Ben Platt in the 2021 movie adaptation of 'Dear Evan Hansen.'

Ben Platt On Dear Evan Hansen And The “Raw Emotion” That Got Him Back Into Character

Sappy playlists and those New Balance sneakers came in handy, too.

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Universal Pictures

I’m going out on a limb here: You should watch Dear Evan Hansen. In theaters Friday, Sept. 24, the movie adaptation of the 2016 Broadway musical failed to win over critics with high hopes for its revival. In other words? The reviews suck. The New York Times used the word “cringe” to describe it, and CNN compared it to watching a “slow-motion train wreck unfold,” despite an A-list cast that includes Julianne Moore and Amy Adams. When the trailer dropped in May, the yappiest Twitter birds poked fun at it from every angle, calling out the age gap between star Ben Platt, 27, and the titular character, 17. Yet, despite the harsh criticism it's received, the movie still manages to address complicated topics like mental health and loneliness with great nuance. Though it sounds cliche, Dear Evan Hansen made me feel seen — an experience so many viewers will likely have. For that, it should be celebrated.

Platt’s Broadway portrayal earned him a Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, and naturally, he was thrilled to be cast in the adaptation. “I felt lucky, excited, and grateful because we’ve seen a lot of Broadway adaptations where the actor that’s created a character so beautifully on stage doesn’t get to do that in the film,” he tells Elite Daily. “So the fact that they asked me — I felt privileged and happy. And then my immediate next thought was being really terrified and scared of how to translate the performance, how to make sure I’m doing it justice in a medium that isn’t quite as natural to me as being on stage.”

If you’re new to the story, know that it’s dark AF. Without spoiling every single plot detail, it follows an awkward high school senior who feels compelled to tell a huge, problematic lie in the aftermath of a schoolmate’s death by suicide. As a result, Dear Evan Hansen holds a mirror up to what it’s like to live with illnesses like depression and anxiety, especially as a teenager, when it often feels like you’re the only one going through something.

Erika Doss/Universal Pictures

Of course, critics have their thoughts on whether Platt’s performance translated to the big screen. But the actor, who in addition to his stellar Broadway run is also best known for Pitch Perfect and Netflix’s The Politician, has already moved on to his next project: music. In August, he released his second studio album, Reverie, which includes a tug-at-your-heartstrings single called “Happy to Be Sad,” inspired by his boyfriend, The Good Doctor actor Noah Galvin.

Next spring, he’ll embark on a 27-night tour with stops at iconic venues like Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl. “I feel overjoyed, over the moon,” he says about hitting the road. “It’s my number one favorite thing to do in the whole world — perform live — and the whole time that I was writing Reverie, all I was thinking about was getting to perform the songs live in big spaces like that. I’m counting the days.”

Below, Platt opens up about his connection to Evan Hansen, his music, and what it’s like to be in love.

Elite Daily: Evan is such an anxious, troubled person. What aspects of his personality do you relate to, if any?

Ben Platt: I certainly relate to his social fears. I’m a bit more comfortable than he is, but I also struggle — particularly in larger situations with lots of people — in terms of coming out of my shell and connecting when I feel overwhelmed, the way that he does. We’re both non-confrontational, a bit fearful, and sometimes we avoid really important conversations because we’re afraid they might be uncomfortable or painful or awkward. So playing him has really encouraged me to try to push past that and force myself to jump off those cliffs, and have those conversations.

ED: You’ve been vocal about just how exhausting it was to play Evan on Broadway. What helped you get back into character, considering it’s such a tough role?

BP: In terms of the physical aspect, I lost some weight and shaved my face and grew out my hair — a few things to feel separate from myself and more like how I saw Evan in my mind. There were certain playlists, in terms of the emotional space that Evan lives in, that I would listen to before shooting to get in the same mind space. I wore my New Balance shoes that I wore in the stage production in the film in almost every scene, because there was something about those particular shoes, and the feeling of wearing those shoes, that is obviously very synonymous with Evan for me. That helped me transport back to that place.

Erika Doss/Universal Pictures

ED: Where’d you store those shoes after the stage production originally wrapped?

BP: I have a little room that’s theoretically a second bedroom in my apartment in New York, but it’s become a cluttered space for things I don’t have room for. There’s a closet that has my polo and my shoes from Evan Hansen, and my tie from Book of Mormon, and it has some of the chair backs from films I’ve done, like Pitch Perfect. It’s my memory closet of cherished stuff.

ED: What were the songs on those playlists you reference?

BP: A lot of Sara Bareilles. A lot of Ingrid Michaelson. Some songs by Ben Abraham, who’s a songwriter that I’ve worked with quite a bit, who is also a very beautiful, vulnerable songwriter. This group called The Staves, particularly their cover of the song “Chicago” by Sufjan Stevens. It’s a very beautiful, harmony-filled cover. A song called “Move On” from the musical Sunday in the Park with George. Some songs from the movie Once, like “The Hill” and “Leave.” Anything that has kind of an honest, raw emotion to it that forces your mood to sort of change, was my go-to.

ED: Dear Evan Hansen ends on a redemptive note. What in your own life gives you hope? What keeps you motivated?

BP: Definitely my partner, Noah. He brings me a lot of joy and he helps me feel present and appreciate any moments we can share together, whether it’s small things like watching RuPaul’s Drag Race or going on trips, or big, exciting things. No matter how little or large something is, he makes it feel really special and joyful. My nephews give me a lot of hope. They’re 11 and 8 and 6 and a baby. They’re so smart and kind and inclusive. The way they discuss certain things is already so much more forward-thinking and beyond what I ever felt as a kid, which is really exciting and hopeful to me.

And also just seeing people respond to the art I make, particularly when I write music and release my own albums — to see people listening to them and connecting to them and using them in important moments in their lives, or in their weddings or to express feelings to the people in their lives. That is such a joyful and hopeful thing to me because it makes me feel like what I’m doing and what I’m putting out in the world and what I have to offer is actually very meaningful to people, and has a real purpose.

ED: On Instagram, you shared a cute text you sent Noah after writing “Happy to Be Sad.” Tell me more about that song.

BP: Noah and I are, for the large part, long distance. He’s on a show called The Good Doctor that he shoots in Canada. We were about to say goodbye for a five-month stretch due to the shooting schedule, and also due to the pandemic and our inability to visit each other. And so the day that he left, I felt a bit of grief and felt really sad and down and a bit lonely. I made the decision to try to turn that around and try to appreciate the sadness and to feel like, I’m incredibly lucky that there’s somebody in my life that makes me feel this upset, or this much loss when I’m away from them, or that I can miss them this much and it must mean that our love is very strong. And so I wanted to write a song about learning to appreciate that sadness and knowing that it’s necessary.

ED: What words of wisdom would you give your teenage self?

BP: Try to be more present. I think I was very much in my head as a young person and very worried — as I still am, much of the time — about things that are coming or possible outcomes or things that might go wrong, or even about things that have already happened and worrying about how I handled them or what I said. I would often miss moments or miss living fully in the moment for things that I wish I had taken in. And so I would say try to appreciate where you are and take it one day at a time. Be really present because it’s going to go so quickly.

Dear Evan Hansen is in theaters now.

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