PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: "Degrassi," Spider-Man and Beautiful Star Jake Epstein

By Matthew Blank
31 Dec 2013

How you got your Equity card: I played Joe Crowell when I was 11 in Our Town with Soulpepper Theatre Co. in Toronto
Favorite liquid refreshment: Coffee
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: I am definitely someone who needs to take a second by myself and stretch and breathe before a show.
Most challenging role you have ever played: Will in the first national tour of American Idiot. I sat on a couch and never left the stage for the majority of the show. That experience was a whole lesson in pacing, in creating a whole world for yourself on stage, and in letting the experience you are having that night dictate your arc for the show.
What drew you to Beautiful? My dad is a huge fan of folk music and was responsible for getting me into that music as a kid. He is a massive Carole King fan and made me realize just how important her music is to so many people.
Biggest challenge about this current project: In the show I play Gerry Goffin, who did some troubling things to Carole during this time. My challenge is to make his struggles clear enough so the audience will understand why he had to do the things he did
Most fulfilling or fun aspect about the project: Performing the incredible repertoire of songs every night for people.
Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap: When I was on tour with Spring Awakening, I played Melchior opposite Taylor Trensch as Moritz. During the "Touch Me" scene, Melchior explains an essay he wrote about sexuality to Moritz, his best friend. Moritz has trouble pronouncing the word "genitalia" and Taylor used to say, with a hard G, “geni… geni…” and I would correct him, (with the soft G), “genitalia.”

One show, Taylor tried something new and said with a soft G, “geni… geni..” and I proudly corrected him, with a HARD G: “genitalia!”

He looked at me… and you know when you’re looking at a friend, and you have to be serious, and yet you’re holding in the biggest laugh in the world? We were scrunching our faces, our shoulders started dancing up and down, and Taylor (the bastard) got to run off and I was left alone on stage, with more to say. And I just broke down laughing.

This was terrible and so unprofessional! The worst worst worst part of this is that somehow it was videotaped, and it’s on YouTube!

Worst costume ever: In Dangerous Liaisons in Montreal, I had to wear underwear with a prosthetic penis…
Craziest audition story: I have two crazy audition stories:

1) When I auditioned for the brother in Billy Elliot in Toronto I was shooting a film at the time and told my agent I didn’t have enough time to prepare. This was Billy Elliot- there were a lot of lines to learn, the Geordie accent, and all the music. She called me back and said that they didn’t care and still wanted to see me.

So I went in the room and they asked me to sing "He Could Be a Star." I told them that I didn’t know it and didn’t have time to learn it. They said to go and learn it at the piano. So I did with the music director. After learning it I went up to sing it but still didn’t know it very well (not to mention the fact that I was butchering the accent.)

They told me to stop, sing it again, but not to worry about the accent, the notes, or the words. And I thought: huh?? No words, no notes, no accent? What does that leave you with?

So I half made up the melody, half made up the words, and acted the intention of the song.

I got a callback. When I went back for the callback I was extremely prepared and got the part.

2) For my final callback for Spider-Man on Broadway, after I did the scenes and sang, I was told that they needed to see me fly at the Foxwoods Theatre. (????????!!!!!) They strapped me in the harness and told me to land on the first balcony, spin around, and then land on the second balcony. The flight they had me do was very safe, however I had never been in a harness in my life. I completely missed each landing.

They told me after that they needed to see if anyone was scared. Even though I probably looked like the farthest thing from Spider-Man in my audition, I was never scared. And I got the part.

Some favorite screen or commercial roles: Craig Manning on "Degrassi"
Are you still in touch with a lot of the "Degrassi" family? The question I usually get is, "Are you still in touch with Aubrey (Drake) Graham?" I haven’t spoken to Aubrey in a long time, but I’m still in touch with a lot of those guys. It was like my second high school.
If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be? I realize the gender thing might be an issue, but I would kill for the chance to sit down at a piano and perform the "Tapestry" songs for an audience.
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Guy in Once
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Girl in Once
Something about you that surprises people: I’m unstoppable at ping pong.
Something you are incredibly proud of: A few years ago I co-wrote a play with my mom. It was based on a true story of a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife in the camps. He moved to Toronto, remarried and had a son. Twenty-five years later, he received a letter from his first wife who had miraculously survived the war by hiding in Russia, but was unable to contact him because of the Iron Curtain.

She tells him she is alive and that she is coming to Toronto to start her life again with him. The play, Therefore Choose Life, tells the story of the man, his family, and how they deal with the news of her arrival.

Something you're embarrassed to admit: I’m not a very good dresser.
Career you would want if not a performer: Social worker