to live by in the Valley was called Roscoe Avenue or Roscoe Boulevard or something like that. I remember seeing that every time I drove back and forth from work.
I had “Miso” as a name that I wanted to name a cat. But then when I met him…you can very quickly tell when names don’t fit with a certain pet. He needed a name with a little bit more stature. I love when people name their pets hyper-human names. Like if they name their dog “Matt,” I think that’s the funniest thing.
So, pivoting to your work, let’s start with Generation because that’s kind of how people first got to know you. It said a lot of things that need to be said about being one’s authentic self. What was it like shooting that?
When we shot Generation, I was still a teenager very much trying to figure out who I was and what I liked and what I wanted to fully do with my life, all the issues that these kids were grappling with in the show. At the time, I had a girlfriend — my first queer relationship. And that was a really, really exciting and loving relationship. At the time, everything felt like it was clicking into place. But I don’t think that I realized the huge impact all of these little aspects of my life, how they were affecting me, how they were affecting my future, Roscoe being one of them.
When we finished shooting, that isolation that I felt — I wouldn’t have been able to get through that time without him. I was trying to figure out how to be an adult for the first time, and I didn’t quite know how to take care of myself in a daily sense. I knew how to take care of myself in a spiritual, mental, and emotional sense. But in the day-to-day, he just made my life full.
Your career really leveled up with Shrinking. Like, you have several one-on-one scenes with Harrison Ford and Jason Segel, which must have been intimidating.
I don’t know how, but when I auditioned and had the initial callbacks and chemistry reads with Jason, I just felt blindly confident, even though I didn’t feel like I would ever get the project. I just felt so comfortable in the role. It was like something cosmically was happening, giving me this surge of confidence. Then, I booked the job and moved from New York to LA to shoot the show.
The first day on set, it’s: Jason; Christa [Miller]; Bill Lawrence, the show-runner; Neil Goldman, one of our exec producers; and James Ponsoldt, our director. I was absolutely feeling the anxiety: These are some of my favorite people who have made some of my favorite things. And they are not only older than me, but they all know each other and have worked together before. That’s a lot of pressure for a young adult. This was also the first time that I was really doing comedy-comedy. So that was another anxiety-inducing thing.
How did you get through that?
I remember that first day, when I was freaking out, everybody had left the room for something, and it was just me and Jason in the room. From the get-go, I felt comfortable with Jason. There was something about him that was just very warm, and I didn’t feel like I needed to prove anything to him. And he was an easy person to talk to.
He felt like a lifeline on that first day because I told him, “I feel so anxious right now.” And he gave me the best advice. He just said, “You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You know that you’re here to do your job, and you’re good at your job. I know that you’re good at your job. Do the work, and let that guide you.” And I was always telling myself that on days that I was anxious, like a week later when I had my first scene with Harrison Ford.
What was that like?
That morning I woke up with that blind confidence and went into it just convincing myself that he was a dude like any other, and I needed to treat this as another day at work. I had prepped my scenes, so I wasn’t worried about that. And then yeah, like Jason said, “Everything will follow if you just focus on the work and not put too much pressure on yourself.”
And he’d know, because he started acting as a teen.
He’s exactly the person to give advice on that. And I know that he sees a lot of himself in me. I think that he wants to just look out for me and make sure that I’m doing okay, because coming up in this industry as a young person is not easy on the brain and the anxiety. With Shrinking, the thing that would induce anxiety was working with this crazy legend on the first day. Then after that, I was fine. Work feels good for me. And Roscoe was obviously there for anything that I needed.
There are many people who have experienced trauma or grief. Do people ever come to you and say you’ve made a difference in their lives because of Shrinking?
Yes, I’ve had many lovely interactions with our audience from Shrinking but also Generation. Lots of people, I think, can relate to parts of both Alice and Delilah — and I love when they share with me. It makes me feel like a part of a community. It’s sweet.
So, however the writer strike shakes out, there will be a season two of Shrinking. But in the meantime, we can see you in a movie called The Young Wife?
I shot The Young Wife the month before I came out to LA to do Shrinking. It was a crazy, beautiful movie to be a part of. I’m so excited for people to see it. We premiered it at South by Southwest, but I am not sure when it’s coming out. It’s a dramedy about a bride on her wedding day, and the psychosis of dealing with her family and her friends and her fiancé’s family. It’s an emotional whirlwind.
And who are you in this tableau?
I play Leon Bridges’s youngest sister. The Young Wife consists of a massive ensemble [including Kiersey Clemons, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Kelly Marie Tran, and Judith Light], and every single person in this movie is gifted the ability to shine a little bit in their own respective ways. We all bonded immensely.
And then you’re going to be in They Listen, a Blumhouse movie. I’m guessing it’s a horror film?
Yeah, They Listen is a thriller directed by and written by Chris Weitz. It’s about a family and how…well, I don’t know what’s released about it. So I’ll just say it’s about a family. I got to play John Cho and Katherine Waterston’s eldest daughter, and it was very exciting working with them.
It’s safe to say you’ve been working a lot. What does Roscoe do, or how does he react to you, when you’re tired after a day of shooting?
Usually when I come home, he starts screaming and asks to be fed. [laughs] That’s usually the first thing. Then he comes and sits next to me and crawls up and asks to be pet. That’s so simple, but that’s all I need. Also, I’ve heard that cat purring is a very healing frequency, and he’s a big purrer.
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Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.