Jordan Fisher Talks Mental Health, Being First Black Actor to Lead 'Dear Evan Hansen' : 'It's an Honor'

"I never ever knew that I would eventually wear that polo in that cast and wave through those windows," Fisher tells PEOPLE

Jordan Fisher Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Spring Celebration Honoring Stephen Schwartz, Arrivals
Jordan Fisher. Photo: Stewart Cook/Shutterstock

Jordan Fisher is breaking new ground.

The Teen Beach Movie star, 27, is playing the leading role in Broadway's Dear Evan Hansen — and he's the first Black actor to do so full-time. (Roman Banks portrayed the role on Broadway as an understudy in 2018.)

"My favorite thing about playing Evan honestly is just frankly being Black and being able to play this character," he tells PEOPLE. "As a Black man that has a relationship with anxiety and depression myself, it's such an honor."

He continues, "It's such a narrative. It's such a topic of conversation that just isn't had amongst the Black community. And I'm surrounded by a bunch of friends here in New York and in LA as well, Black brothers of mine. We all deal with it, have therapists and whatnot. And being able to talk to one another about it is such an important thing."

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Dear Evan Hansen re-opened on Broadway on Dec. 11 and follows the main character Evan Hansen, a socially anxious high school student who feels like an outsider at his high school. Trying to improve his self-image, he writes himself a letter that is mistaken for a classmate's suicide note—and rides that error to popularity. Ben Platt originated the role and plays him in the movie adaptation that released earlier this year.

Dear Evan Hansen Jordan Fisher as Evan Hansen
Jordan Fisher onstage as Evan Hansen. Matthew Murphy

As Fisher takes on the role, however, he wants to make sure teens watching have someone to look up to, who "looks like them."

"[Someone] that deals with the same thing that they deal with, to feel relation and to feel less alone. And it's such a joy and such a gift to be able to do that every night," he says.

To Fisher, mental health is vital and so taking on the role of Hansen felt that much more important, to relay the message.

"The time that I spend as a creative, as an actor, working on certain material, I want [it] to really mean something," The Flash star says. "That's what gets me the most excited to get out of bed every morning is working on stuff that's going to make somebody feel less lonely. That's the whole thing for me."

It's even helped him on his own mental health journey.

"People talk oftentimes about when you come into the theater, hang your problems up at the door as you're making your way to set. And I get it," he says.

Adding, "I don't necessarily agree with it. I think that if you just wear the jacket of whatever your life is and whatnot, and you bring that into your work, there can be really cathartic moments. And that's another gift as an artist that you get to have."

"Nothing makes me feel better," he continues.

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Fisher was in New York City working on Hamilton when Vanessa Hudgens, his former costar, invited him to see Dear Evan Hansen for the first time. By that time, he knew he liked the music but had never seen it for himself. It's safe to say it was a memorable experience for the actor.

"Oh my God. When act one ended, I was buckled over in my seat, in the middle of the theater and in the fourth row, and Vanessa's just rubbing my back and trying to hide my face. I couldn't contain myself," he says. "She couldn't console me. I looked disgusting. I went downstairs to go to the restroom. People [were] like, 'Oh my God.' And I look like a tomato. It was horrific in the best ways."

He adds, "I never ever knew that I would eventually wear that polo and that cast and wave through those windows as well. But man, I'm so grateful that I am."

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