Nepo Baby of the Week: Other Nepos Could Learn From Maya Hawke

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Getty
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Maya Hawke might play the famous novelist and essayist Flannery O’Connor in her new movie, Wildcat, but during the film’s press tour, she’s also taken on another, even rarer role: the chill nepo baby.

It’s a known fact that 90 percent of famous Hollywood progeny break out into hives, literally or figuratively, when asked about how their parents’ status helped their career. Many of them—like Lily-Rose Depp and O’Shea Jackson Jr.—sputter out some nonsense about how all their famous DNA did was get their foot in the door (which, yes, is the entire idea of nepotism). More intense nepo babies, like Ben Platt, might get yanked out of an interview by their team just a couple questions after you ask them about the dreaded discourse. Why so shy?

Compare that to Maya Hawke, who has spent years gracefully fielding these questions. In fairness, when you’re starring in a film your father happened to direct, you kind of have to. Still, both Maya and Ethan Hawke have been pretty open about Hollywood’s devotion to creating famous bloodlines.

When The Guardian profiled Maya back in February, reporter Owen Myers noted the ease with which she addressed her parents and privilege. “When I note that Hawke speaks about her parents quite freely,” Myers wrote, “she rolls her eyes: ‘Well, they’re my family.’” Indeed!

Later on in the interview, the actress seemed thoughtful as she weighed her self-belief as an artist against the reality that she grew up with obvious advantages.

“I think you probably can tell that I love this work and I’m so grateful to be getting to do it,” Hawke told The Guardian. “I can believe anything I want to believe about me having found a way to be an artist even if I’d been adopted. But I don’t know—I’m so grateful for the world I grew up around, for the New York City theater scene I was raised in, getting to go see plays and sit backstage, and to know about great directors and how I wanted to be.”

Overall, this is a refreshingly normal response, and a far cry from the hand-wringing nonsense we often see from young talent with famous parents. Sure, Hawke wants to believe that she would have made her way into the industry even if her parents were, I don’t know, accountants or something. I’m pretty sure all of us would. At the same time, she acknowledges the outlandish and uncommonly cool things she got to do as a celebrity kid. Good for her!

A photo of Ethan Hawke and Maya Hawke on the set of Wildcat

Ethan Hawke and Maya Hawke on the set of Wildcat

Steve Squall/Oscilloscope

Sure, Hawke never quite rises to the level of candid self-awareness of, say, Allison Williams—who willingly described herself as a nepo baby in a 2023 Vulture interview before the reporter interviewing her even had the chance. But then again, can any of us ever hope to be as cool as Hollywood’s stand-in for type-A weirdos everywhere?

“All that people are looking for is an acknowledgement that it’s not a level playing field,” Williams said back then. “It’s just unfair. Period, end of the story, and no one’s really working that hard to make it fair. To not acknowledge that me getting started as an actress versus someone with zero connections isn’t the same—it’s ludicrous. It doesn’t take anything away from the work that I’ve done. It just means that it’s not as fun to root for me.”

Ethan Hawke Directs His Daughter in ‘Wildcat.’ But Their Movie’s a Bust.

As nepo scholars know, that soundbite went down in history as perhaps the greatest nepo baby response of all time—second only, if anything, to Jamie Lee Curtis’s succinctly honest explanation of nepo logic: “‘If you’re going to choose between this one and this one [for a role], choose the one whose mother was in Psycho, because it will get some press for you.’”

So okay, Hawke might not speak that bluntly about the upper hand she’s had in Hollywood thanks to her famous parents (her mother is also Uma Thurman). Still, she’s historically been pretty open about it—and consistently, at that.

When Rolling Stone asked in 2022 if her desire to prove herself might come from having famous parents, Hawke granted, “Maybe that’s part of it. I have no idea who I would be if I was somebody else. I feel like the only way to handle the nepotism thing—which definitely gives you massive advantages in this life—is, you will get chances for free, but the chances will not be infinite; so you have to keep working and do a good job. If you do a bad job, the chances will stop. That’s my ethos.”

Perhaps Hawke had looked around, noticed how many of her peers were getting roasted for their defensive responses to the nepo debate, and decided to take a different tack. Or maybe she, like Williams and Curtis, is simply secure enough in her own talent to admit that, yes, of course, having A-list parents obviously gives her a leg up in the industry. Whatever the reason for Hawke’s cool candor, she’s exhibited it repeatedly while promoting Wildcat.

Take this Variety interview from last year, for example. Is it just me, or is Ethan Hawke working harder to prove that his daughter deserves her fame than she is? Then again, he wouldn’t be the first celebrity parent to bat away nepo baby allegations on behalf of their famous kid.

“Famous parents can help you get an audition,” Daddy Hawke told the magazine of his daughter’s acceptance to Juilliard, “but they’re not going to get you in.” (I promise, nepo parents everywhere, we know this!) Later on, he joked that he’s a “nepo dad” and claimed that the film had received financing because Maya was starring—not because he was directing.

“Well…” Maya wisely countered, “a little bit of both.”

Nepo Baby of the Week: Leave Maya Rudolph Alone

In addition to acting in Wildcat, Maya is also producing. Speaking with Variety, she admitted to having “moments of insecurity” about working with her father in a time when such things are so easily called out. “But the internet doesn’t have a lot of nuances. My dad has been a massive teacher for me, and we want to work together. We like being with each other.”

Daddy Hawke added, “If someone wants to criticize us for working together, that’s totally fair. You have to let people have their opinion. You just have to try to do a good job when you’re onstage.”

If this whole acting thing suddenly stops working out, Maya and Ethan might consider holding seminars for nepo families everywhere. Something tells me that’s unlikely, but Maya, Ethan—if you ever need a list of potential clientele, you know where to find me.

Check out our past Nepo Babies of the Week.

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