The Wylde Interview: Maxim Baldry
Interview and photography by Etienne Gilfillan
It’s the TV series everyone is talking about: Years and Years is penned by the Midas-touched Russell T. Davies and is set in a very near future; Post-Brexit Britain. Imagine The Royle Family meets Black Mirror, with every terrifying news story of the last few years thrown in for good measure, and you’re getting close. Central to the plot is Maxim Baldry’s character Viktor; alluring, ill-starred and a tragic pawn in the vicious game played out onscreen. Wylde met up with this compulsively watchable actor…
Wylde: We are loving Years and Years! Tell us a little bit about the changed political landscape and the new technologies featured in the show.
Maxim Baldry: The show explores a Britain rocked by political instability, social changes and technological advances. It’s told through the lens of an ordinary family in Manchester whose lives intertwine with one another and who, by the end of the show, end up having the capacity to alter and change the landscape of British society.
Besides the very timely themes that Years and Years explores, the way Russell T. Davies can distill these epic themes and explore them through very delicate and fragile storylines is what makes this show so cathartic and poignant. At the end of the day, it’s not a show that’s full of accusations and blame; it’s a show about human contact and about surviving the current world.
How does your character fit into the story?
I play a Ukranian asylum seeker, Viktor Goraya, who we first meet in a makeshift container estate in the North of England. He meets his housing officer Daniel Lyons [played by Russell Tovey] and they have an instant connection. After a series of secret rendezvous, it spirals into a love affair on the night a nuclear bomb explodes, and it leads them on a journey across the world, defeating all of the obstacles and injustices that come their way. It’s heartbreaking and I’m so grateful to be able to tell this harrowing storyline.
Your character ages across the series, and by the end you’re playing a 40 year old man. How difficult was that to achieve visually, and also from an actor’s perspective?
Time jumps are always hard for an actor. Luckily for me, the talented make-up team helped a lot. They bleached my hair, gave me a fake tan, and asked me to grow out my beard. Viktor ends up looking very good for a forty-five year old man. Maybe there’s some pill in the future that reverses ageing... How good would that be?
Emma Thompson plays a far right politician whose soundbites are catnip for the press. Is she based on anyone in particular, or more of an amalgam?
Emma Thompson’s character is a charismatic entertainer who understands modern thinking. Her rise to power is because people are fed up with the current way things are being handled and she’s the dangerous alternative who says she wants to shake it up… and she does. I don’t think she’s based on anyone, but we all call Russell T. Davies Nostradamus because his predictions are scarily accurate. Imagine if Viv Rook is the future!? Wow... Run!
There are a lot of darker series out there, from Black Mirror to The Handmaid’s Tale and Years and Years. Why do you think this thought-provoking type of entertainment is so popular at the moment?
Everyone is so excited and scared for the future. That’s why shows like Black Mirror and The Handmaid’s Tale are so popular because they explore the near future in clever ways. People can see elements of today in them and who wouldn’t want to know what happens tomorrow, next week, next month?
You share a screen kiss – and a lot more! – with Russell Tovey; do you find it difficult to do intimate scenes on set with everyone watching?
I get into a different headspace when I act and blur everything out that’s connected with the outside world. In that respect I didn’t find it difficult and it also helped because Russell and I both felt very comfortable acting together.
You lived your childhood in Moscow and Poland. What are your fondest memories of your time there?
Moscow is a beautiful city and I’m very proud to call myself half-Russian. I guess my favourite memories are spending a lot of time with “Babu” (my grandma). She’s a wonderful woman and we became very close and we still are to this day. I just don’t see her enough and Skype isn’t that great. She also makes a killer Chahohbili stew. If you’re in Moscow, swing by; she’d love to hang out!
How did you get into acting? Any particular film or actor who was a guiding inspiration to get into acting?
I got my first part when I was eleven and played opposite Rowan Atkinson in Mr Bean’s Holiday. Ever since I’ve been dabbling in the acting world until I finally dropped out of uni and started taking acting seriously. I’m very lucky to do what I love.
Are there any challenges in making the move from being a child actor?
I was lucky to work on and off consistently through my childhood and into my teens. It’s hard when you do something that’s commercially successful as a kid because people always remember you for it and are like: “Wow you’ve grown!” and you’re like: “Yeah, that film came out twelve years ago... I’ve doubled in age!”
Was doing a Ukrainian accent easy for you, having grown up in Eastern Europe?
I wanted to break down a lot of stereotypes with the accent. When I was growing up I always hated the way Eastern Europeans were portrayed in films. They’re always the baddies and they always speak with thick, strong Eastern European accents. This simply isn’t the case. A lot of my family and friends who are Russian grew up watching American TV and films and learnt the language that way. That’s why I wanted to make the accent soft so that it’s accessible and true to how it’s meant to sound.
We hear you are writing a musical… can you tell us a bit about it?
I’ve been working on an experimental musical film for the past year called Melodie Saviour International. It tells the story of a disillusioned Eastern European guy, Melodie Saviour, who dreams of performing on the stage. He struggles to do so and descends into an existential crisis. One day he bumps into a couple of people in the street who offer him an alternative narrative. He does so, and ingratiates himself into this cult community that’s led by a charismatic older man, Azbuka. Imagine Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Gaspard Noe... Yeah? I thought so!
What’s drawn you to musicals, rather any other genre?
I don’t really like musicals. So I decided to make a musical. Only my one is more abstract and expressionistic.
I read that both you and Russell loved singing Cher’s Believe onset? What prompted that particular track? Who’s a better singer?
That’s my go-to karaoke song. Cher also made a killer music video to it. You should check it out. Well, the game is meant to annoy people, as we sing some of the notes off-key so people can’t sing along. Russell does have an angelic voice.
What do you do to escape a hectic work schedule?
I’m in a band, so we play a lot together. I also just bought a new synthesiser, so I’ve been staying at home and programming some cosmic sounds. We’ll be playing some shows this summer!
A favourite Wylde question: any memorable recurring dreams?
I have this one dream which scares me every time I have it. I’m about to go on stage but I haven’t read the script or learnt any of my lines. So I go on stage and improv the whole thing. It’s not fun. I always seem to wing it though... Go on, analyse my dreams!