Age & Hometown: 26; Toronto, Canada
Current Role: The alluring but often agitated Gerry Goffin, Carole King’s first husband and songwriting partner for a decade of chart-topping hits (like "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" and "The Loco-Motion"), in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
The Artful School Dodger: Epstein tried out for a performing arts school when he nine because “we got to skip like three days of school to audition.” When he got in, his parents—a lawyer and a writer—were surprised but encouraged him to attend. “My whole family was like, ‘What?! When did you want to do this? Random!’” Soon after enrolling at the Claude Watson School for the Arts, Epstein started down a professional path, winning the role of the Artful Dodger at age 12 in Cameron Mackintosh’s tour of Oliver! Epstein has worked steadily ever since.
Freaking Out the Fans: The young actor found success playing bipolar high school student Craig Manning on the Canadian cult TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, but he decided to leave the show after six years to go to acting school. “People passed out everywhere. There was mayhem and chaos,” he jokes about the rabid fan reaction. “The irony is that now I would probably tell myself, ‘You’re going to school, but all you’re going to try to do is audition to get back on a show like Degrassi.'” Still, Epstein does not regret the decision. “It led me to Broadway,” he says, adding that making his debut as an alternate for the title role in Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark in 2012 was a “childhood fantasy come true.”
Tales from the Dark Side: Epstein seems to have cornered the market on portraying troubled types. In addition to the struggling Craig on Degrassi, he played Melchior on tour in Spring Awakening (“I showed my bum all over the country!”), and Will in the tour of American Idiot. In real life, he says, “I’m a pretty upbeat person. I think I sometimes get cast as these brooding types because I bring light and joy, which hopefully makes them more likable.” Another brooding type is Gerry Goffin in Beautiful. Audiences root for Carole King in the bio-musical of the Grammy winner’s early days as a composer, and Epstein says it’s not easy playing the guy who breaks her heart. “It’s much more human than, ‘Gerry’s bad and Carole’s good,’” the actor says. “I’m trying to make his struggle clear, so people understand why he did the things he did. He’s not just a villain. I hope people see it’s more complicated than that.”