If you haven't heard of Maiah Stewardson yet, we have a feeling it won't be for long. The 22-year-old actor stars in My First Summer, a new coming-of-age film that chronicles the blossoming teenage romance between Grace (played by Maiah) and Claudia (Markella Kavenagh).
A critic from the Sydney Morning Herald described the movie as "magical, dreamlike, and tender". But beyond her obvious penchant for making critically acclaimed Australian cinema, who is this Maiah Stewardson, exactly? MTV Australia decided to pick the actor's brain with our most pressing questions – some existential, and some hair-related – and we're pleased to report she's a delight.
What is the meaning of life?
There isn't one. Humans are so obsessed with stories and meaning that we've conditioned ourselves to apply Big Lessons™ to everything. But, to stop myself falling into a spiral of depression and anarchy, I try to tell myself that life should be challenging and rewarding all at once.
Something COVID taught you?
Bowling is disgusting and I can't believe we all used to jam our fingers into the same bowling ball holes and then eat food. How yuck.
Last movie you watched?
American Beauty. Iconic.
Best advice you've received?
"Your good stuff is just around the corner. If you hang in there, and work hard, it'll come your way". A singing teacher once said this to me when I was thinking of quitting acting to become a lawyer. LOL.
Someone you really admire?
My grandmother. She's one of the most brilliant artists I know. At her height of her career, she was one of the country's best concert pianists. She still plays, teaches and translates literature in her spare time.
My grandmother has such a sharp mind, both academically and creatively, and is constantly learning things about the modern world. She never ceases to remind me how powerful conversation can be, and how blessed I am to have access to resources and education that can help me understand the world more deeply.
How do you feel about your hair?
I feel great about it! Six months ago I dyed it copper, and I love it! It's serving me some major funky, zesty vibes. Eventually I'd love to chop it all off because I think it'd be really affirming for my gender… but that's further down the track for me.
Describe yourself in three words.
An occasional menace.
One person or thing you think is underrated?
Finding a two dollar coin in the bottom of your bag. That's two caramello koalas right there.
Would you rather travel 100 years to the past or the future?
Definitely 100 years into the future. I really hope we'd have progressed by then; especially on the fronts of environmental preservation, our treatment of First Nations folk and also in the space of deconstructing patriarchal and white-serving systems.
Nature or nurture?
Nurture has always been the answer for me. But in saying that, nurturing doesn't always come from your initial environment as a baby – or even your biological family. I believe in the power of 'found family' and 'found community'.
What do you doubt most?
Myself. It's a huge thing for me. But I'm working every day on being nicer to myself, and less of a bully. I try to remember that I only have a certain amount of energy per day to give – and I better not waste it on telling myself big fat lies.
Daily ritual you couldn't live without?
On the days that are less hectic – I swear by my morning cup of coffee, by my window, and reading a few pages of my book. Sometimes (to spice it up) I'll read a recipe book and pretend that I have the will to make one of Ottolenghi's bougie dishes for dinner.
How are you at 8am?
If I've had my nine hours of sleep, I'm an utter delight.
Something you're passionate about?
I am, truly, obsessed with whales. Humpback whales are my personal favourite and I love the way they dance with each other as they whale-flirt.
Tell us about your work as an actor?
Well – acting is the thing I love most in the world. And it saves me time and time again. I love that I get to work in the theatre world (which was my first exposure to acting) through to film and TV, on projects that I am both personally and creatively connected to. I hope to keep acting until I am decrepit and wrinkly, whilst having written and directed some projects along the way. (Right now these stories are all in a big file on my computer, waiting for the right time.)
I'm excited to explore new characters and let them teach me things about what it means to be human, and how to best thrive on this planet for the short time that I am here. But mostly, I hope that my work continues to evolve and provide captivating moments for audience members to lose themselves in; which in my experience, is one of the best things in the world.
Watch Maiah's stunning new film 'My First Summer' on Stan Australia. Catch the trailer below.