The Big Interview: Jake Epstein from Degrassi to American Idiot

Photo credit: Tina Fineberg/The Canadian Press

...But despite all of this (and frequent family trips to Broadway to see musicals), Epstein didn’t want to go into show business.

“I wanted to be a soccer player.” No surprise there. “And then I wanted to be a rabbi.”

That stops the conversation dead and not just because he’s halfway through a rack of pork ribs at the time.

“I was very spiritual as a kid. I think I felt and thought about things a lot more deeply than most of the other kids my age. I wanted to help people.”

And it’s true. At the height of his Degrassi fame, he took time off to go to Kenya and build houses for the homeless there and to this day, if the conversation gets just a bit too shallow for too long, you can sense Epstein zoning out and going to another place.

“When did I leave the rabbi track? I didn’t. I’m still on the rabbi track. It just keeps moving in different directions.”

Epstein amassed a lot of impressive theatre credits as a kid without even trying, appearing in Soulpepper’s original production of Our Town at the Royal Alex and playing The Artful Dodger in the Sam Mendes’ staged version of Oliver! that Cameron Mackintosh and the Mirvishes brought to the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1999, when he was only 12.

Then things took a drastic detour.

“When I was in Grade 7, I went to my very first rock concert in my life. Green Day. It was at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. I don’t know how I convinced my mom to let me go. It was the first time I ever smelled marijuana. It was the first time I ever heard music that loud. It was awesome! I formed a band of my own shortly after that.

“And for a while that was it for me. All funk. Tower of Power. James Brown. Rage Against the Machine.” He grins ironically. “Yeah, man!”

Then he went to Claude Watson School for the Arts and “it opened my eyes to show business as something you could do for life, something you could work hard at but still enjoy.”

And it helped keep his head on straight during the Degrassi years, when co-star Drake, then known as Aubrey Drake Graham, became one of his best friends. Those were years full of media attention, screaming fans, Gemini Awards and, er, other benefits.

“It allowed me to go out with girls I shouldn’t have gone out with. Look, when you’re an awkward teenager and suddenly girls way out of your league are going after you, sure, you’re gonna take advantage of it.” He pauses, remembering those days. “Even if they wound up taking advantage of you instead.”

It was kind of a shock to the system for Epstein to leave that world of TV adulation and plunge into the no-frills theatre studies of the National Theatre School, but he made that choice, leaving Degrassi to do it.

Read more in this article by Richard Ouzounian at thestar.com: The Big Interview: Jake Epstein from Degrassi to American Idiot.

Webmaster note: This is a fantastic interview. It was hard to pick out an excerpt to post here at c-a.com because there's several stories that will be new to Jake Epstein fans and there's also some great quotes. This interview felt really genuine.
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Posted on 18 Dec 2011 by Nicole
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