Chicago teen adds to impressive acting resume with poignant 'Dear Edward' on Apple TV+

  • Jordan Adler (Maxwell Jenkins) is about to take a fateful flight in the Apple TV+ series "Dear Edward."

    Jordan Adler (Maxwell Jenkins) is about to take a fateful flight in the Apple TV+ series "Dear Edward." Courtesy of APPLE TV+

Updated 1/31/2023 5:10 PM

Young Chicago actor Maxwell Jenkins' time as Jordan Adler on the set of "Dear Edward," a drama series from "Friday Night Lights" producer Jason Katims that premieres Friday, Feb. 3, on Apple TV+, began with the first episode's climactic scene: a plane crash.

"We had this amazing set," Jenkins said during a phone interview between classes at his Chicago high school. "It was a legit commercial plane ... it would shake around and the lighting would be crazy, it really felt like we were in a plane crash."


That sounds like a spoiler, but it's the catalyst for the 10-episode show based on a 2020 novel by Ann Napolitano. The Edward of the title is the sole survivor of the crash -- and Jordan's 12-year-old brother.

Before Edward (Colin O'Brien) loses Jordan and his mom (Robin Tunney) and dad (Brian James D'Arcy) in the crash, Jenkins forms a palpable on-screen bond with his younger co-star.

"We had a week, two weeks of rehearsals before we really went into filming ... but I don't even know if we needed it," Jenkins said. "Me and Colin hit it off right away."

That's evident in the second episode. Now living with his aunt ("Orange is the New Black" star Taylor Schilling) after the crash and facing an existential crisis at such a tender age, Edward imagines a conversation with Jordan in which the older brother says they should start believing in God. "It's the only way we all stay together. You, me, Mom and Dad," Jordan says.

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"That was one we really focused on in rehearsals and on the day," Jenkins said of the poignant scene, adding that he and his collaborators got into micro-details, like when he should lay down or sit up during the conversation that contains a burst of aggravation.

Jenkins calls his younger co-star "an amazing actor," and he's worked with plenty of them. Already a TV veteran at age 17, Jenkins starred as Will Robinson for all three seasons of Netflix's "Lost in Space" reboot, played the young Jack Reacher in Amazon's "Reacher" and had guest shots on both "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago Med."

Jordan Adler (Maxwell Jenkins) and brother Edward (Colin O'Brien) take a ride to their favorite NYC falafel cart in the first episode of "Dear Edward."
Jordan Adler (Maxwell Jenkins) and brother Edward (Colin O'Brien) take a ride to their favorite NYC falafel cart in the first episode of "Dear Edward." - Courtesy of APPLE TV+

He called "Dear Edward" the first project where he wasn't "the kid on set."

"It was fun to be kind of a smaller part in helping (Colin) go on this journey of leading a series," he said. "I really saw myself in Colin."


Jenkins' own journey has included performing alongside his entire family -- even rescue dogs Rickie and Bobbie -- as an acrobat and musician in the Midnight Circus. Founded by Maxwell's parents Jeff and Julie, the circus hosted free shows in six Chicago parks in 2022 for more than 15,000 attendees, and plans to return later this year.

"I was fortunate enough to be in town for the entire tour," Jenkins said. "This might be my last full season as a Midnight Circus acrobat, because I'm hopefully going off to college next year."

Between his college future and "Dear Edward" came a trip overseas to make "Sand and Stones," a 2024 thriller starring Nicolas Cage and "It" star Jaedan Martell.

"We only had 21 days of actual shooting, so it was a really intense process in the Irish countryside," Jenkins said. "I learned a lot on that project."

He called Cage one of the most collaborative actors he's ever worked with, talking in-depth about every scene together.

Jenkins' impressive list of collaborators also includes titans of TV directing like Fisher Stevens, who helmed the "Dear Edward" pilot. His time on "Lost in Space" included episodes steered by Alex Graves ("The West Wing," "Game of Thrones"), Deborah Chow ("The Mandalorian," "Obi-Wan Kenobi") and David Nutter ("The Sopranos," "The X-Files"). Has working with them inspired Jenkins to get behind the camera?

"I do see myself hopefully in the future getting into that side of the world," he said.

But first things first: "I'm gonna head back to my AP Lit class!"

• "Dear Edward" begins Friday on Apple TV+ with three episodes; subsequent episodes will release weekly.

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