Pitch Perfect Star Ben Platt Talks Nerd-dom

One actor's Platt-form for success

Actor Ben Platt, 21, made a splash as the magic obsessed, Star Wars aficionado Benji Applebaum in Pitch Perfect. Platt, who was raised in California and now lives in New York, also had a role in a little known Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon, and will share a screen with Meryl Streep this summer in Ricki and the Flash. Platt recently took his magic skills to The Jewish Theological Seminary for Reshet Ramah, which serves Ramah alumni. Following his performance the actor talked about Pitch Perfect 2 opening on May 15, taking the stage in The Book of Mormon, his Ramah experience and his new play he hopes will move to Broadway.

How did you prepare for the role of being a nerdy guy in Pitch Perfect?

Well I consider myself a pretty nerdy guy already, but nerdy in a different way. I’m very nerdy about musical theater and show tunes and all that so I kind of equated it with the magic and “Star Wars.” That was my jumping off point.

How did you get the part and what was the audition like?

It was fairly random. I’ve been going on auditions since I was nine. All I knew was that there was music and it was a college-age kid so it seemed up my alley. The character happened to have my name so that was nice. I went in and did a general call with the casting director, called back for the director, and did a screen test. It was right before I was supposed to go to school.

Did you have to sing a song?

Yes. I sang “Feeling Good.” It was Michael Buble’s version.

Did you think the movie would be a hit when you made it?

I don’t think we knew it was going to be a cultural phenomenon the way that it was. We had a great time and we all thought it was very sweet and funny and sharp. It was low budget and the fact that it took off was one of those momentous things ... You had the cups thing adding to it and “The Sing-Off” and the Pentanonix. It was the best we could ask for.

In the film you are first intimidated by cool A Cappella singers. Any experience with them in real life?

All my siblings went to Penn and Off The Beat is the cool group there, and they were in it so that was my first exposure. And briefly when I was at Columbia here, I was in Non-Sequitur.

In Pitch Perfect 2 do you do more or less magic?

Same amount of magic. But I get to sing more because I’m already in the group. I don’t have to worry too much about him being uncomfortable or him overcoming his first time on stage. Now he’s more grown up. There’s some more comedy. It’s really fun.

What was it like to be a Jewish actor doing “The Book of Mormon.”

It was fun. I was the only Jew in the cast at the time. In terms of the material, it wasn’t an issue. I got to teach the cast-mates a little about Judaism. We started in Chicago away from home. When there was a holiday coming up I would share the traditions with them and it was a nice way to bond.

What was it like working with Anna Kendrick?

She’s super nice, super sweet and the chemistry is really great. Apart from Anna and Brittany (Snow) we were all essentially unknown in the beginning so to experience this cultural phenomenon together, there’s no way the chemistry wouldn’t be great.

In this film, the singing competition is international. Do you think any countries will feel insulted?

I don’t think so. It’s all in good fun. It’s not specific, it’s all kind of caricature. I think people will enjoy it.

Do you get recognized a lot now?

Not too bad yet.  A lot of times it’s “where do I know you from?” and then I have to list my resume which is weird.

How did going to Ramah in Ojai, California impact you?

It taught me a lot about how to be part of a group and a greater whole, and of course in theater it’s important to invest in yourself and your talent but to never lose sight of the fact that it’s about generosity and building a community. Being able to connect with people quickly like when you’re reading with people in an audition is crucial, and camp definitely brought me out of my shell.

Tell me about the musical in D.C you’re starring in this summer.

It’s a musical called Dear Evan Hansen. It’s written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and it’s directed by Michael Greif, who directed Rent and Next To Normal. Steven Levenson wrote the book. The lead role was written for me. It’s about loss and how we deal with that in the age of social networking and the need for instant gratification. It asks whether or not honesty is the best policy.

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect

Ben Platt

Book of Mormon

Anna Kendrick

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