“Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt says he’s now really done playing the anxious, brooding high schooler who serves as the Broadway musical and Universal film’s title role.
Platt won the 2017 Tony Award for lead actor in a musical for the Broadway production of the show, about a teen who is swept into a web of deception when a letter he wrote as a therapeutic exercise falls into the hands of a couple whose son took his own life. He then reprised the role for the movie that’s set to open Friday.
In conversation during the Toronto International Film Festival with TheWrap’s Steve Pond and fellow cast members Amandla Stenberg, Nik Dodani and Colton Ryan, Platt confirmed that “Dear Evan Hansen” is slated to reopen on Broadway in December, starring Jordan Fisher in the title role.
But Platt, 27, answered an emphatic “yes” when Pond asked if Platt is finished with the Evan Hansen film, which was produced by Platt’s father Marc Platt with book by Steven Levenson based on his Broadway script.
“Definitive,” Stenberg interrupted helpfully.
“I’ve finished a few times, but now it’s in the ground,” Platt continued, adding with a grin: “In the nicest possible way.”
That being said, Platt said he found revisiting the role a challenge. “It’s uniquely challenging in the sense that …Evan’s journey, it’s very difficult subject matter and mind space to be in all the time,” he said. “It’s a lot of self-hatred and anxiety and things we all struggle with…so to kind of tap into them on a daily basis is never an easy thing to do.” However, he added that the opportunity to speak to a large audience of young people was worth the journey: “It was a nice sort of fire under my butt to jump back into all that.”
Platt said that shooting the film during the pandemic was “strange and a little bit lonely, but added that on the positive side it made the entire cast “hyper-focused on getting the job done.”
“That’s a great way of saying it was wildly stressful,” Dodani joked. He described his character, Jared, as the “comic relief” in the often emotionally dark film.
Ryan, who was Platt’s Broadway understudy and portrays the troubled Connor in the film, described his Broadway experience as “my first, like, professional gig ever doing pretty much anything.” He expected that the “Evan Hansen” chapter of his life had ended with the Broadway show. “I didn’t expect it to pick me back up off the floor, unemployed, during the pandemic,” he said. “And so, I have been remarkably close to this thing for a long time it’s been in a couple of chapters of my life. I didn’t expect it to come back in such a monumental way…I never let myself dream that big.”
Both Dodani and Stenberg sounded apologetic when they said they had never seen the Broadway show, but both managed to see “bootleg” copies of the production during the pandemic. For Stenberg, who is also a singer, the experience was both exhilarating and intimidating because she was asked to collaborate in writing a new song for the movie, along with celebrated Ben Pasek and Justin Paul who wrote the music and lyrics for the musical.
“It’s an honor every day (to have) Pasek and Paul come to you and they’re like, hey, I want to collaborate on this original song, right, for this incredibly esteemed musical,” Stenberg said. “So I was just kind of flabbergasted when they even approached me in the first place.”
For more of this conversation, watch the video above.