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How Dear Evan Hansen's Ben Platt Came to Embrace Being an Out Movie Star 

Ben Platt

Ben Platt poses for a photographer on the rooftop of the swank Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills hotel. The actor’s jacket — an alien-gray metallic fabric — shimmers a prism of colors in the light of the setting sun. His bracelet spells out “Dear Evan Hansen” in beaded letters. It’s time for a new outfit. There’s some chatter about moving back down the stairs to a suite for privacy, but Platt opts for a quicker route. “How often do you get to change on a helipad?” he asks with a smile. He strips down to blue underwear and then quickly slips on white jeans in front of the small crew. A team member blasts Ariana Grande from an iPhone. The track? “Thank U, Next.”

The helipad may have been a novel changing milieu for the young star. But this vista of cityscape-meets-sea is not an unfamiliar one. Platt, 27, was born and raised in Los Angeles. Likewise, he is a native son of the entertainment world. His first major role, at age 9, was opposite Kristin Chenoweth at the Hollywood Bowl in The Music Man. It marked the beginning of a prolific stage career that includes lead roles in The Book of Mormon in Chicago and, most notably, the titular role in Dear Evan Hansen, which he originated in workshops in 2014 and brought to Broadway in 2016.

“I grew up in the theater,” Platt says. “That’s kind of my bread and butter, and that’s where I feel the most at home.”

The theatrical world is fond of Platt too. His stage performance as Evan garnered him a Tony Award at age 23; he made history as the youngest solo winner in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. Evan also led him to other honors, including a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album and a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance of “You Will Be Found” on Today. With Platt’s reprisal of the role in the new Universal Pictures film adaptation from director Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), where he shares the screen with Amy Adams and Julianne Moore, Platt now has the chance to win an Oscar and the coveted EGOT status (as a winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony trophies).

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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While Platt has found fame in other film and television roles — 2012’s Pitch Perfect and its 2015 sequel as well as the lead role in Netflix’s The Politician — it is Evan that has been the most consequential for his career and personal life. He and the character have had a nearly decade-long relationship since those first Washington, D.C., workshop days with the show’s composer-lyricists, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (The Greatest Showman), and book writer Steven Levenson. At the peak, Platt played Evan onstage up to eight times a week, an experience both thrilling and taxing.

For the uninitiated, Dear Evan Hansen is not a happy tale. The inciting incident is the suicide of a teenager, Connor Murphy (Colton Ryan). Before his death, Connor inscribes his name on the cast of Evan — a fellow high school loner — and takes a letter Evan wrote to himself as a therapeutic exercise. These two fateful events lead Connor’s family to believe that Evan was their troubled late son’s only friend. The story is a modern fable on how mistruths multiply. But it is also about the mental health issues, among them a serious sense of loneliness, facing many young people.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Reflecting on his time as Evan onstage, Platt describes the “beautiful instant gratification” he always felt after a performance. Audience members would throng backstage and share with Platt how moved they were by the story; it was a “healing” experience for those who could relate to the sadness of the characters, he says. But for Platt, channeling a soul who suffered from such intense social anxiety nightly took a toll.

“So much of my own emotional life and my own relationships and my own kind of mental…state was kind of put on the back burner so that I could serve Evan’s,” recounts Platt, who describes the role as “all-encompassing.” Onstage and off, their identities “blurred,” which manifested in physical and emotional ways.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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“His anxieties and my anxieties blended together, [as well as] his nail biting and his bad posture and his lack of social skills,” says Platt. “I already had seeds of them myself but I really allowed them to flourish — and not [in] the best way.”

On paper, the stories of Evan and Ben exist in different universes. Evan’s father abandoned his family, which is beset with financial struggles. Ben’s father, Marc Platt, is not only supportive of his gay son, he is also one of Hollywood’s most prominent film producers, whose projects include Legally Blonde, La La Land, and, yes, Dear Evan Hansen. (Formerly hesitant to collaborate with his dad — knowing full well the possible public charges of nepotism — Ben embraced the partnership for DEH: “He’s a really specific producer in terms of having a gift for adapting things from the stage to the screen. And he’s just absolutely, in spades, the person to do the job.”)

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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But paradoxically, it is this privileged background that is at the root of Ben’s anxiety.

“I’ve had a lot of blessings in my life and, obviously, have worked quite hard on this one path from since I was quite young…[but] there’s been no sort of ‘capital A’ adversity,” Platt shares. As a consequence of his fortunate upbringing, Platt describes feeling what could fit the diagnosis of impostor syndrome. “Part of me is always wondering…something should go wrong,” he says. “Who am I to not have to face some sort of deeper tragedy?”

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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When Platt left Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway in 2017, he resolved to disentangle himself from Evan’s swirl of self-doubt through music. “I never really considered myself having that much to offer unless I can open my mouth,” Platt confesses. It was a “cathartic” act to pen his own feelings and experiences in his debut album, Sing to Me Instead. Its 2019 release — and the music video of “Ease My Mind,” which featured out actor Charlie Carver as his lover — also marked the first time Platt spoke publicly about his gay identity to the media. Despite headlines at the time, he disputes the album was a coming-out moment. “I’ve always been out,” Platt asserts. “Anyone that I’ve ever worked with or been directed by or written with or acted with who’s known me for longer than five minutes knows full well who I am.”

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Indeed, as he recounted in his 2020 Netflix special, Ben Platt: Live From Radio City Music Hall, Platt came out to his parents at age 13 via a phone call while on an eighth-grade trip to Israel. He was afraid a chaperone, who mistakenly thought he was being bullied due to his sexuality, would leak the news first. But his parents already knew. “You spent most of your childhood dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. No one is surprised,” his mother, Julie, told him at the time.

In writing his music’s subject matter, Platt strove to be “clear about the fact that they were gay relationships and that I was singing about men…. This is the story that I’m telling and this is my experience,” he says. “So naturally, I’m going to represent it accurately.” Initially, he didn’t believe he was doing anything revolutionary by simply being himself in his lyrics. But after the album’s release, he heard from LGBTQ+ fans how extraordinary it was to hear songs about the “joys and sadnesses” of queer love and heartbreak, free from external traumas. “That’s when I really fully realized the responsibility that I have or just the power that I’m capable of having by just being completely transparent with my own experience,” he says. “That’s a beautiful feeling.”

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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This power also reverberates through his new album, Reverie, which includes “Dark Times,” a lyrical letter to himself as a teen struggling with his sexuality. “He barely looks at you / ’Cause you’re both afraid that people might suppose,” Platt sings to his pained younger self. The words are autobiographical. “My first real love experience relationship was with someone when I was a teenager who was really unhappy with himself…and very much kept [being gay] a secret,” he shares. “And by proxy, I [had] to keep who I was a secret around his friends.”

Fortunately, romantic secrecy is no longer the norm. Platt found “a partner that I really love, Noah Galvin, my boyfriend.” Galvin, who starred in The Real O’Neals, assumed the lead of Dear Evan Hansen following Platt’s departure. The pair have been dating for over a year and a half now — a source of stability (and musical inspiration) during the pandemic. The couple spread the love to fans during this difficult time by hosting the #QuaranTunes Virtual Dance Party among other cheer-inducing virtual events.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Galvin also helped Platt conquer the “fear and apprehension” the latter felt about returning to the Evan character for the film, one of the first U.S. studio productions made after COVID-19 ground Hollywood’s gears to a halt. Galvin “has a really unique ability to help me to…be present where I am and to make the life that’s happening day to day too wonderful to not want to be on the ground for it,” Platt says.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Moreover, Platt’s DEH anxieties were outweighed by the possible benefits of the film, whose ultimately hopeful message could reach a huge audience of young people — or anyone, in a post-pandemic world — experiencing depression, loneliness, and suicidal ideation. The film “will really hopefully make people feel less alone, which I think everyone really needs at the moment,” Platt says. “And then my album, I hope it brings some joy. I hope that it brings some escape,” as it did for him when he penned it during lockdown.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Although the Evan character is straight, LGBTQ+ youth — who are more at risk for these issues (and can find support at TheTrevorProject.org if facing them) — have long connected to DEH. Happily for them, Dear Evan Hansen now includes a gay character, Jared, played by out actor Nik Dodani. It’s a tweak from the stage version that adds some needed queer representation while ameliorating some of the potentially offensive gay jokes from one of the production’s songs, “Sincerely, Me.” Platt also points out how his presence as the lead, along with the songwriter Pasek, who is gay, had already infused a queerness into the production’s DNA. Additionally, Amandla Stenberg, who portrays Alana in the film, is nonbinary.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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On the topic of casting, Platt would like to see more of a “flip-flop” when it comes to queer and straight actors portraying characters of varying identities — Evan is straight, after all, as was his Pitch Perfect part, Benji. But he rejects any hard-and-fast rules. If the part is queer, “I would love to see a queer actor play that role, but I think that the greater question is just making sure that everybody is getting the same opportunity,” he says.

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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“In terms of my own personal journey, I think I’m just now learning how to revel in getting to play a queer character,” adds Platt, who in addition to his role in The Politician will play queer alongside gay icons Allison Janney and Kristen Bell in the upcoming The People We Hate at the Wedding.“I think it’s something that I have not necessarily avoided but have been told, kind of by a lot of external voices, shouldn’t be a priority or isn’t necessarily the most helpful thing to my career because it can be pigeonholing.”

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Platt cites EGOT extraordinaire Barbra Streisand as someone who successfully redefined what it means to be a Hollywood star. “Obviously, she’s gorgeous, but she’s always really led with her strangeness and her Jewishness,” says Platt, a fellow Jewish actor and musician who embraces his quirks.

Knowing what he has accomplished in representation, does Platt consider himself to be a role model for others? “I obviously know on some level that I must be to some people, but I don’t think I can actually really internalize that on any real level,” he admits, adding, “If I put too much pressure on myself in regard to trying to be an example or something to be looked up to, I think I might lose figuring out who I actually am.”

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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Platt says he “grew up with somewhat of a...weird kind of stigma about leading with who you are in terms of your queerness, and I just feel really happy that I’ve sort of realized what kind of bull that is.” He wants to show the world with his Out cover, “I can be completely transparent and open and proud about my queerness and revel in it and talk about it and lean into it without sacrificing my ability to be a million other things.”

Location SOFITEL LOS ANGELES AT BEVERLY HILLS @sofitellosangeles sofitel.com
Creative Director BEN WARD @_benjaminward_
Photographer NICOLAS WAGNER @nicolaswagnerphoto nicolaswagner.com
Photographer Assistant MICKEL GARRETT
Stylist KENN LAW @kennlaw thekennlaw.com
Stylist Assistant OLIVIA THOMAS
Grooming MELISSA DEZARATE @melissa.dezarate for @kalpana_nyc
Video AJ MORALES @subtitleproductions
Audio Editing BARBEAU @Iambarbeau
Catering TIAGO COFFEE BAR & KITCHEN @tiagocoffee

This cover story is part of Out's 2021 Design issue, which is out on newsstands October 5, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe — or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News. 

With the EGOT title in reach, the gay actor and musician Ben Platt speaks with Out Magazine plainly about his privilege and the cost of (again) playing the troubled Evan Hansen.

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