To his fans, Jake Epstein is one massive teen heartthrob – but to his friends, he’s just Jake.  This mild mannered teenager, who plays an angst-ridden punk and victim of child abuse on ABC’s series “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” is a sincere kid with a friendly attitude.  If he could be any chocolate bar, he would be a Twix, “because when you think you’re finished there’s still a whole other part of you left in the wrapper.”  He says it with a goofy smirk, trying his best not to break out laughing.

Epstein first got into acting with a little help from his former drama teacher, Paul Comeau.  At the same time that their class was working on “Our Town,” a professional company was holding auditions for the play.  Comeau urged many of his students to audition for it, and Epstein got the part.  From there it was not long until he was starring as The Artful Dodger in the Toronto musical production of Oliver!  “That was probably my biggest accomplishment [in terms of acting]…because it was so big and so out of my league.”

He describes the feeling of being on stage on opening night, as the lights come up with over 2000 people watching; “it is awe-inspiring though.”  Indeed, Jake Epstein still describes the fame as being unreal.  He is also trying not to let it go to his head.  “I think I’ve been lucky,” he says.  “Not everyone gets to take acting classes with Claude Watson.”  Jake is referring to the training he received in Mini Clause as well as the Earl Haig program.

Trying to stay yourself in a business that’s all about pretending to be someone else is difficult, and that stress can affect personal relationships.  “At the beginning – you discover who your true friends are, by who acts differently.  Mostly my friends make fun of me for it,” he says with a laugh.  “I don’t know if I love the spotlight – but it is nice sometimes.”

When asked about acting as a career, Epstein is hesitant; “No,” he says, he would not want to do this for a living.  “To be an actor, you’ve got to have a certain frame of mind.  You don’t know when your next paycheck is coming,” a hard thing to think about at sixteen.  “It’s a good hobby,” he reflects.  “And it’s been a really fun experience.”  Most of the filming for Degrassi is done in the summers, to avoid Epstein from missing much school.

Despite the pressure of the spotlight, he seems to be getting along fine.  In the Claude Watson tradition, Epstein is a masterful jack-of-all-trades; a gifted musician, he has a rock band with fellow Haigers Thomas Forgacs and Graeme Gerussi.  Their group “Mind The Gap,” (named after the cautionary subway sign) has been together for more than a year.  In January, they played a concert for more than 300 people.  Reaching well above their venue’s capacity, they were forced to start turning people away at the door.  Most of the songs are originals.  Epstein sings and plays guitar.  Recently, the band recorded a demo song and plans for more recording sessions are in the works.  “I’m really proud of where it has gone, because it’s such a creative project – we created everything ourselves.”

Epstein thinks he will eventually go into something along the lines of public speaking and debate.  Both of these things borrow from his dramatic talent and training.  There is no doubt that he will be successful in whatever he does.  For now, Jake is content to listen to the Chili Peppers and learn life lessons from The Simpsons, just like anybody else.

Source: Carpanatomy (circa March 2003)