As the son of Tony-winning actress Tonya Pinkins, Maxx Brawer practically grew up in rehearsal studios and backstage. He realized at an early that he wanted to take the stage and make a living as an actor. Now the 24 year old is making his off-Broadway debut as wise teenager Rasheed in MCC Theater’s world premiere production of Stephen Belber’s Don’t Go Gentle. Broadway.com caught up with Brawer to ask about going legit and how his mom feels about his burgeoning career.
“It boggles my mind because three months ago, I never would have thought that this is where I would have been,” Brawer said. “I’ve always known [I wanted to be an actor] because I was always around it as kid. When I was about 16, I saw Topdog/Underdog and the performance I saw by Jeffrey Wright just blew me away. That was the first time seeing an actor do a performance that I was like, ‘Man, I want to do something like that someday.’”
Brawer, who has appeared in TV shows and short films, almost missed his chance at co-starring in Don’t Go Gentle. The day of his audition was also the day he left for England to study Shakespeare at Oxford. The Don’t Go Gentle team liked him so much though that they cast him from a videotaped call-back that he filmed in the U.K. “It was one of the best feelings I ever had to know that I was coming right back to New York to go right to work,” Brawer said.
Joining a cast of five as the youngest and least experienced was a bit daunting at first for the newcomer. “I was overwhelmed a little bit at first because I’m working with some heavy hitters, and they are all on top of their game,” he said. “I’m like a sponge though, I watch [Tony winner Michael Cristofer] to see what he’s doing and what’s important for him, so I know what I need to be doing for me. It’s so valuable getting to be around veterans.”
Brawer doesn’t need to venture too far to learn from an acclaimed theater veteran. His mother, Tonya Pinkins, has been working on the New York stage for nearly 30 years. “My mom is really supportive,” Brawer said. “She will tell me totally different things than she experienced in her life, maybe cause I’m a guy or from a different generation. She’s awesome because she’s a mom: when I’m feeling low spirited, she knows exactly what to say to make me feel better, and when I’m swaggering around she knows how to keep me level-headed.”
Did Brawer receive his mom's stamp of approval? Pinkins took in an early preview of Don’t Go Gentle and, “she gave me some notes, and I may or may not take those notes.” Brawer said with a laugh.
Check out Brawer’s impressive off-Broadway debut in Don’t Go Gentle, running at the Lucille Lortel Theatre through November 4.