Ben Platt, Julianne Moore and “Dear Evan Hansen” Stars on Mental Health and Hope | Arts

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CW: Suicide

Seasoned Broadway aficionados and occasional theater fans have probably all heard of “Dear Evan Hansen,” the six-time Tony Award-winning musical. Based on the book of the same name by Steven Levenson and adapted for the stage by duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, “Dear Evan Hansen” tells the story of a lonely teenager with severe social anxiety who unwittingly becomes a hero. local in the wake. the death of a classmate by suicide. The original musical opened on Broadway in 2016 with Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”) playing the titular Evan Hansen. Now five years and nine Tonys nominations later, “Dear Evan Hansen” has been adapted from stage to screen.

“Dear Evan Hansen” was released on September 24 with Ben Platt reprising his role as Evan Hansen. The film’s star-studded new cast includes Powers Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”) as Evan’s mother, Heidi Hansen; Amandla Stenberg (“The Hate U Give”) as Alana, the most popular girl in school and Evan’s unlikely friend; Amy Adams (“Arrival”, “American Hustle”) as Cynthia Murphy, mother of Connor, the young man who commits suicide, and Zoe Murphy, Evan’s lover.

On August 25, the film’s stars were joined by director Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and writer Steven Levenson for a virtual panel discussion to talk about their upcoming film. The conversation touched on many topics, from adolescent mental health to the power of social media. The film’s cast and creators reflected on their experiences working on a project with such a heavy but important subject at its center, as well as what they hoped viewers would take away from watching the Evan Hansen story. A recurring theme of the discussion, just like in the film, was the importance of recognizing that your life matters and that you are not alone.

“From a writing standpoint, it’s always been really important for us, from the start, to leave this story with a little bit of hope,” Levenson said of the uplifting elements that come through at the end of the movie. . “We wanted – especially knowing that young people were going to see this – to make it clear that hope was possible, that change was possible. And that just because someone does something terrible, no matter how bad it is, they can still be okay and move on and be okay.

Although the film emphasizes the mental health of young people – high school students in particular – the themes of family and grief are also present in the plot and were discussed during the panel discussion.

When asked how she came to terms with doing justice for the intimidating role of a grieving mother, Adams spoke of the importance of looking within.

“The whole process of acting requires a tremendous amount of empathy – especially when dealing with something so delicate and a loss so unimaginable. Anytime I approach a character of this magnitude and really want to get away from it all. making sure I’m open and responsive, it’s really about tapping into deep empathy, ”Adams said.

“If you’re lucky enough you can do it with wonderful actors [like] Danny and Kaitlyn, ”Adams said, naming co-stars Danny Pivo (“ Law and Order: SVU ”) and Kaitlyn Dever (“ Booksmart ”) who play husband Larry and daughter Zoe, respectively.

At times the conversation got the actors to reflect on their own mental health journey and how they passed down characters who follow similar paths.

“I was really excited to play a black girl who takes drugs because conversations about drugs aren’t super normalized in the black community, or at least not in my family,” Stenberg said of her character, Alana, a successful and well-loved student who also has mental health issues.

Likewise, thoughtful and grateful feelings were expressed by the cast when it came to shooting a film about mental health and isolation during Covid-19.

“I think everyone felt incredibly grateful to be at work and connecting with other people and being able to hug people. Being able to kiss Amy and kiss Danny in one scene was like ‘Oh my God, that hasn’t happened for so long!’ Dever said.

“This energy was really very palpable on the set. I think we were all very aware that this movie is basically about feeling lonely and isolated and in its own way. And at the end, [it’s] to allow the audience to feel seen in one way or another. I think that’s what everyone is looking for right now after over a year that we’ve been through. I think we’re all looking to feel seen and heard and less alone – and the movie does, ”Dever continued.

Pivo and Adams agreed.

When asked what his hopes were for the young people who will see the film, Platt simply replied, echoing sentiments similar to Dever’s: “I hope that [the film] makes people feel less alone.

“I think young people should feel unique and in every way possible. But the only way I hope that will make them feel quite un-unique is that everyone is alone at some point, everyone is isolated at some point, and everyone is struggling. ‘one way or another internally with her mental and emotional health. And there is nothing to be ashamed of in that. There is nothing that makes you unlovable if you fight, ”Platt continued with an optimistic lesson.

“It is not a burden for you to communicate this struggle to your friends, to your family. It’s not something you need to keep quiet, and it will actually make you a kinder, more beautiful, and more vulnerable person that people will want to confide in when you talk about your own struggle.

– Editor-in-Chief Annie Harrigan can be reached at annie.harrigan@thecrimson.com and on Twitter @AnnieAHarrigan.


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