Ben Platt on Saying Goodbye to Dear Evan Hansen and Being Broadway’s Sexiest Star
Ben Platt sits down with PEOPLE to discuss his final days in Dear Evan Hansen, his plans for the future, and that time he met Beyoncé
Ben Platt found breakout success this year playing the title character in Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, where he gave an emotionally raw performance that earned him rave reviews, a Tony for best actor in a musical and a spot in PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue as the Sexiest Broadway Performer in the Men of the Year list.
And now, as the 24-year-old Pitch Perfect alum gets ready to leave the show that made him a household name (his last performance is Sunday), he’s sitting down down with PEOPLE to discuss his final days in the role, his plans for the future — and that time he met Beyoncé.
PEOPLE: What’s it like to come to the end of the run?
Platt: A little bit surreal! I’ve been on this journey for 3½ years so it’s obviously going to be a very emotional transition. But I’ve been trying hard to sort of take it in, not let it pass by too quickly, appreciate each show as they’re getting less and less. And I’m looking forward to taking a rest and giving my body a break. Being 24 for a second will be nice.
Will you be stealing things from the theater?
I’m definitely going to take my New Balances because I’ve had them since [our out-of-town tryouts in] Washington, D.C. They are barely still workable shoes, so I don’t think anybody wants them. I would really like to steal my polo, but we’ll see if I can get away with that. I have my opening night cast from D.C., Second Stage, Broadway, the Today Show, the Tony Awards cast, my birthday — I’ve got all the casts. So those will always be there.
Have you thought about that last performance yet?
Yeah. Sometimes when I can’t sleep at night, that’s where I go. Whenever there’s a big looming milestone, it always floats into your mind — leading up to the Tonys, my mind would go there, thinking, ‘What’s that night going to be like?’… leading up to opening night, it was the same thing. It’s hard to predict. I know it’ll be a really emotional thing and I’m really happy my whole family will be in town to see it. At this point, I’m hoping I can literally and logistically get through the show without stopping every 5 minutes. But at the same time, I don’t want to wish away these last few shows. I’d like to appreciate each of the ones I have left.
What will you do the day after?
I’ll probably be awake until long into the day after. I plan to just really live it up afterwards and go for it, which I have not done so in quite sometime. Then, I just want to take it as easy as possible. I’m going home for Thanksgiving, so I’ll get to see the whole family, which I’m really looking forward to. And then in the weeks immediately after, I’ll be working on my album, which will be a nice change. It’s a little bit more than a relaxed schedule than eight shows a week.
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This show and Evan’s story in particular has really resonated with fans, who I know have met you at the stage door with their own tales of depression, suicide, etc. How have you handled that responsibility?
It’s really not limited to the stage door. People want to really open up after they see it, which is a beautiful thing. This morning I was walking to SoulCycle and I had a woman approach me on the street and say she had come to really love the show — she listens to it every morning — because it made her appreciate each individual person. She had been hospitalized for anorexia for a long time and with the anonymity of the other girls that were in treatment with her, she now wished she had gotten to know them more. So it kind of follows us wherever we go, and I’m sure will follow me for years to come.
But also I’ve just tried really hard to ride the line of being open and empathetic and available to that, while also not offering any counsel and advice. Because I’m not really in the position to do that. I’m not really an expert. I’m figuring out my own stuff, like everybody is. I just want them to know that they’re heard and that the reason we’re doing it is because it means so much to them. All you hope for as a performer is that your work moves people to the point where it changes their path.
Where are you hoping this next year takes you?
There’s some TV things in the works that I’m kind of excited about. Getting to live with one character for a long time is where I’ve found myself the most comfortable, and TV let’s you do that. I’d love to do some films, of course. I loved the sort of broad comedy of Pitch Perfect – it was an amazing way to get my feet wet and get my sea legs. But I’d love to do a film that has a bit more of an Evan Hansen-type of layer.
I’ll be working on my album. I just started writing my own music which is something that is really brand new for me and very exciting and very terrifying because I have no sort of reference of how these songs are. It’ll definitely be a pop album and I would love to be in the piano-heavy Sam Smith/Adele/Ben Folds/storyteller-pop lane. Because that’s the music that I love.
And you’ll come back to Broadway eventually?
I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away for too long. I certainly will take a break after this, but there’s a lot of things I would love to do — musicals and plays I’d love to take a crack at in the coming years. Lots of things still on the bucket list, so I will be back.
For more about Ben Platt, pick up PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, on newsstands now.
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Well when you do, you can carry PEOPLE’s Sexiest Broadway Performer title with you!
What’s sexy about Broadway?
It’s a place where people shut it down like nowhere else. People really lay themselves on the line and really just kind of go for it. No holds barred, total commitment. You can’t really hide anywhere on Broadway. You can’t fake it. You just sort of have to put up or shut up. And that’s incredibly sexy to see someone like that. When I go see someone in a show and they’re just giving every fiber of their being and their throwing it down, that’s incredibly attractive for me.
Do you feel sexy on stage?
It’s hard to because this character is so sort of the antithesis of sexy since he’s so vulnerable and exposed and messy. In performance, “sexy” is not really where my mind is. But I certainly feel the most powerful when I’m on stage, and powerful can feel sexy. And there are times when you go backstage and there’s people who you admire so much and their work means a lot to you. They’ve just seen the show and they’re moved to the point where they are acting around you how you might act around them. You can’t really sort of dwell on it, of course, because there’s only so much good that can come from that. But that makes me feel very confident and very sexy.
Speaking of those celebrity guests, I know there’s been a lot but I have to know — what was it like when Beyoncé came?
It’s difficult for me to really put that into words. If you meet me for more than three minutes, Beyoncé will come up. I consider my life at this point to be pre-Beyoncé and post-Beyoncé. It’s just sort of changed everything. She’s always just been my No. 1 — the person that makes me shake in my boots. I just think she’s the greatest living natural performer we have. To say that she’s inspiring is a huge understatement.
I wanted to give my all when she was there and I really think that I did. For her to come back and tell us that it moved her and was touching to her and to say basically that she saw how much I was giving of myself and for me to be able to say to her, “You literally taught me how to do that” — like, in everything I’ve ever seen her do? It was the greatest moment truly ever. It’s right up there with my Tony and my bar mitzvah.