Maude Apatow knows you think she’s a product of nepotism, and she wants to prove herself

Judd Apatow's daughter Maude Apatow outside on a swing.
Maude Apatow, Judd Apatow’s 22-year-old daughter, has been trying to make a name for herself as an actress for a few years, and is now in two new projects: Her dad’s summer comedy “The King of Staten Island” and the Ryan Murphy Netflix show “Hollywood.”
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Just before the coronavirus became a global pandemic, Maude Apatow was planning to finally move out of her parents’ house. She’d found a few apartments that piqued her interest and scheduled times to tour them. But when the city shut down, she put her plans on hold, instead hunkering in Brentwood with her mom, dad and 17-year-old sister.

“It’s been fun, I guess — there are definitely ups and downs,” said Apatow, 22, with a telling smile. She had retreated to her mother’s office (her mom is actress Leslie Mann) to conduct a Zoom interview, one of the few spots in the house where she doesn’t worry that “someone will start screaming in the background or embarrass me.”

It was during quarantine that the actress and her dad, director Judd Apatow, began discussing the possibility of debuting his new movie via on-demand instead of postponing its theatrical release. The film, “The King of Staten Island,” stars “SNL” comedian Pete Davidson as a wannabe tattoo artist struggling to find his purpose after the death of his father. Maude has a supporting role, playing Davidson’s sister — the younger but more mature sibling who leaves for college while her brother is still living at home.

“When my dad first told me about the release plans, there was an option to wait a year, like so many movies that have been pushed,” she recalled. “And we were like, ‘I feel like a lot of people might watch it right now because everyone has already gone through so much content.’ I’m sad about not seeing it with an audience, but it might be a good time for it, fingers crossed.”

Dressed in a BTS sweatshirt she bought at one of the K-pop band’s concerts, Apatow spoke to The Times in mid-May about her new movie, her roles in the television series “Hollywood” and “Euphoria” and making a name for herself.

Actress Maude Apatow, right, and her father, Judd Apatow, at the premiere of "Other People" at the Sundance Film Festival. 
Actress Maude Apatow, right, and her father, Judd Apatow, at Sundance in 2016.
(Danny Moloshok / Invision/Associated Press)

You acted in some of your dad’s movies when you were a kid. How did he bring up the idea of you appearing in “Staten Island”?

It was pretty close to when we were about to shoot. Pete had said something about it, and I don’t think my dad was super open to the idea at first. I think he was hesitant. But I read it with Pete and it ended up making sense. I’ve known Pete for a long time and I feel like I care about him, so having a relationship made it easier to play it with him.

Were you concerned about the perception of you getting the role only because he was your dad?

I definitely thought about that before doing this movie. Obviously, I’ve acted in so many of my parents’ movies, and people are going to say it’s nepotism. I mean, it’s not even an insult — well, it is an insult, but it is what it is. But because I’d just done “Euphoria” and I was starting to do other projects showing I was capable of doing work without their help, I was apprehensive about it. But then I thought, “I haven’t worked with my dad since I was 12,” and I really look up to him as a mentor figure in my life. I want to be a director someday, and getting to watch my dad do what he does is very important to me. I don’t know when I’m ever going to do this again, and it just felt like, “Why would I not do it?” I’m gonna spend my whole life trying to prove myself as an individual, and that’s a chip on my shoulder. It’s really important to me to show that I work really hard, because I do. I want to be an individual.

How different was it working with him when you were 12 versus in your 20s?


I acted when I was a kid, but not really, because I was so young. My dad said this the other day: ‘It was almost like a simulation of our real life.’ We were doing what we did normally at breakfast or whatever. And now — I would never say this to him, because it’s cringey to say it to my dad — but I wanted to do a good job for him, and his opinion of me as an actor is probably the most important to me. But my dad also makes self tapes with me and knows how to make me be a better actor.

Does he read lines with you during those auditions?

Yes. I have to stop doing self tapes with him, though. We did a self tape for “The Beach Bum” with Matthew McConaughey, and my dad overacts, doing an impression of Matthew McConaughey. And I was like, “This is terrible.”

Maude Apatow was about to move out of her parents' home when COVID-19 became a global pandemic.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

You studied theater at Northwestern University for two years until leaving during your sophomore year. Why did you make that decision?

I always kind of knew in the back of my head that I was ready to start working. I felt very ready to go. I don’t want to sound cringey, but I was very ambitious. When I got to college, I started auditioning all the time — taping auditions. And then I got “Euphoria,” and it just wasn’t realistic to be able to fly back and forth from Illinois every week. I haven’t fully put school off yet. I still maybe would like to go back at some point.

Did you like it while you were there?

Oh, yeah. I had a lot of fun, and I’m really glad I went. I was in a sorority — Tri Delt. And we went to football games and did tailgating, and I think that’s why I liked Northwestern, because it was very academic but we had a lot of fun.

You’ve said that part of what appealed to you about doing “Euphoria” was the way the show represented obsessive compulsive disorder. What has your experience been with anxiety?

Even though it makes work a lot more challenging sometimes for me, I really do everything I can to not let it get in the way. Even this interview, I’m in a full-blown panic the entire time. I get very flustered when I’m put on the spot or have to talk for a long time. I had really bad OCD in middle and high school. I’ve gone to OCD treatment. My parents were very supportive of me getting help and reading books about it and learning about mental health at a young age, and I think that was a big advantage for me. Obviously, I’m not done learning and it’s still a problem. But I think I’ve gotten to a place where I’m able to be more productive. But seeing “Euphoria” and having them talk about OCD and that pressure — I’d never seen it in a show where it felt so real and I felt so connected to it.

Actress Maude Apatow, producer-director Judd Apatow, actress Iris Apatow, and actress Leslie Mann at a premiere.
(Jason Merritt / Getty Images for MTV)

How has the pandemic affected your anxiety?

Pretty badly. With surfaces — now they’re saying it’s not really spread that way, but that’s something I’m always thinking about anyway. As someone who is anxious or OCD, you’re constantly having the thoughts, but you’ve found a way to brush them aside and dismiss them. But when it starts to become a real concern, like now, and it’s in your face all the time, you can justify those thoughts. The last few weeks I’ve been stressed out, for sure.

How do you cope with your anxiety?

My parents are very big into mediation, so they’ve always told me to meditate. So the Calm app, Headspace. … Reality TV is another thing that makes me feel I can fully relax into something else and distract myself. “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” I fall asleep to “The Great British Bake Off,” because it makes me feel super relaxed. “90 Day Fiancé.” I still can’t believe Lana was real. She didn’t even give David a two-handed hug. I say to people: “If you haven’t seen it, it’s the best reality show I’ve ever seen.” I can’t even believe what I’m watching. It feels so invasive, and it’s so insane. I watch every spinoff.

Now that you’ve had three major projects come out in the span of a year, do you feel like you’re on your way to establishing yourself outside of your parents?

I’m always thinking I need to keep going. I don’t know how to say this without sounding emo, but I’m pretty hard on myself. I should stop and be happy sometimes, but I’m very “onto the next” mindset. I look up to Lena Dunham and Phoebe Waller-Bridge because they act, write and direct. I also think of Emma Stone as someone I look up to — doing comedies and then super dramatic roles. I saw her in “Cabaret” in New York. To see that she can do all of that is really cool to me. And my dad has always been really encouraging of writing for myself. He’ll give me writing advice, even though I don’t always take it. He gives really good advice, even though I don’t like to tell him that. I instinctually have to be like, “I don’t agree with that,” but he’s right, most of the time.