Shalom Life | August 29, 2014

Top 20 Under 40 - Jake Epstein

The former "Degrassi" star has performed in Tony-winning musicals around the U.S. and Canada

By: Ilan Mester

Published: February 7th, 2012 in Culture » Stage » Interviews

Top 20 Under 40 - Jake Epstein

Shalom Life is proud to present our 2nd annual ”Top 20 Under 40” list. This list encompasses 20 individuals of diverse occupations and backgrounds from businessmen and businesswomen and innovative entrepreneurs, to philanthropists, entertainers, doctors and more, the list places a spotlight on the myriad of talented, creative and passionate Jews, all under 40, who call Canada home.

Top 20 Under 40 - Jake Epstein

Age: 25

Jake Epstein co-stars in the national tour of American Idiot, but he’s not American and he’s certainly no idiot. The 25-year-old actor was born and raised in Toronto and got his first break back in 2000 in the Canadian-produced TV show The Zack Files.

But audiences from around the world know Epstein best from his role as Craig Manning in the long-running Canadian TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation. After spending multiple seasons on the hit show, Epstein decided to study at the National Theatre School of Canada. He graduated from the prestigious school in 2008.

To say that the young actor made a successful transition from television to theatre would be an understatement. Epstein has already co-starred in a number of high-profile musicals -- including the Tony Award-winning Spring Awakening, where he played the role of Melchior (originated by Glee’s Jonathan Groff) in 2010.

“Touring with Spring Awakening was a once-in-a-lifetime experience -- it was that perfect combo of doing your favourite show with the best people,” he told Shalom Life after wrapping up the national tour.

Although Epstein has now had plenty of experience on the screen and on stage, he says theatre holds a special place in his heart. “There's nothing like seeing a live performance. I think I'm addicted to that rush of being onstage -- it's like a drug,” he said back in 2010.

He’s currently touring with Green Day’s popular musical American Idiot, where he stars as Will. Epstein’s character is a young suburban guy who dreams of going to the big city. But Will’s plans are cut short when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant.

“When I was 13 years old I went to see Green Day at the Hershey Centre in Missisauga, Ontario with my best friend at the time, Daniel Abrams,” Epstein told Shalom Life before debuting American Idiot in Toronto. “We were graduating Junior High school and felt like kings. This was the first live concert I’d ever seen in my life. It was a magical night. Green Day opened my eyes to a world of rock 'n' roll, screaming electric guitars, and the energy of a live show. Since that night I’ve wanted to be the band on that stage that I saw. That’s what drew me to American Idiot.”

Although Epstein has toured across the United States, he’s also performed in many shows in his hometown; before signing on to American Idiot, he played Tony in the Toronto production of Billy Elliot the Musical. Before that, the young performer starred in a Ross Petty production of Beauty and the Beast alongside Canadian Idol winner Melissa O’Neil. He also played the lead role in a Toronto production of the off-Broadway play Dog Sees God.

“The older I’ve gotten the more daunted I am by how many incredible roles there are out there that I’d kill to play,” he said last year. “I’m sure in a month this will all change. But right now I’d pick Jamie Jr. in Long Day's Journey Into Night, Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons, or Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof... there’s so many.”

Shalom Life is currently searching for the best and brightest Jews under 40 in New York who have gained recognition in business, entertainment, philanthropy, technology and more. Please send suggestions to top20NY@shalomlife.com

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