Ben Platt is the star of the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen. He was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential people. He is the current front-runner for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical. He has achieved all this at 23 years of age. But his mother still worries about him.
In a new glowing profile of the young actor in The New York Times, Julie Beren Platt is quoted as saying: “I contemplate Ben’s emotional well-being every day. He’s very mature. But he should also be out with friends and meeting people. I worry about how much time he spends alone.”
And she’s not the only one with concerns that playing Evan Hansen, a teenage boy who is a bundle of anxiety, neuroses, and emotional vulnerabilities (and the myriad physical tics that go along with these pains) is weighing heavily on the young star. In this piece alone, Broadway actress Katie Finneran envelops Platt in a maternal hug and makes him promise he’s “taking care of himself.” Neil Patrick Harris marvels at Platt’s ability to “sing through tears,” adding: “Think of how hard that is to do, to sing an entire song and cry simultaneously! I physically couldn’t do it. I’d sound like a goat.”
No less a spiritual authority than influential rabbi and Platt family friend David Wolpe muses on the metaphysical nature of Platt’s success and what it might mean in the greater scheme of his life: “What do you do if you’re one of the most influential people at 23? What do you do at 25? Or 30? Or as you truly age?”
Platt, a truly gifted actor and singer with a disarming humility that befits the character he plays admits that even though he’s worked his tuchus off he is quick to recognize his privilege, telling the Times, “It would be totally disingenuous if I didn’t acknowledge that being my father’s son has helped me.” Platt’s dad, of course, is the super producer Marc Platt, who brought juggernauts like Legally Blonde and Wicked to the screen and stage, respectively, and is also nominated for a Tony this year for Paula Vogel’s Indecent, an adaptation of the 1923 Yiddish classic God of Vengeance. In short, Platt’s refreshingly honest attitude is well, refreshing in an industry that likes to insist Tori Spelling landed her breakout role in Beverly Hills 90210 by auditioning under an assumed name.
And yet, despite his hard-earned success, Platt admits that he does in fact live “a pretty monkish existence,” one that is underscored by oregano supplements and vocal rest as opposed to the all-night drinking sessions and frantic dating that are more normally the province of one’s early 20s.
Breathless award season profiles of how much an actor is sacrificing and depriving themselves for the good of their art are nothing new of course—think of all the pieced detailing Adrien Brody’s starvation diet for The Pianist, or Charlize Theron’s brave uglification project for her role in Monster. But I’ve rarely, if ever, seen a piece so family-centeric or so concerned with what a good, sweet boy might be putting himself through emotionally with all his hard work.
If Ben Platt becomes the stand-in for his generation’s angst and alienation, then it’s because his generation itself is emblematic of the peculiar anxiety of a support system needing to make really, really sure you’re OK and that you feel supported and loved. A sort of Rebel Without A Cause where it’s less about your parents not understanding you than texting you 70 times a day to urge you to talk about your feelings more often; the heartthrob of the helicopter parent. It’s a brand new world.
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Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.