We had the good fortune of connecting with Lesette Maxwell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lesette, any advice for those thinking about whether to keep going or to give up?
Truth be told, I asked myself this all the time. And I still find this question popping up in the back of my mind sometimes to try to scare me out of the things that actually matter to me. This has always been a scary industry to try to break into.
And your twenties is a scary time as it is, even for those pursuing something a bit more… stable. And it’s a disheartening, terrifying world. It’s too easy to feel like giving up, across the board, really. Especially last year, I found I was driving myself insane with the constant internal battle between “There’s only so much I can do,” and “I must do everything I can.” I’ve decided to marry the latter. I can’t say that everyone chooses the same. I mean, it’s pretty evident that they don’t. And I think that based too many factors to list here, people are going to choose whichever of the two they have the capacity for. But for me, I’ve always hated the thought of giving up, though it has been beyond tempting on so many different occasions. It seems like building a life for yourself prioritizes comfort and stability, regardless of whether or not that goes hand in hand with the priorities of our hearts and souls.
And maybe I’m not the wisest person, I know for a fact I’m not, but I’ve concluded for my own self that if you can’t stop thinking about someone, or something, or some dream, then that’s a clear indication to refuse to give up.
There’s so much that is so heartbreaking on a daily basis, and I feel like giving up
on something that matters to you (even if it doesn’t make sense to others) is the
equivalent of breaking your own heart time after time. We can’t do that to
Don’t let anybody water down the things that fuel you. I always say that half the
battle in this industry is patience. I feel like that applies to every field, really. So
allow yourself the space to be patient, while being consistent. Allow yourself to
pause without fully stopping, or without letting the pause make you think you’re
“too far behind, now.” It is the rest of the world’s job to break our hearts. We have to stop doing it to our own selves. We owe it to ourselves to relentlessly pursue the things that stay in our hearts no matter how much we try to shake them off. You’re unable to forget them for a reason. That’s how I determine to keep going or not. It’s so cheesy, I know.
And I can’t speak for everyone, or what their hearts are capable of. We’ve all been dealt different cards. But at the very least, I can gently nudge you try the latter when you’re stuck between “There’s only so much I can do,” and “I must do everything I can.”
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
It’s funny to try to discuss a career that is still very much in the early stages, or
nonexistent to an outsider, even though this is something I’ve been doing for six
years. There are busy times and there are slow times. And when it’s slow, it’s slow.
I think that’s what pushed me towards writing, directing, and producing. I started
making things happen for myself instead of waiting on the stars to align. But in
terms of what “sets my work apart,” from literally every other aspiring filmmaker
in Hollywood, I honestly can’t tell you.
I’m proud that I’m still here. I am proud to say that I am still going, still trying, still creating— not because I need to reach some deadline, or knock off a to-do list in order to “make it in Hollywood,” but because I truly love acting and filmmaking.
I am proud to be able to look back and be embarrassed of past works, because
that’s a testament of growth. I’m proud to be getting better and not getting
comfortable. I’m proud to admit that I can still approach my work with an
eagerness to learn and grow and challenge myself, whether it is acting, writing,
directing, photography. I’m a proud sponge. I pray I’ll never outgrow that.
I’m proud to have finally gotten out of my own way mentally, and quit applying
timelines and rules to something that fuels my heart so beautifully. I’m proud to
have stopped making my own self jaded, or tainting my own film career before it
ever really started. I’m proud to have been able to circle back to the importance of doing something because I love it, and that’s it.
I mean, half of the world is on fire, and the other half is under water. It’s all falling apart. It has been for a long time. I refuse to torture myself in one of the few aspects of life that still feels so pure. I want to protect that love for what it is, not for what it could be, or what I can sell or market it as. And I think that my ability to find joy in just loving it and letting that love be more than enough for me, that’s pretty refreshing, or “different,” if I do say so myself. I don’t know exactly what is next, but I’m excited in the long run to see where this love takes me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Virgo’s are The Hermit in tarot. At first this was something I rolled my eyes at,
wishing we had a more impressive card, and now I can’t help but laugh at how it
rings embarrassingly true for my life. Anyone who knows me can testify to how
difficult it is to drag me out of the house, or how to keep me out beyond an hour and a half.
My favorite places to go out are the places you’ll likely to find washed up rockstars and c-list actors who hold a nostalgia that saturates the room. There’s something so heavy and beautiful and humbling to me, to experience a venue that means so much more to older generations and their memories, their dreams, their mistakes, their lost loves, their highs, and their lows—while simultaneously hosting little old, and me my watered down drink. It makes me feel like I’m in one of those “Which One Does Not Belong?” tests we had as kids, and that’s a strangely nice feeling for those who love watching and learning.
In a pre-Covid world, one of the only times you’d see me get genuinely excited to
leave the house was for Monday nights at The Viper Room. That was the home of
abundant talent and authenticity, and tight pants, and it was sprinkled with people who know so much more than me about life. I didn’t go often, but when I did, I was refreshed in a way that Runyon Canyon or The Santa Monica Pier or Hollywood Boulevard could only dream of offering visitors.
My favorite spots would be the intimate ones to discuss hopes, fears, dreams, art (and the evolution of its definition), our regrets, the characters of The Viper Room, and what it means to find stillness in a city that’s so consumed with going out, and being seen, and doing something at all times.
I guess this is just a fancy way of saying I’d rather stay home. But hey, if you know of any good spots for these valuable moments, please let me know.
If my favorite person in the world were to cross the country to come see me, I
would hold them.
And if you’re trusting advice on Los Angeles “fun,” from The Hermit, then I say:
put the phone down, clear your schedule, and hold your loved ones before it’s time for them to go.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am so honored and beyond thankful for the wonderful people in my life, who
have remained patient and encouraging throughout my various chaotic chapters. I owe so much of my endurance (of mind, heart, and spirit) to so many people.
My family has beautifully balanced the fine art of supporting my dreams, head far too high in the clouds, while simultaneously keeping me grounded, realistic,
educated, and equipped. Thank you. My fellow mentors with Young Storytellers, who constantly remind me of the importance of playfulness and passion are to thank as well.
My handful of truly unique, unconditional, nurturing friends, who have never
villainized me for being human, good god, thank you. But if I must pick one person to “shout out,” in my artistic journey, I’d be foolish to deny that I absolutely would not be where I am without Ashton Avila. I first met Ashton when she cast me in her grad thesis film, I Got You Babe, in 2016. This was my first time acting, and I was terrified. I actually kept avoiding her callbacks because I had so little faith that I could actually do it. But she literally
hunted me down and held me accountable, and I think that set a tone for the rest of our creative collaborations, as well as our friendship outside of work. Ashton pushes me, she holds space for me to do things that scare me, she holds me accountable, and always makes sure that I know that there’s someone out there who whole heartedly believes in me.
Aside from the beautiful nurturing qualities she has so graciously shown me over
the years, she also has one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever had the honor of
knowing. It’s always such a privilege to watch her work. The way she approaches
writing, directing, and casting, is with such care and such craft, that I feel like I’m in a Masterclass every time I work with her. She holds such valuable knowledge and resources for aspiring actors, and she’s so humble about it that she makes this town and industry suddenly feel less scary. She just effortlessly casts a warm light over all of Los Angeles and the film industry.
I’ll never be able to express the way I admire her ability to lead with her heart, and to initiate such beautiful experiences for those she works with. She fully embodies creativity, community, intellect, leadership, warmth, and everything that I didn’t realize that I (and this town) so desperately need more of. Ashton, I can gush about your soul for hours and still lack the ability to thank you in the way you deserve. Growing with you is an absolute honor. I will “shout you
out,” until the day I die. Thank you.
Indira Rodway, Ashton Avila, Celeste Maxwell