Lukita Maxwell Is Firing on All Cylinders

Lukita Maxwell can’t stay stagnant for too long. Her burning desire to collaborate with others and make art simply won’t allow for it. When she’s not acting in shows like Generation and the new AppleTV+ dark comedy Shrinking, she can be found working on design projects for the Gen Z print magazine and arts collective Sunstroke, honing her directorial skills behind the camera (you can follow her photography work at @analog.diary), or trying her hand at a new recipe for an upcoming dinner party. Listing off her passion projects, it’s clear the 21-year-old is in a constant state of creation. 

"If I keep surrounding myself with all of these different artistic outlets, I cannot get stuck in a rut,” Maxwell tells me from her hotel in NYC. "I just need to keep myself firing all of the time, all of these different parts of my brain.” Growing up a queer teen in a conservative Southern Utah town, Maxwell’s creative pursuits weren’t always celebrated. People questioned what she wanted to do in art, the way she dressed, her taste in music, etc., so she turned to her only connection to the outside world—the internet. Finding an online community of like-minded individuals blew her mind and made a career in acting, once just a pipe dream, feel actually achievable. "It’s just the feeling of art being made and being a part of something—I love that,” she says.


(Image credit: Emily Knecht; Styling: Willie Norris x Outlier outfit; Pamela Love jewelry; Mara Scalise jewelry)

Maxwell made her on-screen debut in 2016 in the ABC series Speechless before landing the role of Delilah in the 2021 HBO Max coming-of-age drama Generation. The show was sadly canceled after one season, but it wasn’t long before the actress nabbed her next role in the AppleTV+ comedy Shrinking. Starring Jason Segel and Harrison Ford, the show, which premiered its first three episodes on the streamer on January 27, centers on Jimmy (Segel), a grieving therapist who, after losing his wife in an accident, starts to take an unconventional approach with his clients, impacting both their lives and his own. Maxwell plays Alice, Jimmy’s strong-willed teen daughter, who she describes as the show’s emotional anchor.

"This show is really fun. … When do we get to see the life of a fucked-up therapist?” Maxwell laughs. "It humanizes therapists, which humanizes therapy and makes it much more of an accessible conversation to have. And the show being brilliant at teetering the line between comedy and the darkness of it all really rounds out the story.”


(Image credit: Emily Knecht; Styling: Willie Norris x Outlier outfit; Pamela Love jewelry; Mara Scalise jewelry)

While stepping into the comedy genre was uncharted and intimidating territory for the actress, she felt at ease playing a character like Alice. "I am not too far removed from being an angsty teenager. I’m still young and coming out of that,” she says. When we first meet Alice, she comes off as independent and mature beyond her years, but slowly, the cracks of her hardened surface reveal a young woman who is still struggling with the loss of her mother and is desperate for her father’s attention and unwavering love. As a result, Alice has had to grow up quickly and be her own support system in life, something that was relatable to Maxwell. "I think that I personally have a hard time reaching out for help when I need it,” she reveals. "Even when I know I need it, I’m stubborn about it, and I am desperate to figure it out myself.” 

She may be reluctant to ask for outside help, but Maxwell is not above taking cues from those around her. With Shrinking, she was afforded an invaluable opportunity to learn from a fantastic ensemble cast, particularly Ford. According to Maxwell, the actor isn’t the type to walk around set doling out advice, but just getting to watch him work and seeing how focused and alive he is in scenes was a master class in itself. "He’s so excited to be there on set every day, and every time we had a scene, it was just a lesson of having a legend being my scene partner who is opening up so much space emotionally for me as an actor. I felt like I could really play in scenes with Harrison,” she says. Maxwell swears she played it cool around Ford, taking extra care not to geek out and ask a bunch of questions, but she admits they did bond over eating lots of snacks together—mostly frozen yogurt and pretzels—which were a staple part of their park-bench scenes.


(Image credit: Emily Knecht; Styling: Willie Norris x Outlier outfit; Pamela Love jewelry; Mara Scalise jewelry)

At one point during our conversation, Maxwell shares that her need to do film stems from a desperate desire to create art with cool people. I’d say shooting a comedy with Jason Segel and Harrison Ford for Apple checks that box. But at 21, there is so much more she wants to sink her teeth into, whether that’s going on a full journey with a character who is falling apart or doing an action movie. Whatever it is, Maxwell promises one through line: "An underlying theme that I really enjoy playing is finding characters that are effervescent but—at the core of it—so strong.”

Shrinking is now streaming on AppleTV+. 

Photographer: Emily Knecht

Stylist: Ryan Young at The Wall Group

Hairstylist: Derek Yuen at A-Frame Agency

Makeup Artist: Amber Dreadon at A-Frame Agency

Executive Director, Entertainment

Jessica Baker is Who What Wear’s Executive Director, Entertainment, where she ideates, books, writes, and edits celebrity and entertainment features.