Jessica Parker Kennedy, who plays the sharp-witted and seductive Max on Starz hit series Black Sails is no stranger to our screens. From her witchy ways on The Secret Circle to sympathetic pal on Smallville, or her stint on the edgier reboot of 90210, she continues to captivate audiences worldwide.
Black Sails, which stands as a prequel to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel “Treasure Island” is full of pirate shenanigans and all around debauchery. The survival of New Providence Island is at stake and prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers are at the heart of this islands overhaul. It’s without a doubt the Golden Age of swashbucklers and this show is not one to be missed. If the mere premise of this exhilarating and gritty series wasn’t enough to draw you in, Kennedy’s character should be a main reason to watch. Max has to be one of the most well-layered characters of all on the show; this working girl turned Madam is definitely making strides to take over the whole county and her conniving ways alone are enough to catapult her straight to a seat of power and authority.
Kennedy chatted with me from Cape Town, South Africa where the show films, about desperately wanting Max to have some fight scenes, what set life is like, and addresses fans who are still holding out for Max and Eleanor’s romantic reunion. So all ye land lovers toss those cares aside and hop aboard, this is one ship– you’re going to want to be on! (Yeah, I realize that was extremely cheesy, but oh well, I’m just thrilled to bring you an in-depth interview with this delightful human being.)
MCKENZIE MORRELL: To kind of kick things off, can you tell us about your character on Black Sails? Max has had quite the journey from season one to season two.
JESSICA PARKER KENNEDY: She’s definitely like nothing I’ve ever played before. She’s an incredibly independent, strong woman. To me, of all the characters on the show, she’s had the biggest arc over every other character. I think she’s just come so far. In season one she was a prostitute with her awesome skills on how to get information out of people to use to her advantage. In a lot of ways now, she’s sort of trying to — she’s really come up in the world. She has a lot more power now. In a way, I think her ultimate goal would be to take over the town.
MM: Last season was super rough for her. Where do you think she drives her strength from to persevere despite her line of work, the continued abuse, and Eleanor betraying her.
JPK: That’s an interesting question and a really good question. I think she’s one of those people that’s only ever had herself. I made kind of a backstory for myself with Max and she’s not someone that’s come from anything, like that’s really had support around her in any way. So really, I think once that betrayal happened with Eleanor (Hannah New), it made her almost stronger, not in a way we want to be stronger because it really closed her off to opening up to anyone else or trusting anyone else. But it allowed her to go I have me and that’s all I have and I’m going to do anything in my power to not only get over this but conquer it and make my life something that it wasn’t before and just get bigger and bigger and bigger. She’s trying to gain as much control in her life as his possible. She’s formed this alliance with Jack (Toby Schmitz) and Anne (Clara Paget) and it’s very much a — obviously Jack is not her most favorite person in the world but this partnership that she has with Anne, I think a really big question this season is, is that real? Is it something that she’s doing to move herself forward? Is it somewhere in between? Does she not really know what it is? I think there’s an element of all those things in there. It’ll be interesting to see if she ever does have to part ways with Anne if that would be difficult for her or easy for her, if they’ll stay together forever.
MM: Anne went a little overboard and killed two people under Max’s watch. Why do you think Max decided that she was going to protect her? Did you see kind of a parallel from season one with Eleanor offering her help to Max?
JPK: I think more than that, because when Eleanor offered to help Max, Max didn’t want it. Ultimately, it was Bonny that killed those guys in the crew and helped Max get back to the brothel and get back to some sense of safety and security. So I think she really felt like she owed her. So to see Bonny as someone who portrays herself as incredibly strong, and can’t be hurt and can’t be this, it’s kind of seen an internal crumbling within her. She just wanted to help her. I don’t think Max knows exactly why but there must be an element of I see myself in her and to see someone so powerful lose themselves is something that I think Max — there’s a sense of her that’s very mothering. It’s like in season one, when Eleanor got hit by Vane. Max tended to Eleanor and there was a sort of mothering there. Let me help you, let me make you feel better, let me protect you in a lot of ways and I think Max just naturally had that within her. So to see Bonny kind of vulnerable like that, I think really made her go there with Bonny. Bonny’s a really feared character and Max just doesn’t have that same fear of her that a lot of people do.
MM: The tables have definitely turned this season. Eleanor is slowly losing the power and Max is slowly gaining it. Will there be any show down in any upcoming episodes or ramifications if they find out that Max and Silver (Luke Arnold) retrieved the Urca gold?
JPK: It’s hard to say without giving anything away but there’s definitely — Eleanor is slowly becoming aware of how powerful Max is and how good she is at manipulating people and probably seeing herself in a lot of Max because Max has been on this island watching Eleanor and watching every move Eleanor makes and knows Eleanor really, really well. The tables have turned and Max is very much a threat to Eleanor. It’ll be interesting to see if Eleanor really understands how much of a threat she actually is.