Living out a passion to the point of feeling fulfilled and whole is something many of us strive for, but many fall short of this achievement for one reason or another. One multitalented entertainment industry professional finding her way to fulfillment from an early age is Max Wasa. As a classically trained musician, Max has appeared in smash hits such as Scarface (1983) and My Stepmother is an Alien (1988), as well as small, independent films including her most recent feature, Astro. Max also saw success on the long-running television series Miami Vice and the HBO series Dream On. However, her passion has led her to all angles of the arts, including modeling and music production. Recently, this incredibly kindhearted and gifted artist took a break from her busy schedule to speak with PopHorror about her life then and now.
PopHorror: Hi, Max! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
Max Wasa: My pleasure!
PopHorror: Throughout the years, you have dabbled in the entertainment industry with various talents through multiple mediums including music and film. What artistic medium did you begin exploring first?
Max Wasa: You know, that’s an interesting question, since I started so young, and I was doing everything at one time. I trained classically in music, which practically began as soon as I could form my first musical note vocally. Everyone in my family is a musician, so it’s something that runs in the family. I also did my first voiceover at 5 or 6 years old and my first film at 7 years old. I began dance around this time as well. So, all of it came about around the same time.
PopHorror: Oh, wow! So, with all of these early developed talents and experiences, how did you go about getting involved in the entertainment industry in such a way to get to where you are now?
Max Wasa: My entire family is full of musicians and actors. They all live within the arts, so it is just kind of a way of life.
PopHorror: I think that explains why you decided to turn this into a career. When did you decide to begin actively pursuing this as a career path?
Max Wasa: Well, I also study medicine and several other things. In my mind, entertainment and the arts is not really a career choice, but rather a life choice. So when you decide at a certain point to pursue the arts, it is something that runs through you. It is in your blood. Without that, you aren’t whole. So, when I’m in front of the camera, on stage or behind a console mixing a record, I feel whole and I feel complete. Without entertainment, it just feels like I’m lost (laughs). When I’m not doing film or music, I have to be in the water. I have to be surfing (laughs).
PopHorror: That has to be incredibly fulfilling to live what you love! Somewhere along your career, you began modeling, which eventually lead to Playboy magazine. How did this come about?
Max Wasa: Playboy magazine came to me when I was very young. I was Miss Teen Florida, and they took notice around that time. They asked if I would do a layout for the magazine and, at that time, I said, “Absolutely not.” It just wasn’t my world. But when the opportunity reemerged, the contract I eventually signed was a celebrity contract. So, it was very different than your girl next door deal. I made sure that I had things contractually the way I wanted them, and it came out very well. I’m proud of my time with Playboy. Hef and everyone at the magazine took good care of me over the years, and they were very supportive of my career. I’ve worked with many magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle magazine and L magazine, throughout my modeling career, and that was another good experience, right along with the other magazines I have worked with.
PopHorror: At some point in your career, you founded Liquid Music Group. When and how did you come up with this music production company?
Max Wasa: As an artist, I wanted to create a company that was by artists for artists. I wanted to create a company that works with artists rather than take advantage of them as some larger labels tended to do at that time. Everything with me is about liquid, whether it pertains to the ocean or the liquid movement of music and life. So I decided to name the company Liquid Music Group. I now manage nine bands, all of which are doing extremely well. I won a Lifetime Achievement Award for producing, which was a great honor being the first woman to ever win that recognition. It’s going well. Along with my business partner, Carrie Magalski, we just get things done.
PopHorror: That’s incredible! What genre of music do you manage under Liquid Music Group?
Max Wasa: They’re all different! I have rock bands, jazz and blues. It’s all different stuff. You know, entertainment is entertainment.
PopHorror: That’s a great variety! What are some of your favorite musicians that you have worked with?
Max Wasa: Oh, wow! There are so many that have been awesome. I’ve toured with Alice Cooper, which was amazing! I’ve worked with Miami Sound Machine, which was great! All the musicians I’ve worked with are brilliant. There are so many incredible artists that I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out.
PopHorror: That is understandable, and it sounds like an outstanding experience having the opportunity to work with all of these people on the music side of entertainment! So, on the side of film, you have dabbled in various genres including horror. Would you say that horror is your preferred genre of film?
Max Wasa: I would not say that horror is my preferred genre. I don’t even know how it happened (laughs). My very first film was horror, but then I did a lot of comedy, action and drama. And somehow I got the title of being a Scream Queen, and it was very bizarre to be labeled as such. But I am happy to be a part of it and be respected in that genre. It’s an amazing group of people, from large scale films to small independent films. There’s some great stuff out there! I love it. I love all of the different genres of film from drama to sci-fi and action. I love to do stunts and fight scenes! That’s kind of my thing.
PopHorror: Do you do your own stunts?
Max Wasa: I do!
PopHorror: That’s awesome! What are some of your favorite types of stunts to do?
Max Wasa: Anything that pertains to fighting is kind of my specialty, especially using swords and close blades. But I’m also good with doing high falls and such. Oh, and car chases as well.
PopHorror: You’ve driven a car in a car chase?
Max Wasa: I have!
PopHorror: That’s very cool! What kind of car?
Max Wasa: I believe it was a Mustang back in the days when I was on Miami Vice.
PopHorror: That’s awesome! More recently, you took on the role of Vivian in the sci-fi thriller, Astro. How did you become involved in this production?
Max Wasa: I am very good friends with Asif Akbar, who is the film’s writer and director. He actually wrote the script sitting in my kitchen. So, I’ve been involved since the beginning of it as an actress and producer. You know, he had a really nice story taking a peaceful approach to the nature of alien life. My character, Vivian, is a rather strong individual who is the head of the council and kind of gets things the way they want them to be. There is a sequel planned and there is a book as well, which is currently available on Amazon. So if you haven’t read the book, you should!
PopHorror: That is very cool!
Max Wasa: The film has a great cast, including Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Michael Paré (Gone, The Lincoln Lawyer), Gary Daniels (The Expendables), Chris Cope, Christine Corbitt, Courtney Akbar (Smoke Filled Lungs), Luke Crosby, Spice Williams-Crosby, an appearance by Dominique Swain (Face/Off, Alpha Dog) and more! You know, these are major awesome actors and the stunts were insane! Spice Williams-Crosby, Chip Medford and Billy Bussey just killed it with creating these stunts! And they’re really surprising, too, so really watch for those action sequences. We have already won Best Action Feature at Cosmic Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.
PopHorror: I did have a chance to see Astro and the action sequences did stand out! And you were great in the film. Yourself, along with your co-star, Louis Mandylor, had this presence that screamed all-powerful individuals working from the shadows.
Max Wasa: Thank you! And you know, I think that is basically what the story is about. The aliens had visited before during the crash landing site in Roswell, New Mexico. Our characters, Viktor and Vivian, come back, and we are 400 years old. However, Luke Crosby’s character is the new alien whose heart is still very pure and soft. The underlying story addresses the question as to how we stay on this planet and not kill each other. Aliens are often thought of as antagonistic invaders. But that isn’t really the story of Astro. The story is much more about going beyond hostility and searching for a way to coexist.
PopHorror: That story angle is original and stood out to me as well, personally. You mentioned that there is a sequel in the works?
Max Wasa: I believe that there is!
PopHorror: That is great to hear! The film seemed to conclude open-endedly, which seemed intentional.
Max Wasa: Of course, things could have ended more conclusive, but you know, it is kind of fun to leave an audience hanging and allow their imaginations to take over. If you feed an audience too much information, they don’t get to use their imagination anymore. And that is where I think some genre films go wrong. If everything is all laid out for you, you’re not really thinking. And that’s not really the point of Astro. The point of this film is to think about your heart and how you treat other people. It proposes the question: are you going to take someone who is so sweet, innocent and kind and destroy them out of greed? Marshal Hilton’s character is just so badass. And his character’s son, played by Orson Chaplin, who is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin, gives a phenomenal performance!
PopHorror: I definitely agree! Hilton and Chaplin were great antagonists, and the originality of the story was a highlight, for sure.
Max Wasa: Oh yeah, it’s a thinking man’s movie. And of course, being a small indie feature, we were cutting corners and doing as much as we could with limited budgets. If the audience even knew what we went through! We actually lost some members of our cast that passed away. Getting this film finished as a tribute to them was a big undertaking.
PopHorror: I’m very sorry to hear about the losses. Did they pass away during production?
Max Wasa: It was right after. We lost one of the oldest stuntmen in the business, Johnny Hagner, which made Astro his last film. And we also lost Tommy Truex who passed away from a heart attack right after production. Losing two of your stunt team is incredibly tragic. It was very hard on everyone. And we are so pleased that we were able to get this film finished and out there because it isn’t easy. And it isn’t easy to get an independent film done.
PopHorror: I could imagine that being a small independent feature, the cast and crew probably became close. So, that would make things that much more difficult. In making this tribute, what would you say was your favorite part during production?
Max Wasa: As for production, we were in Roswell, New Mexico for about a month, which is a very small one street town. And despite the temperature being negative 12 below, it was great to see the cast and crew come together to support each other. Seeing no one giving up and everyone having such a good spirit was great! You know, we’re not getting the salaries we’re used to on a project like this. But it’s one of those films that is based on faith and for the love of what we were doing. Also, getting a chance to see everyone in our incredible stunt crew at work was an amazing experience.
PopHorror: That sounds like a great experience to have! You mentioned the freezing cold during production. Would you say that was the biggest challenge?
Max Wasa: That’s definitely not the biggest challenge (laughs). The biggest challenge was actually getting sequences shot. As far as the stunts go, there were fire stunts and explosions. You only get one chance to make these things happen. So that’s a big challenge! And there are drones as well as limited time and space. Our production crew getting things built and torn down in moments was both incredible and challenging. Nothing comes easy in film. So when you are watching the film, you have to think about the writers, the producers and the director, cast and crew and everyone who is putting in so much time and effort to get something up on the screen for you to watch.
PopHorror: I can imagine! There is an incredible amount of work that goes into creating a film, especially on the independent side of the industry, and it should be appreciated.
Max Wasa: Yes, it is a big undertaking. And you know, I have worked on massive blockbuster hits that had multimillion-dollar budgets, and then I have worked on stuff like Astro where you are just scraping together your resources. And, for Astro, I personally was one of the people who brought the money in because I believe so much in Asif and his intention.
PopHorror: That is very commendable. What would you say, throughout your film career, would be some of your favorite projects you have worked on?
Max Wasa: You know, I have been very blessed to do so many films and TV projects. For me, it’s not the budget of the film or project, but rather the experience as an actor in front of the lens. My favorite large studio film was My Stepmother is a Alien because Kim Basinger went out of her way to be kind to me, and Director Richard Benjamin was beyond amazing to work with. I was also on a television series called Dream On with HBO, and one of my favorite experiences was working with John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Kevin Bright (Friends TV series) and Marta Kauffman (Friends TV series) and the ever-changing cast and crew. It was groundbreaking and insane!
Then I spent four years on Miami Vice playing a different character every single week. There’s even a drinking game now that a fraternity out of NYU came up with to where every time I come on the screen for Miami Vice, they have to do a shot. They said they almost lost their fraternity between episodes one and six (laughs). So, you know, that’s crazy fun. And then you have Revenge of the Nerds and Scarface. Films like that were tons of fun. And then you have these independent films like House of Manson where I played Rosemary LaBianca, which was a very short role, but so intense. You know, I’m doing backflips off the couch, chords wrapped around my neck and stabbed by three people 47 times.
You know, that was an emotional and physical challenge for me. Obviously portraying someone who really lived through the Manson period was very dark and difficult to play. Many of my fans wrote to me afterwards asking how I could do that role. I said that I thought it needed to be done with respect and love. So, I did quite a bit of research into Rosemary LaBianca right down to how she would speak to her husband and how she would react to someone hurting him. Anyone that hasn’t seen that film should see it, because it’s scary as hell! Overall, I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such great cast and crews over my career.
PopHorror: I personally have not seen House of Manson, but I’m putting it on my to-watch list immediately! So, do you have any projects coming up that you would like to talk about?
Max Wasa: Right now, I have a film out called Death House, which is really cool. It is with all the horror legends of pretty much ever. There is also Hell’s Kitty, which is a fun one with all of the Scream Queens. It is about a cat that takes over this guy’s life (laughs). Then there is The Wendigo, which is where I play an Algonquin woman in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Terrible things happen out in the woods… so, you know… beware (laughs). And then I have a film coming up called Dead Slate. It’s written by Kerry Fleming, who is a great writer. It’s pretty intense. I play this director who steps in to do a film and somehow her cast begins to die. It’s going to be very fun! Billy Bussey, who did stunts in Astro, will also be involved. So you can imagine the kind of fights we’re going to have. We’re in pre-production with Dead Slate right now, but more announcements should be coming out soon!
PopHorror: That sounds like some great stuff, and I look forward to keeping tabs on those features! Thank you, Max, for taking the time to speak with me.
Max Wasa: You are very welcome. It was my pleasure!
Be sure to keep up with Max and her ongoing career by following her on Instagram @onionpeeler, on Twitter @WASAmatter and check out her website Max Wasa Official. Also, be sure to check out her podcast with co-host Turrtle called The Tortoise & The Hare Experience at EnterTheShell.com. We look forward to keeping tabs on Max and bringing more of her films to your attention. This will surely not be the last time this talented artist and incredible person appears on our radar!