Maitland Ward has a thoroughly modern marriage to go with her thoroughly modern career. The Disney sitcom star’s career path is well known at this point, and it’s definitely the road not taken by many before her. Talking to Ward about her new memoir, Rated-X, a few things become crystal clear: She is very proud of her work and the decisions she’s made to get here, she and her husband have a healthy marriage because of it—not in spite of it—and she thinks the next step in Hollywood is for porn to join the “mainstream,” even if there is nothing more mainstream than adult films when it comes to popularity.
Porn Changed Her Life In Every Way–For The Good
When acting opportunities dried up for Ward in the mid-00s, she wasn’t sure what to do. It wasn’t until a few years later that she realized what she was really meant to be doing. “If I hadn’t done [porn],” Ward told Suggest in a recent interview, “I wouldn’t have realized my truth or my potential or what I was good at. And I wouldn’t have had everything I have had. I wouldn’t even be respected as an actor as much as I am now, in the main mainstream industry.”
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What started almost as a lark on Snapchat has blossomed into one of the most lucrative and talked about careers in the adult entertainment industry. “Who would’ve thought a Disney actress would, at 40, become one of the top porn stars in the entire industry,” the former Boy Meets World star told us, “win all of these awards, make more money than she ever has, become an author, like, all of this stuff.”
It’s impossible to argue with her success: Ward won two AVN awards for her first performance in an adult film (including Best Supporting Actress for the movie Drive) and has reportedly made millions in her career.
Ward credited the adult film industry for opening her career up to new possibilities; without it, she said, she might have only been seen occasionally in Boy Meets World reunions.
“I would still be seen as the type-cast, Rachel McGuire from many years ago,” she said, “It is not a bad thing, but it kind of is, because it’s like if you loved going to high school, great, but then you have to be in high school for the rest of your life. You can’t get out of high school and they locked you inside the cafeteria and you can’t get out except once a year, they let you out like a Christmas ornament on a tree and then they put you back.”
It’s Allowed Her To Take Control Of Her Career Like Never Before
Not only does Maitland Ward really love what she is doing, but it’s also given her something she never had in “mainstream” Hollywood: freedom and choice. “I wouldn’t have anything that I had today. … the freedom and enjoyment. I get to like act more than I ever acted in these films that I do. I get to play these dark delicious characters. So porn really has been a fairytale for me. My fans are amazing and I get to be an author! That’s something I always wanted to do. Writing my book was so exciting.”
When comparing it to her early experiences in Hollywood, the difference is even starker. Ward said, comparing one to the other. “I came into [porn] and I’ve really been embraced by it and I’ve, I’ve had such success and I really am able to take control of like the scenes and the films that I do and everything.”
Ward explained how this is different than her career before porn: “people will say, ‘well, you know, sure, you were half naked on Boy Meets World a lot of the time and you’re doing porn now. So why do you complain?’ But I’m in it on my own terms.” That’s something that is totally different, she said, “when I was doing it for somebody else where I was forced to do it, where I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with the situation, that’s a totally different thing.”
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Ward expanded on that, saying, “I think now like with my exhibitionism and me getting naked and having sex on film and everything, I’ve taken control of my life and my body and my sexuality. Hollywood, for so many years, was trying to manipulate my sexuality and who I was as a person. They always wanted me to be like the sexy person [on screen], but to be completely chaste and virginal off set. You have to walk the line between the whore and the Madonna and it’s always on their terms.”
All that has changed for Ward as she’s had more agency in her own career, she said. “In the adult industry and with my social media following, I’ve really been able to take back my life and my sexuality as being something that is mine and not somebody else’s.”
Confidence In Her 40s
Rachel, Maitland Ward’s character on Boy Meets World, was always very confident in her looks, but that wasn’t always true for the actor playing her. Ward revealed in her book that it took years for her to get fully comfortable being nude on camera. Of her comfort level, Ward told us, “I think was an interesting part of my story is when I was younger, I was so uncomfortable and unconfident with myself and my sexuality and everything.
“I was always worried my body didn’t look good enough or I wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t sexy enough,” As she got older, she slowly grew more confident in herself. “But along the way, I definitely found that I have an exhibitionist side to me, definitely. It was freeing to me when I could finally feel confident enough in my body and who I was and, I guess, exposed myself in a way, in my own way, and where I had control over it.”
Getting a bit older and a lot wiser played a big part in that, Ward explained. “I think it comes from the confidence and the security that I have now as a woman over 40.” Ward felt her age allowed her to take this path and feel positive about it working out. “I was told by a publicist that I would not make a dime for being sexy if was over 25 and that nobody would hire me. I proved them all completely wrong. And I think that I hope my book will be an inspiration for a lot of people, especially women of a certain age where they’re told you can’t do something, you can’t be something. Don’t let the naysayers dictate who you are, because they don’t want you to become anything. They want you to stay down, stay in your box, and keep your place. I really think embracing yourself and your womanhood or your sexuality, whomever you are as a person, is so liberating for it.”
As for being told you’re too old for something? Ward doesn’t mince words. “That is just absolute bullshit. I am here to say, if you believe in yourself and you are confident and you are vulnerable enough to let yourself be who you are, people will respond to that so much. You could have the most fun you’ve ever had in your life past 40. It’s much better. I wouldn’t go back to my twenties for anything. It’s so much better now. In my 20s I was so incompetent about everything. Like now I can really feel secure in myself and say, ‘listen, this is who I am.’”
And Her Marriage? It’s Better Than Ever
While Ward’s career in porn started with simple nude photos and moved on to lesbian scenes, a major moment came when her husband, Terry Baxter, asked her about doing scenes with other men. Ward said of the moment, “I would never have broached the subject of doing things with guys unless my husband had come to me and said, ‘you need to do this. I recognized this in you.’”
Baxter played a big part in getting things rolling early, “He’s an investment banker, although he is an excellent photographer,” Ward said, “that actually was part of the thing; he did a lot of my early stuff with my content, photographs, and stuff. All my initial stuff.”
Despite her husband’s support, Ward wasn’t so sure she was ready for on-screen sex with men. As she explained, she hadn’t really even thought about it.
“Maybe I would’ve years down the road. I don’t know. At that point I was like, no, I’m committed to my marriage. The girl stuff is fun, that’s fine. But, he was the one who really saw that in me.”
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It wasn’t about Ward having sex outside of her marriage; Baxter saw something else, Ward said, “He saw me with the girls and [he knew] I had all these fantasies and I had written down all these like raw stories and, and scripts and things that I come with my in my mind, like fantasies, I would love to play out.
“He’s like, ‘I think you really need to do this. It’s in you.’” Ward said Baxter was right. “It was in me and I was really good at it. And he saw that in me.”
As for Baxter being in it for something other than his wife’s professional goals, that’s not true either. “Some people say, ‘Oh, it must be her husband who’s getting off on this. In order for her to do this, she must be made to do this.’” But Ward asserts that’s not the case.
“It’s my thing. Why does my husband have anything to do with it? Yeah. He recognized that in me, but it’s not like he’s getting off from it. I’m the one getting off from it! I’m the one who loves to perform! I’m the one who’s out there and he supports me. It’s offensive that they think, ‘Oh, that’s the only reason you would get into this is if your husband wanted you to do it.’”
That’s not to say her husband doesn’t like it, either, Ward said it’s just not why some people think he does. “I think my husband does love the fact that I do it,” she said, adding, “He loves seeing me as a sexually empowered being. He likes seeing me individually, I think. It has nothing to do with why I do it, it’s just cool that he likes that.”
In Hollywood, Women Need To Come Together
Another stark reality Ward tackles in her book is women being pitted against each other in Hollywood, something she doesn’t see in the adult film world. When she joined the cast of Boy Meets World, she was immediately told that Danielle Fischel would hate her. It’s something she still feels today in her relationship with her former costar.
Ward expanded on that idea in our conversation, telling us, “I think no boys in Hollywood are like the boys on our show, they are encouraged to play together. Nobody is like splitting them apart,” but for women, it’s different, “I was split apart from Danielle and Trina [McGee] on the show–they wanted to separate us.”
Ward went on, “Like the first day I was told, ‘Danielle will hate you because you are the girl with the legs and the red hair… and I was gonna steal her thunder; take some stuff away from her.’”
It left a major negative impression on her. “I was scared. I was like, ‘Oh my god, she hates me,’ and it still played out to this day, honestly, there’s still weirdness between us because of those initial things that I was told.”
It was something that cut deeply, “I couldn’t trust completely that she would be friends with me or like me, and I think Hollywood really does a [good] job with that, especially with actresses and young women because if we were together and we were a strong force together, we’d be something to reckon with.”
Ward Also Has Some Liberating Opinions On Adult Film Industry
Maitland Ward also has some serious thoughts on the entertainment landscape these days and doesn’t think that “mainstream” Hollywood and “adult film” Hollywood should be separate. She believes the world would be a better place if we all just accepted that porn is just one subgenre of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.
“We always talk about ‘mainstream’ and ‘adult’ as if they’re totally different. What is ‘mainstream?’ ‘Adult’ is something taboo, but [what] if it was [just] a genre in the mainstream? It’s normal, and everybody watches it, so it is mainstream. More people watch [porn] than movies,” Ward told us. “I think like as long as we keep it taboo, it separates the two,” she added.
Something Ward has done that very few other women in the adult industry have also done is to use her real name, which is something she’d like to see more of. “I wish people would use their real names more. I understand they can’t because there is a lot of taboo and there is a lot of, you know, bad stuff that happens because of who they are and what they do.”
Ward acknowledged that she hasn’t had that experience. “I can’t say that for me as a performer; I don’t receive that kind of backlash. I’m in a different situation, but that being said, I wish people would use their real names.” As to why, Ward explains, “Because it ends the taboo and makes it more legitimate,” adding, “I totally understand why they can’t use their names, but I desperately wish they would because the more people that use their names and stand up say, ‘Hey, I’m a sex worker, this is my name, this is what I do’, that legitimizes it.”
One Last Bit Of Important Advice
Rated-X is dedicated to her husband and her brother, and when we asked if she would have stopped moving forward with the adult film industry side of her career if either had balked at the idea, Ward told us, “I had an awakening. I thought I was going to be judged and be turned away for not being this squeaky-clean little girl, [but] I was actually hugged and celebrated for it. So I think that’s a lesson for a lot of people. If you have good people in life and you think, ‘Oh my God, they’re gonna turn against me, I can’t live in my truth because they’ll judge me,’ but honestly, if they’re good people, they’ll come forward and accept you. I found that. So that was amazing. … It’s so gratifying to know that you were living your life on your own terms.”
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