Lukita Maxwell’s first big screen break was HBO’s Genera+ion in 2021, where she played Delilah Faye, the resident Gen Z activist who seemed to have all her wits about her. Just over a year later, the fresh-faced actor is packed and on a flight to Los Angeles—travelling across the country to share screen credits with some of the industry’s most seasoned actors, from Jason Segel to Harrison Ford. The role she’s landed this time around is for Apple TV+’s latest comedy-drama Shrinking, backed by the creators of genre favourite Ted Lasso.
As she goes over the main two personas she’s played thus far—Delilah for Genera+ion and Alice for Shrinking—I see a running thread of what Maxwell shares with her on-screen characters: an overwhelming wealth of strength alongside a veiled softness. “I had a wonderful time playing these strong characters. They’re so multifaceted and multidimensional and being able to not only portray the strength, but also the vulnerability and pain behind all their trials, is really gratifying.”
In Shrinking, Maxwell plays Alice, the on-screen daughter to Segel’s character, Jimmy—both grieving the loss of Alice’s mother in their own ways. As Maxwell explains: “Alice can’t really grieve because she has to take care of herself. There’s nobody else to take care of her because her dad is absent, deflecting to substances and big experiences to cope with his grief.” While Alice is trying to keep her life afloat, there’s a noticeable tendency to retract from the usual teenage experiences she would have otherwise gone through without a thought. In a similar vein, Maxwell, who was homeschooled for the most part of her youth before she threw herself into acting work, always felt an incongruence with others her age. She tells me she relates to this side of Alice the most; recalling a sense of isolation borne by an inward pressure she felt growing up.
Yet through Alice’s palpable longing for Jimmy, Shrinking also delves into another exposition—the bonds of family. When asked about her role models, the actress tells me that her mother is hers, before she sheepishly reveals that they speak over the phone every day. With her parents living in Utah, uncles and cousins in Singapore and close friends in Bali, Maxwell’s world is a travelled one. What sits at her core, however, is an undying longing to connect with the people she loves—a message she hopes will resonate with viewers of Shrinking as well. “At the end of the day, no matter what generation you’re from, the love of family is going to be so strong. No matter the anger, the pain and the disagreements, there will always be this powerful inclination to come back together and support and love each other.”
“Being in that sort of repressive environment was both a curse and a blessing; I wouldn’t have been so sure of myself otherwise.”
While the plot of Shrinking might seem more universally relatable with its thematic functions of grief, she understandably has an undying spot of affection for her debut series Genera+ion, which was lauded for its diverse, highly alternative cast. Maxwell, who was born in Jakarta, spent most of her time between Bali and Utah. Growing up biracial and surrounded by so many beautiful cultures, the world she lived in had been a continuous amalgamation of languages, race and cultures.
So much so that when she first moved to a small town in the US, it was a jarring experience. “Suddenly, it went from celebrating so many different cultures to being placed on the opposite side of the room and everybody pointing at me and saying, ‘You’re different’. I had never paid attention to these differences before because it had always been something that was celebrated in my household.” But Maxwell, led by the unwavering voice of her mother, made it a point to not let them inhibit her. “She told me to not let the outside world affect me, and that I was going to evolve and find that path on my own. Being in that sort of repressive environment was both a curse and a blessing; I wouldn’t have been so sure of myself otherwise.”
Given her isolating experiences growing up, it’s clear that the actress’s assured sense of self is something she came into at a much younger age compared to her peers. She recognises this herself; her adolescence had been a pressure cooker not many people might have had to go through, but if anything, it’s telling of the average Asian-American woman’s experience. “I felt a huge pressure to know who I was so clearly, especially during Genera+ion. I felt the need to be eloquent about who I was and what I believed in because I identified as an Asian-American, queer woman. I was really hard on myself, thinking that identity had an end goal that could be physically presented.”
It was this burning desire to present a fully formed version of herself that made her so right for a show that not only celebrated queerness, but normalised it. Genera+ion is ripe with Gen Z and social media references, focusing on the teenage lives of an ensemble cast of characters—Delilah, Riley, Chester, Greta and Nathan to name a few—who mostly either identify as queer or queer-adjacent. And rather than double down on their individual struggles, the tone is light yet ripe with the intrepid, tenacious nature of the new generation.
“I want to find the comedy in pain, the magic in flaws and the power in vulnerability in all the characters that I play.”
Maxwell makes it apparent how monumental it was watching herself on screen for the first time. As someone who had been under-represented for most of her life, there were characters that she could identify with because they were not coded to specific stereotypes. “I related to Riley; that was who I felt like I most was in high school. That was the first time I was seeing a young, queer Asian-American woman being badass and making art and listening to good music and having the coolest friends. It was the first time that I saw somebody who looked like me but who was what Genera+ion was. I cried and just didn’t know how to react to that.”
Maxwell speaks so passionately about the cause she wants to represent that it’s easy to forget that below this fierce, resolute nature of hers lies a bright-eyed, young woman. There’s a gentle, tentative nature that only occasionally slips through the Zoom screen, especially at the sight of her cat Roscoe, who made his welcome guest appearance at intervals between our conversation.Her voice softens when he’s on her lap, but she doesn’t forget to confidently remind me of the candour she so clearly wants to bring to her audiences—and ultimately her ever-evolving self.
She says: “I want to tell authentic, genuine stories about strong, multidimensional women who may go through a lot of pain but are also capable of coming out on the other end with strength, with power and even with flaws. I want to find the comedy in pain, the magic in flaws and the power in vulnerability in all the characters that I play. And as I get older, I want to be forgiving of myself changing.”
Photography Thomas Giddings
Styling Fabio Immediato
Hair Lauren Palmer-Smith/Forward Artists
Make-up Samuel Paul/Forward Artists
Digital technician Merlin Viethen
Production James Donoghue/Heather Clark/Maanifest Agency
Talent team Shelter PR
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