Ben Platt on How He Found Himself Starring in ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
“Every day is a different sort of vibe and feeling. It can be impacted by anything from like, “Is it raining outside?” to “Are there a lot of old people?”” – Ben Platt
Dear Evan Hansen has taken Broadway by storm. The emotive musical from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, won Best Musical, and, for Ben Platt, Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. Platt has appeared on Broadway before, as Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon, but Dear Evan Hansen is a passion project. Platt has been with the show since the very first table read, and wherever it goes in the future, it will always be him who originated the role. In an extensive interview with THR ahead of the Tonys, Platt described the journey he has been on with the show:
“I first auditioned for [Benj] Pasek and [Justin] Paul, the composers of Dear Evan Hansen, for a show called Dogfight when I was about 17. I was a super-fan of theirs, as any theater kid was at the time — all of their videos were on YouTube from Edges and all the things they were doing in Michigan, so I was really happy to go in for them. I was deemed too young but they reached out to me afterwards on social media and said, “We loved your audition and we have this other project down the pike that we think you’re going to be right for. We want to keep you in the loop.” And I was like, “That’s very kind — sure.” Then I auditioned for Michael Greif for the tour of Next to Normal — I was too young for that, as well, but another great connection. And then fast-forward to the first-ever time that we were going to open up and read Dear Evan Hansen at the first table read. They did end up calling me in and saying, “We think this would be a great match for you,” and so I came in and did a cold read. They wouldn’t let me have any information beforehand about the piece or the character; they just wanted to see what happened in the moment, and it really clicked beautifully. So I was able to stay onboard for all three of the readings and all three of the workshops, the DC production, the off-Broadway production, and now this. It’s been about four years.”
Platt is now playing eight shows a week, and has been doing so for the last six months. Dear Evan Hansen is an emotionally heavy show, both for the actors and the audience, and Platt says every show is different:
“My show starts right out of the bat with a monologue and then two numbers back-to-back. You have to get inside this kid’s head right away and feel like you know him and you’re on his side because 12 minutes into the show he does something really terrible. Every day is a different sort of vibe and feeling. It can be impacted by anything from like, “Is it raining outside?” to “Are there a lot of old people?””
Platt admits to something that multiple reviews have picked up on: he goes so deep with his character that you become worried fort he welfare of the actor underneath; the impact that a role like that has on a person.
“It’s a daily thing that I’m still figuring out. What we all look for as actors are pieces that we want to throw ourselves into and make us want to give everything to, and I’m so in love with this piece of theater — I’ve obviously had four years to fall in love with it, but I mean, I couldn’t believe in it any more, and characters like this do not come around ever, where you get to use all the tools on your belt and really feel this synergy between you and the character. I feel a deep responsibility, as the person who’s administering the story every night, to give it at the same level each night. But I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m a human being and that days are different and that there are some days I feel better than others. It’s the kind of role that has taken over my whole life — as I’ve alluded to earlier, I have very strict regimens, as far as eating and sleeping and therapy and all that. It is a sacrifice, but the experience is all the sweeter because you’re making it, earning every last drop of it.”