Beard Meets Bangs
Max Carter, director of the College’s Friends Center, appeared on the TLC network with Zooey Deschanel to help the actress explore her family’s Quaker roots.
Zooey’s ancestors on her father’s side were active Friends. During three hours of recording in May at the Free Library of Philadelphia – distilled into about 4½ minutes in the final edit – Max offered insight on historical documents and Quakerism in the decades before the Civil War.
The Aug. 13 episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” is available for streaming on the TLC website. Each episode of the hour-long show features a different celebrity uncovering mysteries about his or her forebears.
Max’s involvement with the project began with a phone call from a TV production company last winter. Fergus Bordewich, an historian and writer whose wife is a Guilford alumna, was serving as a consultant to the show, and he recommended Max.
The production company was cagy with the name of the celebrity. Months after the initial contact, the company revealed to Max that he would be talking to Zooey Deschanel, star of film and the Fox sit-com “New Girl.” To which he responded, “Who?”
After being assured that Zooey would not be upset with his lack of pop culture savvy, Max made the trip to Pennsylvania. “They put me up in a nice hotel with a $40 per diem. That’s better than most gigs I get with Quakers,” he quipped.
During the episode, he spoke about how Zooey’s five-times great grandmother could have married outside her Quaker faith. “Quakers emphasize marriage for love,” he said. “… She would have been raised strong. She would have been willing to follow her own heart.”
He does regret that his answer to why Quakers were so opposed to slavery wasn’t included in the program. “They just believed that when Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ he probably didn’t mean enslave them!” he said.
Nevertheless, he enjoyed the experience and was impressed with Zooey, who he calls “genuine” and “very grounded.” His students, in turn, were impressed by him.
“For a brief time, I finally had ‘street cred’ with them,” Max said. “But then I had to go and admit that I was culturally illiterate enough not to have known who she was.”