Slavin Vlasic, Getty Punk rock pioneer and recent Broadway star Billie Joe…
- Posted on Jan 10th 2012 5:15PM by Sarah Kurchak
Now, as one of the stars of the touring production of 'American Idiot,' the Broadway musical inspired by the Green Day album -- currently in the middle of its run at the Toronto Centre For The Arts before criss-crossing the U.S. -- he suffers from a whole lot of crippling, agonizing nothing. Playing Will, a young man forced to stay home while his two friends leave to conquer their post-9/11 existential crises in the big city, Epstein remains glued to a couch for the whole show.
Epstein spoke to Spinner about the challenges he faces in 'American Idiot,' his love of Green Day, the idea of collaborating with his former 'Degrassi' costar Drake and those 'Glee' rumours.
What is the demographic of 'American Idiot?'
What's been really interesting about the audience for this show is the range. It's everyone from rock fans or Green Day fans that have never seen theatre before to avid subscription-based theatre-goers that see really intense, artistic theatre all the time.
You yourself are a Green Day fan. Your bio says you saw them when you were twelve and it blew your mind.
It was the first concert that I'd ever been to in my life. It sort of opened up my eyes to performing in front of people and gave me an urge to grab a guitar and get up in front of people and perform.
Were you a fan of the 'American Idiot' album when it came out?
To be totally honest, I was into funk music at that time. The thing came out and I'd heard it, but I didn't get that into it. I had a friend who was a huge Green Day fan who was obsessed with the album. So I remember him talking to me about it, telling me that I had to listen [but] I was a huge 'Dookie' fan. When I knew that ['Spring Awakening' director] Michael Mayer was making a musical out of it, that's when I started listening to the album, because I really love and respect Michael. And then I couldn't put it down. I just kept listening to it, trying to figure out what it all meant.
The plot of 'American Idiot' is fairly abstract. Is it a challenge as an actor fill out the story and your role?
I almost think it's the opposite. The characters are pretty archetypal. They're large and you get the sense of who they are through song, which is sometimes difficult to fully understand the nuance in it. The job of the actor is to keep it really real and be aware that there's a lot of abstract plot and a lot of abstract poetry in 'American Idiot' -- and to make peace with that without trying to make it into something that it isn't. But for me, I'm on the stage the whole show. It feels quite realistic. I'm literally there, left out, sitting down on a couch. So there's a lot of stuff to play off and play with.
I just wanted Will to get off the couch!
A lot of people have said that. Like "Oh my God! You could have just gotten up, walked off the couch." I was like "I know! I want to so badly."
But representing that kind of inertia and depression is hard in any artform, and I think being stuck on the couch is a really effective way of doing that.
Yeah, it's a deeply sad part. I was lucky enough to talk to Michael Esper, who played Will on Broadway, and he talked about how much it affected him and how difficult it was sometimes, literally being on stage when everyone gets to dance around the whole show, doing these amazing things, and you're glued to this piece of furniture the entire show. It definitely takes a toll on you. It makes you a bit crazy. But at the same time, there's a realism to that character, that guy that doesn't know what he's doing with his life and just doesn't want to get up and do anything. I relate to that very much and know a lot of people like that. I'm proudly embracing that kind of depression as best I can.
You've been in a few rock bands yourself. Is that something you would consider doing professionally, or is it more of a hobby for you?
It's sort of a fantasy. I don't know if that's totally doable, but yeah. When I grew up, all of my best friends were people I played music with. That was what we had in common and what we related to. I've continued to write music and I've been lucky enough that I've been able to get jobs as an actor. I think the fact that I've been so interested in rock music and performing has helped me get some more interesting jobs. So yeah, I love playing music. I'm definitely not trying to make that a career, starting a band or something. But in my head, I'd love it. One day. It would be amazing.
You're not the only 'Degrassi' alum with a music-related career. Are you still in touch with Drake?
I haven't spoken to him in a while.
Are you a fan of his?
Oh yeah. I haven't heard his latest album, but I'm so happy for the guy. He's so talented and the real deal and awesome.
Would you be interested in collaborating with him in some way in the future?
Totally. It's not gonna happen. I feel like our whole lives and careers have gone on such totally different paths. But sure, why not?
There's a pretty persistent rumour floating around tumblr that you're joining the cast of 'Glee.' Do you know where that came from?
Oh, I heard this rumour. I love this rumour! It's great. I have no idea where it came from. I had screentested for Finn a few years ago and that was sort of that and I haven't auditioned again. Sadly, it's a rumour, but I kind of welcome the rumours.
Do you wish the rumour was true?
Sure. I don't know. I love to work. If there was a great part for me that was right? Absolutely.
You've done stage, screen and rock clubs. If you had to choose, which would you pick?
I sort of love them all. I love working. On the screen and onstage equally. In the past couple of years, there's been a lot of opportunity for me on the stage but, a few years ago, on screen was where all of the opportunities were for me. I love it. And then, for fun, a rock club! Any time I'm not on the screen or the stage, I want to be at the rock club.