BEN PLATT’S NEW VOICE

Encore: July 31, 2020

Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award winner Ben Platt joins us to discuss his new Netflix comedy “The Politician” and his critically acclaimed debut album.

Aired on October 1, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> ONE OF BROADWAY'S BIGGEST STARS IS TAKING ON A NEW ROLE, SINGER/SONGWRITER.

BEN PLATT, THE YOUNG ACTOR WHOSE PERFORMANCE IN 'DEAR EVAN HANSEN' EARNED HIM A TONY, A GRAMMY, AND AN EMMY.

♪♪ RECENTLY RELEASED 'SING TO ME INSTEAD,' A DEBUT SOLO ALBUM ONLY PRICED ENTIRELY OF ORIGINAL MATERIAL.

IT'S A PERSONAL STATEMENT FROM A PERFORM HISTORY UP TO NOW HAS BEEN MORE COMFORTABLE TELLING STORIES OTHER THAN HIS OWN.

I RECENTLY SAT DOWN WITH THE AWARD-WINNING PERFORMER AND I BEGAN THE CONVERSATION BY ASKING HIM HOW THE IDEA FOR THE NEW ALBUM FIRST CAME TO BE.

SO IN A LOGISTICAL SENSE, I WAS WORKING ON THE 'OF VAN HANSEN' CAST RECORDING AT ATLANTIC AND HAD A GREAT TIME MAKING THAT ALBUM, MADE RELATIONSHIPS WITH SOME OF THE A AND R TEAM.

AS WE WERE GOING THROUGH THE PROCESS, THEY MENTIONED, HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT MAKING YOUR OWN RECORD?

WOULD YOU WENT TO DO ORIGINAL MUSIC, A POP ALBUM?

I THINK IT HAD BEEN SOMETHING IN THE BACK OF MY MIND TO TRY TO SING FREE FROM CHARACTER, BUT I NEVER HAD ATTEMPTED TO SIT DOWN AND WRITE EARNESTLY FROM MY OWN VOICE.

I HAD WRITTEN JOKE SONGS WITH MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS GROWING UP.

MUSICAL THEATER, I'D BEEN WRITING MUSICALS HERE AND THERE.

BUT NEVER HAD REALLY WRITTEN EARNESTLY MY OWN POINT OF VIEW.

I SAT DOWN WITH THIS RECORD IN MIND TO SEE WHAT WOULD COME OUT.

AND I LIKED THE SONGS THAT CAME OUT.

SO THE RECORD WAS BORN.

YOU'VE SAID THAT YOU WANTED THIS RECORD TO BE VERY PERSONAL.

VERY TRANSPARENT.

AN AUTHENTIC PORTRAYAL OF YOUR PERSONAL LIFE.

WITH NO CHARACTERS IN BETWEEN YOU AND THE AUDIENCE OR THE LISTENERS.

WHY DID YOU WANT THAT?

I THINK I'VE BEEN REALLY LUCKY AS AN ACTOR TO HAVE A LOT OF OPPORTUNITIES TO SHOW DIFFERENT PARTS OF MYSELF THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE AND DISGUISE MYSELF IN OTHER PERSPECTIVES AND HAVE THAT BE SORT OF THE MAIN TASK AT HAND.

AND IF I WAS GOING TO GO DOWN THIS ROAD AND TRY TO ADD SOMETHING, LIKE A DIFFERENT LANE TO WHAT I DO, I WANTED IT TO BE A CHALLENGE THAT I WASN'T GOING TO BE ABLE TO FIND AS AN ACTOR.

I THINK THE ONE THING YOU DON'T GET TO DO IS SHOW WHO YOU ARE PERSONALLY FREE FROM STRUCTURE AND CHARACTER AND FREE FROM ANY KIND OF SAFETY NET.

AND THE IDEA OF SHARING MYSELF THAT KIND OF VULNERABLY AND THAT TRANSPARENTLY WAS FRIGHTENING TO ME, BUT I THINK THAT'S THE FEAR I'M CHASING IS SOMETHING THAT FEELS BRAND-NEW AND UNCHARTED TERRITORY.

I THINK I THOUGHT IF I WAS GOING TO DO THIS, I WANTED TO GO ALONG.

YOU'RE THE GUY RUNNING AWAY FROM THE FIRE?

MUSICAL FIRE, SURE.

AS YOU SAID IN PREVIOUS INTERVIEWS, THIS IS NOT A COMING-OUT ALBUM, BECAUSE YOU CAME OUT AS GAY TO YOUR FAMILY WHEN YOU WERE 12 YEARS OLD.

NEVER HIDDEN IT, EVER SINCE, AT LEAST.

BUT MOST OF YOUR FANS, MOST OF YOUR AUDIENCES, KNEW NOTHING ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL LIFE.

RIGHT.

UNTIL LISTENING TO THIS ALBUM.

RIGHT.

DID I DO GIVE YOU PAUSE, THAT YOU WOULD MAKE YOURSELF TOO VULNERABLE?

NOT REALLY.

I THINK, YOU KNOW -- THE KIND OF STEP THAT I WAS MOST PORRIED ABOUT OR APPREHENSIVE ABOUT WAS JUST SHARING MY OWN EXPERIENCES AND EMOTIONS AT ALL.

I DON'T THINK THAT SPECIFICALLY THE SORT OF SEXUALITY OF IT ALL WAS SOMETHING I WAS MAKING A CONSCIOUS DECISION ABOUT, IT WAS JUST MORE ONCE I CROSSED THAT BRIDGE OF I'M GOING TO REALLY SHARE WHO I AM, THAT'S JUST A PART OF WHO I AM.

SO THAT'S NATURALLY GOING TO BE SOMETHING I'M GOING TO SHARE.

AND I WAS REALLY HAPPY TO BE ABLE TO DO IT IN THE COB TEXT OF SOME ART AND SOMETHING I MADE RATHER THAN SORT OF MAKING A STANDALONE ANNOUNCEMENT OF SOME KIND.

I THINK WE ARE HOPEFULLY AS SOCIETY AND A COUNTRY AND WORLD BEYOND NEEDING TO DECLARE THAT, BECAUSE IT'S JUST A PART OF --

LIKE YOU'RE JEWISH INSTEAD OF CATHOLIC, YOU 97 IN NEW YORK INSTEAD OF LOS ANGELES.

EXACTLY.

IF WE MAY TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE SONGS.

THE ONE THAT WILL HIT ANY LISTENER IN THE GUT IS 'GROW AS WE GO.'

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT, THAT SONG?

WHAT IS IT ABOUT, WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?

THAT'S OUR SINGLE, 'GROW AS WE GO.'

I WROTE IT WITH REALLY TALENTED COWRITERS, BEN ABRAHAM, ALEX HOPE.

IT'S SORT OF A SONG ABOUT A LOT OF TIMES WHEN RELATIONSHIPS END, THE REASON THAT ONE PERSON OR THE OTHER GIVES IS, I NEED TO GO AND FIND MYSELF, I NEED TO STAND ON MY OWN TWO FEET, FIGURE OUT WHO I AM BEFORE I CAN BE WITH SOMEONE ELSE.

I WAS IN A SIMILAR SITUATION AND I THINK OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE CERTAIN TIMES WHERE THAT'S VALID, OTHER TIMES THAT'S A BIT OF A COP-OUT.

I WROTE THIS SONG FROM THE PERSPECTIVE THE OTHER PERSON SAYING, I HEAR YOU, I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU NEED TO CHANGE, I ALSO NEED TO GROW AND CHANGE AND FIND MYSELF, WHY CAN'T WE STAY TOGETHER AND STAY NEXT TO EACH OTHER AND I'LL GIVE YOU ROOM TO GROW, YOU GIVE ME ROOM TO GROW, WE CAN STAY IN EACH OTHER'S LIVES, WHY DOES THAT MEAN WE HAVE TO BE APART?

♪ WHEN YOU'RE HIGH I'LL TAKE THE LOWS YOU CAN EBB AND I CAN FLOW ♪ ♪ AND WE'LL TAKE IT SLOW AND GROW AS WE GO ♪

SO I THINK THE REASON THE SONG RESONATES WITH PEOPLE IS BECAUSE YOU CAN KIND OF FIND YOUR WAY ON A POSITIVE SIDE, YOU FIND YOU'RE IN A RELATIONSHIP WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE ACCOMPLISHED THAT, GROWING TOGETHER.

FOR THAT REASON I THINK THE SONG CAN SPEAK TO BOTH WORLDS.

TO WHAT DEGREE, IF ANY, DID YOU DO THIS ALBUM IN THIS WAY?

TO KIND OF DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM THE ROLE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH, ONE THAT OW ORIGINATED, THE ONE THAT YOU WON A TONY FOR?

I DON'T THINK THAT WAS NECESSARILY THE MOTIVE WHEN IT GOT STARTED.

I THINK IT ENDED UP BEING A REALLY OPPORTUNE TIMING AS FAR AS COMING RIGHT AFTER, FOR A COUPLE OF REASONS.

ONE BEING IT DID HELP ME SORT OF SET MYSELF APART AS FAR AS, THIS IS WHO I AM, FREE OF THIS CHARACTER, THIS IS MORE HONEST TO WHO I AM AS A PERSON.

AND ALSO I THINK THAT THROUGH THE 'EVAN HANSEN' EXPERIENCE, I HAD EXPERIENCES AS A HUMAN BEING THAT TOOK ME TO EMOTIONAL PLACES I'D NEVER BEEN AND WERE EYE OPENING.

SET ME UP TO HAVE A LOT OF THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT, TO HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY.

YOU'RE ALSO STARRING IN A NEW SERIES FOR NETFLIX, IT'S CALLED 'THE POLITICIAN.'

TALK ABOUT THAT.

YES, SO RYAN MURPHY IS ONE OF THE FOLKS THAT CAME TO 'EVAN HANSEN' THAT BLEW MY SOCKS OFF.

HE CAME BACKSTAGE AND WAS JUST EFFUSIVE AND KIND AND SAID, I'D LOVE TO DO SOMETHING TOGETHER.

AND I THOUGHT, I'M SURE YOU THINK THAT OF EVERYONE YOU SEE, BECAUSE YOU'RE SMART AND YOU WORK WITH ARTISTS AND I HOPED THAT MAYBE I COULD BE ON ONE OF HIS SHOWS OR SOMETHING.

A FEW MONTHS DOWN THE LINE HE ASK ME TO HAVE A MEAL.

PITCHED ME THIS SHOW HE HAD BUILT AROUND THIS CHARACTER, THE SHOWCASE FOR ME, PAYTON HOBART, THE CHARACTER ON 'THE POLITICIAN.'

IT'S THIS KIND OF ARCH POLITICAL SATIRE, SOCIAL SATIRE, BITING, HEIGHTENED REALITY OF THIS KID WHO IS DESPERATE TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND EACH SEASON IS A DIFFERENT ELECTION ON HIS WAY TO MAYBE ACHIEVING THAT.

THE FIRST SEASON THAT WE SHOT IS ALL ABOUT HIM TRYING TO BE THE PRESIDENT OF HIS SENIOR CLASS IN HIGH SCHOOL.

IN THAT SENSE IT WAS IN THE WORLD OF 'EVAN' AS FAR AS HIGH SCHOOL, BUT THE THING THAT ATTRACTED ME TO IT WAS THE CHARACTER AND THE TONE OF IT IS ENTIRELY A 360 AS FAR AS THE CHARACTER HAS A LOT OF HUBRIS, IS VERY AMBITION-DRIVEN, SELF-CENTERED, CONCEITED, CONFIDENT.

ERS THIS A COUPLE OF MOMENTS SPREAD THROUGHOUT -- IT'S NOT NECESSARILY A MUSICAL BUT THROUGHOUT THE PLOT THERE ARE A COUPLE OF REASONS WE HAVE TO SING.

I TOLD MY EXECUTIVE PRODUCER BEFORE.

IF I FOUND A GENIE IN A BOTTLE AND HE OFFERED HE THREE WISHES, AFTER THE $10 BILLION AND AFTER THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH I WOULD ASK FOR A VOICE, SPECIFICALLY AS YOU USED IT IN THIS ALBUM.

IT'S A PLEASURE TALKING TO YOU.

IT'S MY PLEASURE, THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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