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Actors Ben Platt and Noah Galvin on working together as a creative and engaged pair
Amna Nawaz: Although still in their 20s, actors Ben Platt and Noah Galvin are already performing veterans. Both have played dozens of roles on TV, in films, and in live theater, including the Tony Award-winning musical "Dear Evan Hansen."
I met up with the couple at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, for their first television interview together. We spoke about their performances and the real-life inspiration behind their latest project, as part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.
Actress: I looked at him straight in his soul and said, Bernard, you can keep the Connecticut home. I have got my dignity and a bold merlot.
Amna Nawaz: Precocious child actors.
Actor: Jazz pirouette, jazz pirouette, Grizabella, and down.
Amna Nawaz: Broadway-obsessed instructors.
Actor: A little bit of cinnamon, a little bit of pain, a little bit of stepfather.
Amna Nawaz: And over-the-top acting exercises, all captured in "Theater Camp," a 2020 short film poking fun at youth theater and its eccentric characters.
Ben Platt and Noah Galvin starred in and co-wrote the parody with their friends Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman. Last summer, the foursome turned "Theater Camp" into a feature-length film.
Ben Platt, Actor: Thank you.
Amna Nawaz: I spoke with Platt and Galvin the day after their Sundance Film Festival premiere received a standing ovation.
Let's start with the short. I'm really curious what made you think, there's something here that we need to expand on?
Ben Platt: Us and our two collaborators, Nick Lieberman and Molly Gordon, we have grown up together. Theater is kind of what connects us in a sense.
And so I think when we mixed that with our shared comedic and improvisational sensibility. We were so surprised at how full of a story and how robust the short could feel with just the very small, small, small, small budget we had. And so, we're like, if this can really come across so well, just imagine if we kind of gave it more space, gave it a longer narrative, and gave it perhaps 19 days, instead of two.
Amna Nawaz: But 19 days?
Ben Platt: Yes, that's all we had was 19 days.
Amna Nawaz: That was it?
Noah Galvin, Actor: Yes.
Amna Nawaz: What was that like?
Noah Galvin: And children who can only work about five hours a day, and a full musical at the very end, and like 32 speaking roles.
Ben Platt: Yes. We really didn't want to go too ambitious for our first piece.
Noah Galvin: Yes, just very casual, small, intimate.
Amna Nawaz: That ambition has paid off. The day after we spoke, the "Theater Camp" feature was acquired by Disney's Searchlight Pictures for distribution.
It may have only taken three weeks to film, but the movie draws from years of experience.
Before Ben Platt burst onto Broadway, winning a best actor Tony for "Dear Evan Hansen" in 2017, before recording two albums…
Ben Platt: Our generation is going to save this planet.
Amna Nawaz: … and starring in Netflix's "The Politician," Platt fell in love with the stage at the Adderley School. a youth theater program in L.A. And before Noah Galvin appeared on television and in films…
Noah Galvin: I will be directing…
Amna Nawaz: … like 2019's the critically acclaimed comedy "Booksmart"…
Noah Galvin: He's got weeks.
Amna Nawaz: … or as a series regular in ABC's "The Good Doctor," he was acting professionally from the age of 10.
Noah Galvin: I went to a camp at one point, a theater camp, and it was called Kevin Kearin's (ph). It was just the name of the man who ran it, which is wild.
Noah Galvin: There were so many kids at this theater camp. And then they wanted to give everybody an opportunity, which is beautiful.
So, they would cast — I did "Anything Goes" there, and there was a different person playing the principal character. Like, in each given scene, there was a different actor playing that part.
Amna Nawaz: In each scene?
Noah Galvin: In every single scene, yes.
Ben Platt: So, you got one scene?
Noah Galvin: So I played Moonface Martin in the final scene of "Anything Goes at Kevin Kearin's.
Amna Nawaz: There's this line in the movie. But — and your character says, this place is for people who need it, people who do not belong anywhere else.
How much of that informs sort of who you're speaking to in the story?
Ben Platt: That's entirely, I think, who we're making it for.
Noah Galvin: Everything, yes.
Ben Platt: I think what we really wanted to be conscious of is telling a story that was funny and based on our own experience, but that had this bubbling of this thing that you just said underneath it at all times, which is how vital these places have been for us growing up and they are for young people, queer young people, young people on the spectrum, all different kinds of young people who find ways to express themselves through theater.
Amna Nawaz: Theater also brought the couple together. They met at a professional musical workshop out of high school. Friends for years, Platt and Galvin started dating just before the pandemic.
And last November, the two announced a new relationship milestone.
You are recently engaged.
Ben Platt: We are.
Amna Nawaz: Mazel tov.
Noah Galvin: Thank you.
Ben Platt: I did pretty good, I think.
Amna Nawaz: Is there a story? Is there an engagement story you can share, that you want to share?
Ben Platt: Well, we will some of the details to ourselves, but I will just say I surprised him when I told him I was taking him to dinner with his sister. And…
Noah Galvin: And it looked like the set of "The Bachelor," is all I'll say.
Ben Platt: And then — well, it was with prettier colors.
Noah Galvin: It was gorgeous. It was gorgeous. It was gorgeous. It was gorgeous.
Ben Platt: And then we spent the night with our families having dinner and some friends. And it was great.
Noah Galvin: It was lovely.
Amna Nawaz: Later this month, Ben Platt will return to Broadway for the first time in five years as the lead in a limited-run revival of the '90s musical "Parade."
It tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish-American man who was lynched after being wrongfully accused of murder in Georgia in 1913.
What is it like for you to step into this role at this moment?
Ben Platt: For me, it just feels like the right place at the right time. And I think I have learned a lot as I have grown older in my career to seek out characters and roles that I am the right person to take on and to tell.
And then I think this — being a 29-year-old Jewish man portraying this 29-year-old Jewish man who was wrongfully accused in the South, I think is — it just feels like an authentic piece of storytelling. There is just no pretense about it, that I can really feel like the right proprietor of this particular story.
Amna Nawaz: I mean, we're speaking at a time certainly of rising antisemitism. We're also speaking at a time of rising anti-LGBTQ hate speech, political rhetoric, legislation across the country.
Ben Platt: Oh, yes.
Amna Nawaz: How does all of that resonate with you?
Noah Galvin: I mean, after seeing "Parade," it was a piece that was written in the '90s by a 24-year-old Jason Robert Brown.
I mean, it was, like, chilling how prescient it felt and how current and necessary a piece of storytelling it was.
Ben Platt: In terms of the queerness of it all, even Noah and I, who are fairly privileged, and we live in — most of the time we live in a pretty liberal bubble, and we are protected in many ways, we have experienced moments of homophobia.
And it's certainly everywhere. So, I think all we can do — obviously, we want to share our relationship because we love each other and we just want to share our happiness. But we also take a lot of pride, I think, in just showing public queer joy and a healthy queer relationship and collaboration.
Amna Nawaz: So, more joint projects ahead?
Ben Platt: I think so.
Noah Galvin: Yes. We work well together. It was a nice thing to know, you know? We didn't kill each other.
Amna Nawaz: That's a good thing to discover.
Noah Galvin: Yes.
Noah Galvin: We got engaged after…
Ben Platt: Yes, we're still here.
Noah Galvin: OK.
Amna Nawaz: What a gift to do what you love with people you love.
Thank you so much.
Ben Platt: Thank you.
Noah Galvin: Thank you so much. This was lovely.
Amna Nawaz: Really appreciate it.
And we have more stories about the Sundance Film Festival online at PBS.org/NewsHour, including a look at three directors of Iranian descent whose films were inspired by their mothers.