Growing up, I was a huge fan of the James Bond franchise. The World is Not Enough was a personal favorite. The hot trifecta that was Denise Richards, Sophie Marceau, and a younger Pierce Brosnan excited me. I wanted to be a Bond girl more than life. While these films are undoubtedly wrought with misogyny, as a kid, something about the dichotomy of a perfectly groomed bombshell kicking butt, jumping off buildings, and riding on motorcycles was super-enthralling to me.
As I approached adulthood, I continued to work my way through the action wall at the video store, but another realization set in. There were no gay characters in these films. While the presence of queer roles has somewhat improved in mainstream film and television, the action genre has, to this day, remained particularly devoid of our GLBT brothers and sisters.
The role of an action star — the fight choreography, auto drifting, athleticism, and tough mental constitution — for whatever reason, appear to be an overtly masculine trade. However, if you live in the real world, you’ll meet many a gay man who is fully capable of the violence, tenacity, and drive it takes to defeat the bad guys.
Working as a video director and producer, it became my mission to create the content that I wanted to see in the world. I needed to make a queer action series. For years, my vision for what this could be became a daily fixation, but to make it happen I needed a star.
Enter Max Malanaphy. I first proposed my concept to the RuPaul’s Drag Race alum in August of 2016. Who better to lead the charge than a tall, model-like drag queen with a theatre background, and a love for movement? I was excited (and frankly a bit surprised) that he was so happy to oblige. I recently asked Max why he decided to work together, in his words, “Peaceful people can only remain docile for so long. I had the opportunity to be an agent of justice, and of creation.”
Next, a rigorous pre-production phase began. With a team of five writers, the story quickly became a topical one, a rich real estate mogul, planning to destroy poor and disadvantaged city neighborhoods. Getting director of photography, Aleutian Calabay, was a huge encouragement, as well as the support of his incredible crew. Casting became focused on intelligent bodies, largely dancers, capable of taking falls and learning fight choreography. Max and I had a lot of conversations about who we wanted this hero to be and how the overall style of the series would be a reflection of who he is as both a personality and a person.
In November of 2016, production of AGENT MAX began. I’ll never forget the first day of shooting, the moment Max first stepped out of the car, in full costume. Clad in shiny black-heeled boots, a black jumpsuit, and cascading grey hair, a hero was born. In speaking on the similarities to his crime fighting character, Max said, “Agent Max and I definitely share a sensuality. Also, an extreme reactivity and sensitivity to the darker facets of human nature. She is certainly more unafraid and unabashed in her manner than I have been. Both are qualities I’m working very hard to imbue within my being.”
Throughout the 12-hour shoot days and the physical and emotional demands of the role, Max became a self-described “Tarantino bitch in the making.” The series itself is a short pilot to a larger dream. The web series plays out in three short acts. Viewers can look forward to fast-paced action, violence, subtle and not-so-subtle real life parallels, and the triumphant return of Max Malanaphy to an on-camera role. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and hopefully you’ll ask for more.
The first episode of AGENT MAX releases online Thursday, March 23, 2017. Follow @maxcollective and @agentjohnmark on Instagram & Twitter for more information.