We spoke to the recent UCL graduate starring in the new Hunger Games movie
Max Raphael, who plays Festus Creed in the new film, finished his undergraduate Law degree this year
We sat down with Max Raphael, the UCL graduate appearing in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.
Max, 22, finished his Bachelor of Laws degree just this year, and has previously appeared in films such as Slaughterhouse Rulez and Black Beauty.
We spoke to him about what it’s like being a student actor, and how it was working on the latest Hunger Games film.
According to Max, working on the Hunger Games was unlike anything he’s previously done.
He described it as: “Completely surreal. Start to finish it was like nothing I’d ever worked on before.
“I came up on the British indie circuit, making films with crews of 30, 40 – on this we had a crew of 300. It was terrifying. But so much fun.
“Everyone involved is just so talented. People like Jason Schwartzman and Viola Davis make life easy for you – the pressure of working with them forces you to up your game. I’ve also never bonded with a crew quite like that before. We spent so long on the film, we really did become family.”
Working on the movie didn’t come without its challenges, with Max living away from home for roughly six months while they filmed in Germany. He described being away from home for so long as being “pretty tough at times.”
Yet, Max also said: “At the same time, you’re in Berlin with 20 of your new best mates for six months, so I couldn’t really complain.”
He continued: “I think honestly the hardest part for me was reckoning with the shoot ending. We had been doing this huge thing, at such a level of intensity for so long, it was weird coming back down to earth. On the actual shoot itself – the tributes had most of the technically tricky stuff to film, so I got off pretty easily.
Max also joked that “the biggest challenge for me was not constantly laughing any time Jason [Schwartzman] opened his mouth. He kept calling me ‘fetus’ and every time he did we had to reset the shot because everybody broke.”
Beyond the film itself, Max also had to reckon with the transition from being a normal university student to appearing in one of the year’s biggest films.
However, he said: “Honestly, it’s not as jarring as you would expect?
Max also explained to us how he was able to balance his acting career with his studies at UCL.
“I was quite lucky in that a lot of my time at university came during Covid – so nobody was making any movies. I could prioritise that part of my life and focus up.
“Once we started shooting, though, things were very different – while I was on set I had to be entirely focused on that – so it was very hard once I got back after missing basically a third of my final year.
“Ashley Liao, who plays a friend of mine in the film (and who happens to be a friend of mine in real life) was doing her law degree at UCLA at the same time as I was doing mine, so we could keep each other motivated enough to go back once we wrapped up and push on!”
Although Max was able to achieve a balance between study and work, he tells us that his time at UCL was far from normal.
He described his university years as “strange” and far from typical, mirroring the experience of many fellow students who started uni during the pandemic.
Max recalls: “From Covid to working right the way through to the end of my degree, it all went by in a bit of a blur. It took some convincing, but once they were on my team, UCL were far more forgiving of me disappearing off to Berlin for six months than most other unis would have been, I think.
“But I’m still grateful for my time there – the people I met helped me keep a foot in the ‘real world’ so to speak. I think I would have lost my head otherwise. The film scene at UCL also came in handy, the people who ‘get it’ on both ends are some of the folks I met at uni that I value most.”
Since shooting the Hunger Games, Max has already started work on his next film: “I’ve just finished shooting my next project. I’m directing this one, so obviously I’m bricking it, but I think it will be really beautiful.”
He will also appear in a play next year and then “on to the next film.”
For now, Max’s final words to our readers are: “The film is out! Go watch it! I’m genuinely proud of it. Ultimately, people loving the movie and appreciating the end result is why we put all the work in. That’s pretty much it!”
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is out in cinemas now.
Featured image via Deelo Morgenegg