From the first time he set foot on set, Max Ehrich knew he was meant to spend the rest of his life on camera. But Ehrich’s talents aren’t just reserved for the screen. He’s been singing and playing music since he was just four years old and recently released his first original song, “Ride,” which was also featured in his latest movie, Walk. Ride. Rodeo., the true story of Amberley Snyder. At the same time, he was filming the movie, Ehrich was shooting a new show coming out on Lifetime this summer called American Princess. From his latest roles to his musical talents, Ehrich shares with us why he does what he does.
I like to start out by getting the Spark Notes version of your life. Do you want to just fill me in a little bit on yourself and your career?
I grew up in a small town in New Jersey and I’ve always been drawn to the arts. I was in all of the school plays and would go to performing arts camps. I ended up going to a performing arts high school in New York City called PPAs. When I was there I ended up getting an agent and I got a small role in a little movie called High School Musical 3. Instead of working after high school I got a recurring role on Ugly Betty. My dream as a kid, what I saw for myself, was to go to NYU. I just wanted to be on stage in New York and do plays and musicals.
Being on set the first time was the experience that made me realize I was really drawn to film acting because it’s much more personal and intimate. I find that I’m very intrigued by the subtleties that are picked up in screen acting versus stage acting.
It was really intriguing to me so I decided to defer going to college to act. I moved out to LA, and I started getting roles on TV shows. One of my first sustained acting jobs was on a soap opera called The Young and the Restless. That was really, really cool because it was like an acting boot camp in a sense. We would do a scene in one take, an episode per day, and my character was always having the craziest of storylines. I was fortunate enough to get nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Younger Actor. It was kind of like all four of those nominations were the four years I would have gone to college. In the back of my mind I would always wonder, “Should I have gone to school?” but then I realized that I was acting every single day and doing what I loved.
What have you been working on lately, aside from The Young and the Restless?
This past year I filmed a Netflix movie called Walk. Ride. Rodeo. that just recently came out in March. It was an incredible movie to be a part of, not only because of the content of the film. I’m all about films that have strong stories and a strong message. The ultimate dream is for people who walk away from a project I’m a part of to feel inspired and impacted emotionally. I hope to be able to change people’s perspectives on life and on the world. I want to soften their hearts a bit. I think we live in a really crazy time, so to be part of a project that was a very inspiring story was amazing.
I was really fortunate because I also wrote and sang a song that got placed in the film, and Netflix even put up the music video for it with Amberley Snyder, who the film is based upon, and it was the last scene of the film. It’s pretty surreal for me because music is such a passion of mine that I’ve kind of kept under wraps for a very long time. Like, wherever I’m staying, I always need to have a piano. I’ve been playing since I was literally four years old. The earliest memory I have of my first artistic calling was the piano; it made me feel some sense of peace and home and expression. So to have both of my two passions in Walk. Ride. Rodeo. was really awesome.
At the same time, I was filming this new Jenji Kohan executive-produced series that Jamie Denbo created called American Princess. I grew up watching Weeds, which Jenji Kohan created, so that was like another surreal project to be a part of. The writing’s amazing and it’s very hilarious. It was nice to be playing characters that are far away from myself. I play a lawyer in American Princess and I played a cowboy and Walk. Ride. Rodeo. I never thought I’d ever play probably either of those kinds of characters, so that’s kind of cool.
Do you want to talk a little bit about Walk. Ride. Rodeo.?
So the film is based on a true story of Amberley Snyder. She’s a champion barrel racer, and when she was a teenager she got in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down. They told her that she could never ride again. That was a huge tragedy in her life, but she took that situation and didn’t let it define her. She was really determined to continue riding, and she ended up finding the inner strength through her faith and family and still rides to this day. She even beat her record after the accident. She rides with a seat belt on her saddle now.
I play Tate Watkins, who’s the character in the film who, when she had the accident, was really adamant about her speaking at these FFA (Future Farmers of America) conferences and wanting her to share her story. He sees her as extremely inspiring, which I, Max, do as well. I’m really inspired by her strength. To not let her accident define her, and to stay positive and determined through that, is just incredible.
My character and Amberley’s ended up having a romantic interest in each other. I think Tate’s like her rock when things are rough. He’s the phone call or FaceTime that she makes when she needs someone. He ends up supporting her through the end of the movie where she ends up racing at The American.
Were you familiar with Amberley Snyder’s story before getting the part?
No. So when I read the script, I couldn’t believe it it was a true story. To hear her story for the first time was incredible. It was really impactful. So I researched and I went on YouTube and was watching videos of her speaking and riding. I was very drawn to the story. I knew that this was a story that I wanted to be a part of because of the underlying message of inspiring people who are facing adversity and obstacles.
What was the audition process like for the role?
They had me come in to read. I’ve read for quite a good solid amount of things and there aren’t many things that just click. It’s like you were meant to play this role, and I felt that. I got the same reaction from the casting director in the room. When I got it, the whole thing was very organic.
What inspired you to write the song “Ride” for the movie?
The idea sparked during the time we were filming. I think social media is a really awesome tool that can be used for artists to show their stuff and show their creative outlets. The time we were filming happened to be a time where I felt inspired to start posting singing videos. Some of it would be like songs that I was drawn to, like covers, and some were original.
One of the producers of the film commented on one of my videos and was like, “I had no idea that you sang,” and was very complimentary. It just popped into my head that it would be really awesome to write a song for the film. The producers told me that would be really awesome. A bunch of ideas popped into my head because I have friends in Nashville who make a lot of country music at a publishing company called Demolition Music Publishing. So I called them and I called Amberley Snyder, and I said, “What if we all collaborated and wrote a song for the film?” Long story short, we did, and a lot of those lyrics are based on her interviews and were words that she has said in various points of her journey.
The producers told me there was no guarantee the song would be produced or would make it into the movie — they really emphasized to me that there was really no guarantee at all, but I was very determined. I felt like, if this film has taught me anything, it’s to head fearlessly in the direction of your dreams. So I got on a plane and went and made a song, and we got the song placed in the film.
To this day, it’s very surreal. Music means a lot to me and so does acting. To have them both in that project was really a special moment for me and has inspired me. I’m going to be releasing more original music. I’ve been writing, so I’m gonna be releasing more.
That’s really exciting. What made you decide to like reach out to Amberley to help you write it?
Well, the song is her. It’s her story. I can put myself in her position in my mind, but I know that no one can tell that story better than she can. So it just felt right. When I called her, I did not expect her to say yes. It just was a gut feeling that I knew I couldn’t do it justice if I didn’t have her involved. I wanted her to be proud of it.
So you said you’re going to release original music in the future. What kinds of songs do you like to sing and write?
Mostly piano-driven songs because that’s my main instrument. What I’m writing and releasing is honestly like journal entries. It’s all experiences that I’ve been through and am going through. It’s like sharing pieces of myself. I’ve been playing characters for the past ten, eleven years. Music is an opportunity for me to share my life and my experiences. I’m being very vulnerable in it. I’m not trying to write hit songs.
If my songs can touch one person, that’s incredible to me. It’s all coming from the most organic place that I can find within myself. It’s a process of healing from life. I’ve been through my fair share of love and heartbreak, so I want to make people feel less alone in their experiences by sharing mine.
Why did you keep your music under wraps for so long?
I wasn’t ready to share. I think it’s a really vulnerable thing. With acting, I’m hiding behind character masks. I’m wearing the mask of another person. Music is like sharing yourself. I just don’t know that I was ready to share things, and now I do feel ready.
You talked a little before about American Princess, but do you want to explain a little bit more about your upcoming projects?
American Princess comes out June 2nd on Lifetime. I’m so excited for it. I actually saw the first episode and that’s why I’m so excited because it’s really effing good. I’m a huge fan of like anything that Jenji Kohan is a part of, so I knew when I was reading the script that it was gonna be a special project. Jamie Denbo, she created the series and is extremely hilarious. She has created a series that’s very dynamic. It’s very funny and very heartfelt.
It takes place on the day of what’s supposed to be the picturesque wedding between my character, Brett, and Amanda, played by Georgia Flood. On the day of the wedding, she walks in on me having an affair, so she ends up like reacting by running away to a bit of Renaissance Faire. She’s trying to decide if she wants to leave her life in New York and join this, what seems to be an alternate universe at the Renaissance Faire. It breaks your heart, but it makes you laugh. It has, I think, all the parts of a really, really great series.
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