By Amy Robinson, with additional reporting by Susan J. Yeager

Before he was an actor, Jake Epstein was a jock. He played soccer, tennis and basketball. But all that changed when he was in Grade 3 and saw an audition sheet for an arts school.

"At first I didn't want to audition," he said, "but I realized that I got to miss a day of school, so I was like, 'All right, I'll do that.' All my friends and I, kind of as a big joke, we went down and auditioned, and I got in! It was a total shocker! It was crazy!"

At the new school, a drama teacher noticed Jake's talent and urged him into acting. He sent Jake on his first audition, and Jake landed the role. From there, things have only gotten better.

His first professional job was pulling double duty as Si and Joe Crowell in Thornton Wilder's classic play "Our Town" at the Royal Alex Theatre in Toronto. He recalls the experience with joy. "I was like 11 years old. I was so excited!" he said. "I was freaking out. I thought I was such a superstar."

His other major theater role has been a turn as the Artful Dodger in a production of "Oliver!," a musical re-telling of the classic Charles Dickens story "Oliver Twist." Jake says this was his favorite acting job.

So how did he get from the stage to "Degrassi?"

"I'd heard about "Degrassi" because I had a couple of friends that were on the show - like I knew Lauren Collins (Paige) and Jake Goldsbie (Toby)," he said. "I got this audition for the part, I went in and I was really lucky."

He said he found out he'd landed the role while he was at school. "I think I knew that it was down to two, so I was kind of waiting for a phone call. My mom called me and told me I got the part. I just took off down my hallways at school screaming, "I'm on "Degrassi"! Yeah!" It was really funny."

But for Jake, the lure of the theater is still strong. Last year, he wrote his very first play, and he also directed a play at his school.

Regarding his stint as a director, he said, "I really know nothing about that. I just think directing is so cool. I love being in charge and telling other people what to do.

"But it's really weird directing your friends," he continued. "That's what makes it really annoying - because you want to make sure that they do a good job, but you want to take control. It's kind of a weird mind game, but it was so much fun! I really loved directing."

It's not just directing, though, or even writing - Jake loves everything about theater.

"You learn everything doing theater," he said. "Learning to find the character and be true to yourself and all that along with having 2,000 people watch you do it - it's such a rush. I think if you can do that, you can do anything."

But if things get to be too much for him on the acting front, Jake can always take a break and focus on his music. Yep, just like his character on "Degrassi," Jake can also be a music-minded guy.

"I play in a couple of bands, so we'll go and jam and play gigs [on the weekends]," he said.

And if you're out there considering a career in either music or acting, Jake offers this advice: "Do it for the right reasons. Don't go into it to be famous, go into it because you love it. The whole fame part is a totally different, stressful thing that can come into play. But if you really love what you're doing, you can't go wrong."

Jake says his acting influences include Edward Norton, Geoffrey Rush and Tom Hanks, but he considers the whole "favorite actor" thing "such a cliché [because] there are so many good people out there."

Jake's favorite type of music is classic rock. He's a fan of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix.

Jake claims the early call times for "Degrassi" (between 7 and 8 a.m.) have gotten him - a self-proclaimed "terrible morning person" - addicted to coffee.

Source: www.enterteenmentnews.com (circa 2005)