Skyler Maxon, who plays the hot but humble athlete on MTV’s teen drama, has grabbed our attention and has us comfortably in a choke hold. Yes, we’ve noticed you, and not only because the folks over at Faking It insist that you never wear a shirt, but because your struggles are our struggles, your victories are our victories and we just love you to death!
Maxon took some time to chat with me about his character on the MTV series, his romance with on-screen boyfriend Michael Willett, his love/hate relationship with donuts (and being shirtless on the show) and even dished whether or not he thinks Karma (Katie Stevens) and Amy (Rita Volk) will end up together…
MCKENZIE MORRELL: Can you tell us about your character, Duke, on MTV’s Faking It?
SKYLER MAXON: Yeah! What would you like to know?
MM: Everything! What won’t we like to know?
SM: Yeah Duke, you know, he’s I think a year or two older than the rest of the gang. He’s out of high school and he’s working on becoming a professional MMA fighter. His dad, Duke Lewis Sr., is his coach and he meets Shane at the gym and Shane kind of catches on to this whole act. I don’t know, he… it depends on what you want to know. It’s been so long since I worked on the show.
MM: Right? I mean, it’s probably got to be strange to have people watching this show now and kind of tweeting you their reactions. Is it strange for you to get that feedback after the fact?
SM: I guess that’s normal just because it just started airing like in the last six weeks, but yeah, I think I was last on set with everyone back in January.
MM: Oh wow!
SM: Yeah, it’s been close to a year.
MM: That’s crazy. Now, are you a fan of MMA fighting? Did you have to do any research to play this role?
SM: You know what? I actually grew up doing a little bit of mixed martial arts myself, but nothing like cage fighting. But I guess it was actually Michael’s idea, he brought it up to producers because they wanted to incorporate a sport and they had all sorts of ideas, and Michael’s the one who threw it out there and was like, “We should do MMA stuff.” And I guess they really liked that so they ended up going that route. And we ended up working with a stunt coordinator named Marco who kind of showed us a few things. He was there every day on set that we had to do stuff and it was actually a lot of fun. I wish I had more time to really learn stuff and do that on set, but that was a good time.
MM: That sounds like it would be fun to pursue. And now, when you got the role, did you approach this character any differently just because he was gay? I know there’s a lot of controversy around straight people playing gay characters, but we kind of hope that one day we’ll be at a point where it doesn’t matter, that you’re just playing a character and it doesn’t matter what their sexuality is.
SM: Yeah, that’s basically how I looked at this. I was actually flying out that morning, I got the opportunity to go in there early one morning to meet with Jonathan Harris and Alyson Silverberg, the casting director, and you know, I looked at the material and to me it didn’t matter. I just looked at this guy Duke and what he was going through. Everyone’s got an ambition or a dream that they’re working towards and there’s something that is going to get in the way. For Duke, it was being himself that was getting in the way and Shane was an opportunity for him to be himself and I think he really loved it. I looked at that and was like, “That’s what I want to focus on.” So I went in there and I did that and it was a lot of fun. I ended up getting a callback and I had to go in and meet with them again and meet with Michael, and that’s just kind of what I focused on.
MM: That’s great! I mean, I think that’s what you need to do instead of focusing on one aspect of the character. And now, your character found out that Shane was the one who outed him all because Shane thought he wanted to keep the relationship a secret. Is there any hope for redemption for these two? I mean, from your perspective, do you think somebody could get over something like that?
SM: I think there’s definitely hope. I mean, especially at that age, too, people make mistakes and they get so frustrated with the person they care about that they do stuff they don’t necessarily mean to do. Yeah, I think there’s definitely hope.
MM: Well, that’s good!
SM: I think Duke could forgive him. Who knows. I guess we’ll have to find out.
MM: Right? And now, what do you think first attracted Duke to Shane? I mean, these two seem like an unlikely pair.
SM: Yeah, they are an unlikely pair, but opposites attract. I think it’s also really attractive to Duke how free Shane is and how comfortable he is just being himself. I think there’s something kind of liberating about that for Duke. It’s what he wants to be ultimately, he’s just afraid to do it.
MM: Yeah, it’s definitely a reminder of what he could be. Now, was there anything about this character that surprised you when you were reading the scripts?
SM: Any surprises? You know, it was all a surprise! [laughs] It really was. I mean, the material I used in the audition process was after the group hang when we’re all at dinner and Lauren makes that comment, “Oh, he’s obviously gay and he’s on a date with Shane.” When I storm off and then Shane catches up with Duke later on in the gym, that was some of the material we used, so it was clear that this guy had a lot of conflicts in his personal life and with his career, and the rest of it was totally unknown to me. But that was just enough that I was like, “You know what? I’d actually really like to see what this Duke guy is all about.” So most of it was a surprise. I had no idea what their vision of Duke was going to be and where they were going to take him, but I was game for the ride.
MM: [laughs] Now, was there ever a moment where you thought the fans might not like him? Like, what has been the fan response on social media?
SM: The rest of the show, I mean, there’s definitely heavy moments and obviously a lot of funny ones. Duke is not very funny. He’s just kind of like doesn’t screw around and very serious, especially at the beginning in that moment where the guys are taking the MMA class with me, when we first meet Duke, and I was like, “I wonder what they’re going to think about this guy?” because he’s trying to be this hard-ass and there’s not really anyone else like this on the show. But I think he got received really well. The response seemed to be like everyone loves “Shuke.” Yeah, and I think they were kind of bummed to see him go but, who knows. Maybe they bring him back.
MM: Right? We hope! Now, were you aware of what “shipping” meant before you guys got your own ship name?
SM: I had no idea! [laughs] Yeah, I’d never seen that stuff on Twitter. And I’m terrible at Twitter! I’m the first to admit I’m terrible with it. I seem to do a little better with Instagram, I’m just terrible at tweeting. But when I get on Twitter and see all this stuff, I was like, “Wait, what? What’s going on?”
MM: Right? Everybody hashtagging “Shuke” and you’re like, “What is going on right now? What is ‘Shuke?’” [laughs]
SM: Yeah, yeah. It took me a second, but it was cute.
MM: So despite, obviously, you’re in really good shape for all these shirtless scenes on the show, we hear that donuts are kind of your weakness on set. If you had to choose one flavor doughnut to eat for the rest of your life, which one would you choose and why?
SM: Who told you? [laughs]
MM: [laughs] I have my ways!
SM: Yeah, it was so bad. When I got cast to play Duke, I think we started shooting like the next week so I really didn’t have time to get into MMA kind of shape. But when we came back and finished the second half of the season in January, I had a little bit more time and every day I’d show up, they had donuts. And I was like, “This is torture. I’m supposed to be running around half naked all day and you guys have all these donuts.” A glazed twist doughnut for sure would be what I’d eat.
MM: That’s a good choice. I approve. Rita [Volk] decided she would have hot Cheetos with chocolate chip and sprinkles, so that was an interesting choice! [laughs]
SM: Wait, what did she want?
MM: For her question, it was more of like, “If you could be a donut, what would you be?” and she chose kind of like a white trash hot Cheetos, chocolate chip and sprinkle donut.
SM: That sounds… interesting. [laughs]
MM: [laughs] It is an interesting combination, I would say. It’s not half bad. We did attempt to make them, so that was fun.
SM: Right on. [laughs]
MM: [laughs] So now, obviously, there’s a lot of interesting characters on the show. If you were putting yourself in your position in real life, which character do you think you would be friends with?
SM: I think Shane’s freakin’ hilarious.
MM: Oh my gosh, he is.
SM: Yeah, you know I actually made a post about that recently on Instagram referring to Michael and his humor and what not on set. But Shane is freakin’ hilarious, I’m sure he’d be a hoot to be around. But yeah, I’d say Shane and Liam [Gregg Sulkin].
MM: Those are good choices.
SM: And they’re friends, you know what I mean? And they’re not really alike. They’re these two opposites. But yeah, I’d say the two of them.
MM: That’s true. Polar opposites, sometimes they attract. And now, I hear you’re good at doing celebrity impressions. Can you do one for me?
SM: Right now? [laughs]
MM: Yeah! Come on. Putting you on the spot today.
SM: You’re putting me on the spot, I’d say. [in Matthew McConaughey voice] “Listen. There’s two keys to success in this racket.” I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen The Wolf of Wall Street, but sometimes I like to run around and take off my shirt and jot down the beach like Matthew McConaughey. [end of impression]
MM: Oh my gosh, I love it! [laughs]
SM: I did that a lot on set. I think our first time together, the whole group, was the group hanging and someone mentioned something that made me want to do an impression. The moment I did the first one, they were like, “What else can you do?” It was a fun time because I was doing the impressions and then Gregg [Sulkin] was eating this food that had been out there for I don’t know how long, it was disgusting, like there were fruit flies all over it and they had to squeeze fresh lemon on it because it smelled so terrible. But Gregg was like, “I’m going to eat this because I want it to look real instead of just playing with my food.” And we were all like, “You go for it, man.” [laughs] It was a good time.
MM: And now, what is something that the fans might not know about you? I know that in my research, I found out that you have a twin, which is pretty awesome! Is there anything else that we don’t know about you that you can tell us?
SM: Anything else? Hm… there’s a lot, I’m sure, but I’d say I don’t know if people know I’m from Salt Lake City. I’m a country kid. I mean, kind of, not too much. Yeah, I don’t think most people know I’m a twin. If they get on there and look at some of my posts, they’re going to see that. I don’t know, someone was like, “Have you Googled yourself?” And I remember Googling myself once, which was kind of funny, and one of the first things that it brings up is that I’m a twin. So I’d probably say yeah, that I’m a twin, most people don’t know about.
MM: Well that’s cool. And now, how is it working on a comedy versus working on a supernatural or darker show, like when you were on Teen Wolf?
SM: Yeah, that was a riot. That was a good time. I would say everything, kind of. I thought it was a lot of fun working on Teen Wolf. It was a period piece. I guess it was the first period piece they’d done and everyone was really excited about that too because Jeff [Davis], the showrunner, he wanted to do it in black and white every time they would go back to this period piece, so I remember we would all go look at the monitor and say, “That is awesome.” And we shot in San Pedro at an old military installation, so I guess it’s the whole energy knowing what we were going for was really spooky. And it was kind of spooky because, like, the fog would roll in— we were shooting that in November almost two years ago— and the fog would just roll in and sock in this whole military installation and we didn’t need fog machines. It was intense. It was cold, so people were trying to keep warm and it was just this whole fun experience. And then working on Faking It, we’re on a set. I was new there, to both of those, obviously. Both groups, the crew and the cast, everyone was super nice. I mean, there was definitely a lot more laughing on Faking It, that’s for sure.
MM: [laughs] You would think so!
SM: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
MM: Alright, so real talk. Do you think that Karma and Amy are going to end up together?
SM: That is real talk. Who knows? Maybe. I think so. I’m just going to say I think so. If you had asked me that a year ago, I’d be like, “Yeah, probably not.” But with everything that’s going on, probably, yeah.
MM: I know, anything can happen. And obviously we hope to see your character in Season 3, so we’re all going to be crossing our fingers for that. But to kind of conclude, why do you think people should be watching?
SM: The biggest thing I came away with from playing Duke was, you know, when I first started it and what first attracted me to his character was this guy is going through something I’m sure a lot of people go through. There’s gotta be so many things that these kids these days with social media, the pressure to be normal, whatever that means. Whether they’re gay or they’ve got something else that they don’t want people to know or they feel uncomfortable about. When I started watching this show, I saw all these characters that they’ve created and I think it’s really important for a younger audience to watch because it just teaches you to be yourself. I’ve had people of all ages, like all ages, approach me and be like, “Hey, are you Duke on Faking It?” And I’ll be like, “Yeah!” Some of these people are 15, some of them are in their 40s and they’re like, “When I was younger, I related so much to this character, I fell in love with my best friend,” or whatever it may be. And I just think it’s really important for these kids to have a show where that’s different. A lot of these shows out there are so much alike that they’re just being fed the same normal. You know, fit in, fit in, fit in. And this show is so different, it teaches you to just be yourself, no matter what that means.
MM: That’s perfectly said. I think this show is great and we hope for many more seasons. And your character to be on it for many more seasons as well! Thank you again for taking the time to chat with me.
SM: Cool! Thank you, McKenzie. I appreciate you having me.
Follow him on Twitter @skylermaxon