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Maxton Hall’s Damian and Harriet Discuss Show’s Meaningful Success, James and Ruby’s Chemistry and More (Exclusive)

Prime Video’s Maxton Hall exceeded all expectations when it premiered — and Harriet Herbig-Matten and Damian Hardung‘s undeniable chemistry had a lot to do with that.

During an exclusive interview with Us Weekly, Herbig-Matten (who plays Ruby) and Hardung (who plays James) discussed working together to bring a fictional love story to life, what Maxton Hall’s record-breaking success means to them and how the show’s fandom proves there needs to be more investment in romance.

“It was a long wait [for the show to premiere]. Two years was a long time and it wasn’t planned,” Herbig-Matten, 20, told Us about filming the series in 2022. “It made us nervous. It was like, ‘Come on finally!’ But you can’t change it and can’t control it.”

Maxton Hall, which premiered in May, is based on Mona Kasten‘s Save You book series. The six-part German-language TV drama introduced viewers to an unlikely enemies to lovers romance between private school classmates Ruby and James. While Ruby Bell is a scholarship student at the prestigious U.K. school, she unwittingly witnessed a secret that put her on the radar of the wealthy James Beaufort.

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Despite the show taking two years to be released, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Maxton Hall quickly found record-breaking success by being the most-watched non-U.S. title during its first week on Prime Video. It was renewed for a second season one week after its debut.

Hardung, 25, recalled putting in a lot of work to bring his character to life in a way that honored the source material.

“It is my responsibility to do justice to that character especially [for] everyone who read the book. I know that personally whenever I read a book, you want to be protective of those characters. I completely understand that from the perspective of the audience,” he noted. “So it was my biggest hope and biggest wish to portray James in a way that the author [created him] and also [how] the audience wanted to see him.”

The actor did his research when it came to playing James.

“For me, it was the process of reading the book and really studying what is there. [But] also digging into mood boards that audience members have already created on the internet where they have music and visual aspects of what they imagined for that world,” Hardung explained. “Then as soon as shooting starts though, that’s on me and that’s my emotions and my personal stuff that I bring into it. And it is trusting the process and trusting that you have done the work to build up on.”

Hardung and Herbig-Matten’s commitment to their roles shines through on screen. But filming Maxton Hall didn’t come without its challenges.

“I wasn’t expecting to feel all these emotions. So it was so hard for me to process and to work through those emotions. That was really tough,” Herbig-Matten shared with Us about the ups and downs of taking on such a major project. “I have never expected that honestly. But it was fun as well. But really hard.”

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Herbig-Matten made sure to prioritize her mental health while working — and after the fact.

“The most important thing is to talk a lot and to know your boundaries. I’ve learned to stand up and to talk for myself. I’m talking a lot with my friends and to have friends who are not in this business is really important for me as well. And I’m working a lot on myself,” she detailed. “I think that helped me to reach more confidence. When you shoot [a project like this] it was two years ago. I was really young and I couldn’t process those emotions. But I’m trying and I have a second chance now with season 2.”

Keep scrolling for Hardung and Herbig-Matten’s answers to all those burning questions about their onscreen chemistry, James and Ruby’s journey from here and what they would like to see from season 2 of Maxton Hall:

Navigating the Exceptional Success of the Show

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Stephan Rabold

When Maxton Hall premiered on Prime Video, it was a German series which required many viewers to either use subtitles or dub in their own language. This would be an obstacle for some shows but Maxton Hall proved that if the interest is there, the audience will show up from all over the world.

“It is really surprising. We never expected that. We always thought hopefully it’s gonna work in Germany. So it’s like a huge surprise. It’s so international and I’m really overwhelmed but I’m really happy and proud that people love it,” Herbig-Matten explained to Us. “And I think it’s not only a success for us, but also for the German industry. A project can be international and can [find its audience] internationally.”

Hardung, meanwhile, couldn’t believe how many different languages their series has been translated into so far.

“It got dropped I think in 19 languages and then we have sub[titles] in over 40 languages. It’s been ranked the No. 1 show on Prime Video in over 120 regions. It’s all these numbers that you can’t really grasp with your own mind,” he shared. “It’s weird tuning in and listening to yourself [speak in these different languages]. So that is fun. And especially the English language is really fun because obviously I do speak English so it is really interesting to understand and hear your own dubbing voice in that language.”

As Maxton Hall continues to build its fanbase, Hardung is “still processing” the attention.

“It’s been a lot these last couple of weeks. I’m just super glad and I feel completely privileged to be experiencing this journey at the moment. But at the same time, there’s definitely been a lot of days where I had to just stay away from social media and just focus on anything else except for the show,” he admitted. “It’s just been overwhelming and I’m so grateful for the responses that I’ve been getting so far. I’ve also been really grateful for the opportunity to just go back to school and I still have a couple of courses left at university. So [it is nice to] have a different kind of life experience to feel some sense of reality I guess every now and then.”

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How Their Chemistry Played a Major Role in Putting ‘Maxton Hall’ on the Map

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video/YouTube

While many people tuned into Maxton Hall because of the palpable chemistry between the leads, they didn’t initially feel that themselves.

“It’s really funny because a few days ago we watched our audition tape together. I was like, ‘You can see the chemistry.’ It’s weird that you choose two random people and you can see the chemistry,” Herbig-Matten noted. “I think in our first audition, he had come into the room and he had this suit on and I was like, ‘Who’s this arrogant boy there?’ But in our second and last addition, it just clicked and we had tension. So we had chemistry, we just didn’t see that.”

Hardung elaborated on building a connection as they were auditioning for their roles.

“We had another round where it was just Harriet and me and we literally just spent the whole day with each other. The tasks were literally just ‘Go down that road and see how you walk across the street. Just talk to each other privately, whatever.’ And then they would be watching us while we were doing it. So that was an interesting experience,” he recalled. “It was kind of similar to the show as well.”

The similarities continued after the duo were officially cast as love interests. “We had a very interesting dynamic while shooting. Because we were literally just going through everything that the characters were going through,” Hardung told Us about the method acting. “Whenever we knew the next day we’re gonna have a shoot where we hate each other, we literally didn’t talk the night before. If we knew the next day we’re gonna be best friends then we went out for dinner together.”

Hardung called it a “24/7 exposure” to their characters. Meanwhile, Herbig-Matten said it was “really easy” to work with Hardung, adding, “We have a similar way to go into character and we kind of pushed it to the limit in some scenes. For example, the staircase scene when we screamed at each other. It was really intense and we just helped each other and we trusted each other. It was really important to trust your partner.”

Watching Their Characters Grow Throughout Season 1

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Stephan Rabold

Both Ruby and James evolve as the first season plays out on screen. Herbig-Matten learned a lot from Ruby as her character grew into her own.

“She’s like a role model for me in that way. She’s not changing her dreams. Because she’s coming from a different social class, she has the urge to pay to fight against these injustices,” she explained. “But then James comes into her life and everything is changing and mixed up and that is her inner conflict. That was so interesting to play.”

As for Hardung, he praised the Save Me franchise for being a good jumping off point for him. Season 1 featured a lot of change for James as he learned to put himself first instead of following the path created for him by his abusive father.

“That is the fun part of acting as well. You are just exploring a character that is so layered. For me, it was always the part of his father and that father figure had to be an essential part in the whole show dynamic. Because if that figure doesn’t make sense, you don’t understand a lot of the actions that James does,” he detailed. “I love these scenes. Those were literally my favorite scenes to shoot. Like the one on the lacrosse field where James told Ruby they should go back to how it was. Or the one on the staircase.”

He concluded: “It is always these scenes where you see his actual wishes coming through. But there is still his old habit of just shutting everyone else out. I feel like those were the most beautiful scenes to shoot for me.”

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The Secret Behind Creating a Fan-Favorite Fictional Couple

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Stephan Rabold

“That was my first time playing a love story that has these intense emotions. And as I said, it was really easy with Damian and I,” Herbig-Matten told Us. “We are two different people and we are good friends and we have a good connection. It’s really important to treat your connection [well] but to set boundaries as well as an actress and an actor.”

Hardung also highlighted the sheer amount of feeling that went into James and Ruby’s pivotal moments.

“That’s why I love acting or why I actually do this job. I have the privilege to feel every day on my job. It is mandatory when acting that you focus on what you bring to the table. So for me it is always about experiencing these emotions. And that’s the beauty for me of enjoying life to that extent,” he noted. “Shooting is also a part of my life that I get to experience life intensely by living through those emotions.”

While discussing the commitment that went into James and Ruby’s relationship, Hardung highlighted the onscreen chemistry. “That chemistry, it has to be felt. It’s really just about taking every emotion seriously,” he continued. “You have got to be honest about those emotions and I love that.”

How Maxton Hall’s Success Speaks to a Bigger Interest in Romance

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Gordon Muehle

Maxton Hall’s immediate streaming success started a larger conversation about investing in romance.

“I’ve had these discussions with friends and with colleagues these last couple of weeks and months. I feel like to a certain extent there’s always this divide — it’s always this mind vs heart. We are always looking for ways to incorporate both in our world to feel both existences. But I feel like sometimes though in this rational — very fast paced — environment that we are in that the heart kind of gets not that much attention,” Hardung explained. “So it is kind of looked down upon.”

He concluded: “I feel like that is just an aspect that we all feel and that we all want to be seen. We want to be expressed in that way and that has really been the beautiful response that I’ve been getting from all over the world. … If a show can provoke those emotions, I feel more than grateful.”

Herbig-Matten expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “My goal in acting and telling stories is to make people feel something and to make people believe in something. We gave people hope and love. And we are living in a world with a lot of hate and war so I think that is so important that we show and give people hope and to make them feel something. Maybe the world needs a bit more love stories and kindness and friendship as well.”

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Breaking Down the Care That Went Into Filming Ruby and James’ Sex Scene

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Courtesy of Prime Video

After lots of ups and downs, Ruby and James finally commit to a future together in the sixth episode. This resulted in a sex scene that showcased Ruby and James’ feelings for one another — but that also required a lot of care and consideration behind the scenes.

“We had an intimacy coordinator and we talked about everything. So it’s really not sexual. Everything is planned. Every step is planned. And I felt really comfortable with Damian because I was really young. I was 18 and it was my first sex scene so that was really intense,” Herbig-Matten recalled. “But it was a good experience because the directors [Markus Brunnemann and Valentin Debler] were really kind and respectful. We also had a closed set. That was really important to make me and Damian feel comfortable. But it’s an important subject to talk about — I think intimacy coordinators are really important.”

Hardung broke down the conversations that happened beforehand.

“The standard is you have an intimacy coordinator and you are fully aware of the angles that are going to be done, what is going to be shown and what is not going to be shown. And of course you’re gonna talk with the director before, like, ‘What is actually the purpose of the scene? What emotions do we want to portray?’ It’s not about just what is shown but what do we want to convey with this,” he explained. “I felt completely secure with Harriet and also with the director at this point.”

Leaving Their Own Marks on Their Characters

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Stephan Rabold

“Because it’s a book adaptation, the character is already created and the world’s already created, which is really good. It’s an advantage for your preparation. You have the character traits already given,” Herbig-Matten detailed. “But we had moments when I said on set, ‘I can’t say that.’ I had the freedom to say things and to make things differently.”

Hardung, for his part, praised the freedom offered to the cast as well.

“Of course there’s a script but if it was just about bringing the lines to the screen, there wouldn’t be much interpretation room or much fun for you to explore,” he said. “Once you get the role, it’s your job to bring that to life in every aspect.”

Their Hopes for Season 2 of ‘Maxton Hall’

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video / Stephan Rabold

Before they return to film the next season, Herbig-Matten and Hardung discussed what they would like to see for their characters.

“[I would like Ruby] to stay true to herself and to set boundaries. She’s already doing this, but to keep doing this. And not changing for him,” Herbig-Matten shared. “And I would like to focus on female friendships. That is really important too. And don’t let a man destroy your life.”

The actress told Us she learned some important lessons from filming the first season that she plans to take with her into season 2.

“What I’ve learned from Damian is he worked out a lot after shooting. That’s what I learned from him. And I think there’s really to get out of your head and to just process the day,” she added. “I’ve learned that from him and that has really worked for me.”

Hardung, meanwhile, would like to see James work on himself more. “I’ve been saying this a lot. I truly wish for him that he and his family ideally go to family therapy and figure out what’s been going on,” he said. “They could have better communication of their wants and their needs together and kind of figure out how they can fulfill that. And they can learn how to go forward and not make life so hard for each other.”

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Reacting to Those Creative Ruby and James Fan Edits

'Maxton Hall' Leads Discuss Breaking TV Show Records by Investing in Romance
Prime Video/YouTube

The immense online support for the show has included memorable fan edits. Luckily, Herbig-Matten and Hardung told Us they are very well aware of the dedication from their fans.

“Of course I saw it on TikTok and I think the first week was the most overwhelming week ever. I’ve seen a lot of videos and edits of Ruby and James together and all of us. I’m really happy,” Herbig-Matten gushed. “That makes me proud and happy that people love it and it’s really interesting to see what scenes the fans like the most. They liked the pool scene and the car scene, which was really intense. That makes me really happy.”

Hardung referred to the fan content as the “greatest gift,” adding, “Because for me while I’m shooting, it’s about what I feel. But then if no one else feels it then it’s kind of like self-indulgent. So there’s a true beauty to seeing that other people touch on those feelings as well. Them watching it and then actually taking that as a fuel to then spark their own creativity. And I’ve seen some really good ones out there that really make me laugh. So thank you to everyone who’s brought that to life.”

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