For the past two seasons, Colorado native Maxwell Acee Donovan’s been starring as Wesley on Disney Channel’s Gabby Duran & The Unsittables. In this exclusive interview, he shares his journey, spills show secrets, opens up about social media, and more!
Q: For our readers who might not have seen you in Gabby Duran & The Unsittables, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
A: I grew up in a small town in Colorado called Glenwood Springs, surrounded by rivers and canyons and the Rocky Mountains. I love fishing, rafting – pretty much everything I grew up doing. My only complaint: Both of our movie theaters went out of town within six weeks of each other! I didn’t realize until recently how many of my memories are tied to movies… we were on a family vacation to Moab, Utah, when I was only a few years old, and pretty much all I remember from it is the western movie museum in the basement of our lodge! (And the pasta restaurant) So, I suppose I’ve always had this passion for film and TV ingrained in me. So happy to be working in it!
Q: How’d you get started in acting?
A: My sister is the reason I got into the film/TV industry. My parents agreed to take her out to Hollywood to try one pilot season six years ago, and we never left! So I went along with her to a manager meeting, and we ended up both signing…eventually, we booked a role as a sibling team (our dream!), and pretty soon, we were on a set. The moment I stepped foot on set, I knew I’d never want to leave – it’s so exhilarating to be surrounded by movie magic, and being behind the scenes is incredibly fun. I’ve discovered a passion for both in-front-of and behind the camera work, and I can’t picture myself doing anything else.
Q: I know you started with smaller roles, but GD&TU was your first starring role in a series. Before the show premiered, did you deal with any social media pressure while auditioning?
A: I did lose out on a few amazing roles because of a lack of a social media presence. It did bother me a bit and was kind of a catch-22 — how can I have a social media following if they won’t cast me? As Korg would put it, “A freaky circle.” There’s one instance of this that has stayed with me. A few years ago, right before I auditioned for Gabby Duran, I went five or six rounds on an Amazon show. It was a significant role and show, and I couldn’t believe I was down to the final two! The day came for the final mix and match, and when I got there, I met my competition… over a million followers. Discouraging, I still did my best work and was hopeful. I later learned I wouldn’t be moving forward and was pretty bummed. Fast-forward a few months, and here I am at the 4th round for Gabby Duran, feeling calm and collected, ready to rock. And then they walk in… the same kid who beat me out for the other role. And. I. Panicked. I flubbed every line in my scene and actually had to go to the first-floor bathroom and cry. I so wanted the role of Wesley and remembered typing into my dad’s phone notes, “I guess that’s it for this one,” with a devastatingly sad emoji. Well, somehow, I got called back in for another round, and the rest is history, but that’s how not having many followers almost got me twice with one stone!
Q: How did your relationship with social media change after the show premiered?
A: Well, I began to take it a lot more seriously. My page pretty much used to be all memes (some fantastic ones if I do say so), and I felt I should revamp it to be more personal! I love the story feature, so utilize that pretty much every day to post snippets from my life and movies/music I’m excited about! However, making it more professional brought a responsibility to be on social media more often, which can take a toll. I, for one, find it hard to post consistently and even had to get a little help curating my feed to keep me on track. On the other hand, I have loved doing live events because I get to meet fans from other countries!
Q: What’s your best advice for anyone struggling with social media pressure?
A: It can be toxic scrolling through your feed and DMs. The overwhelming amount of information can be, well, overwhelming, and people use the anonymity of being behind a computer to avoid responsibility for the things they say. Often DMs and other forms of online communication are hosts to bullies, and I know how mean people can be. I try to limit my time on socials to glean from it all of the amazing and positive things that it can also bring, such as friendships and opportunities to learn about people you would otherwise not know! That being said, there is a side of social media that can be tough on people. I think the most important thing I can say is that others do not define you. Their thoughts and words can be hurtful, but they are not a reflection of you. Keep being you! I also suggest limiting time on socials, setting boundaries, and not selling out. For instance, I spend a lot of time with some of my cast mates, but I try not to post about it unless we are doing publicity or we agree to post something for fun – I never want anyone to feel like I met up with them for a social media opp.
Q: Switching gears a bit, what can Gabby Duran & The Unsittables fans expect from future episodes?
A: Well, if you can believe it, it gets even more out there! Specifically for Wesley, there may or may not be more potion antics, chances to save the world, and perhaps some more awkward nights with Sky’s dad…I can’t wait for everyone to see them! Oh, and alternate dimensions aren’t limited to Episode 2!! There are a few moments that I wish I could talk about – some amazing stunts and, of course, crazy hijinks that involve every cast member and so many great guest stars – they’re going to blow your mind!
Q: Tell us 3, fun, behind-the-scenes facts fans would love to know about working on the show!
A: One: Nathan (Principal Swift) thinks the plunger is indeed a “fancy drinking stick.” Just don’t ask him; he’ll call me a liar!
Two: We have a huge crew! I like to call it our 250-person-family. Every single person is incredible, and the show would be impossible without them. From our prop team, carpenters and painters, our camera and writers room, amazing special and visual effects, and of course the AD team – every person is the reason Gabby Duran and the Unsittables works.
Three: Gormonia is huge! We built the entire planet within a sound stage, and you could walk for 20 minutes or more to get from the prison to the control panel room! It’s genuinely incredible how talented the Gabby D family is!
Q: What’s one message you want readers to take away from this interview?
A: Well, not to sound cliche, but… being you is the greatest thing in the world. I’ve struggled with self-image over the years and have found myself worried about others and what they’re thinking about me. I’m not going to lie to you and say I don’t still have my moments, but I have come to realize how powerful my thoughts are, and I try very hard to take a step back and think about all the things I do/am that I like, and when it comes down to it – that’s a lot. Especially when chasing a career in the industry, staying true to yourself, staying confident in yourself… It’s a real journey, but for me, it is so worth it! So I suppose that’s my message; live life as yourself, and do the things that make you happy, because being you (throwback to question 5!) is amazing and can only be defined by you!
Watch Maxwell in all-new episodes of Gabby Duran & The Unsittables, Friday nights on Disney Channel!