Dear Evan Hansen, You’re Way Too Old. Sincerely, Me

The entertainment industry has grown vastly within the past two decades. Representation in both film and television has become a prominent topic of discussion in telling the stories of different races, religions, and gender identities. But despite all these steps forward with establishing narratives that cater to all populations, there has been controversy surrounding the misrepresentation of teenagers. Amidst the conversation, the newest movie musical, Dear Evan Hansen, has become the center of discussion. 


The award-winning Broadway musical follows Evan Hansen, a high schooler who suffers from various mental illnesses and gets tangled up in a series of lies when a classmate suddenly dies. The film version of the musical was released on September 24, 2021, with a star-studded cast including Amy Adams, Julianne Moore, Kaitlyn Dever, and Amandla Steelberg. Of the wide variety of talent, the film’s titular character is controversially played by twenty-eight-year-old Ben Platt. 


When Platt announced he was reprising the role he originated on Broadway, there was a lot of backlash from fans who condemned the idea of an adult portraying a teenager. With so many advances within the entertainment industry to accurately depict the struggles some groups face, Dear Evan Hansen is accused of improperly telling the stories of teenagers, with most of the scornful remarks being about Ben Platt. 


              Platt as Evan Hansen in the film. Photo courtesy of Universal


One of the main arguments of the inappropriate casting of Platt as Evan Hansen is that he intentionally had to alter his appearance to make himself look younger. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Platt stated, “I’d lost about 15 pounds and did a very specific diet, grew my hair out, and was shaving to make sure that I didn’t look like I had five o’clock shadow all the time, you know.” When the initial photo stills of the film were released online, many opinions surfaced claiming that Platt’s appearance was forced and explained that teenagers won’t be able to relate to the story because they won’t be able to see themselves in the character. 


Platt as Evan Hansen on Broadway. Photo Courtesy of Matthew Murphy

While some disapproved of Platt as Evan Hansen, others felt that the story and portrayal of teenagers would be in the best of hands with him. Although appearance is a large aspect of telling a story, another key component is the emotional connection, which Platt undoubtedly has. Platt first originated the role of Evan Hansen in 2015 in Washington, D.C. While the production was still in development, Platt aided with the complexities of the character and made Evan Hansen who he is commonly known to be. In total, Platt has been with Evan Hansen for seven years, on and off-broadway, which means that he can connect to the character better than any other actor. The director of the film, Stephen Chbosky stated in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that, “ it was [Platt] or nothing.” Another important consideration is the severity of the role as the film discusses heavy topics such as mental illnesses and suicide. Platt might have been more capable of handling the emotional toll the character brings compared to a teenager. 



Andrew B Feldman during an official photoshoot for his role as Evan Hansen on Broadway. Photo Courtesy of Broadway Direct.

Although there are several arguments to both sides in concern about the casting of Ben Platt as Evan Hansen, the best choice was to cast a younger actor that could take on the emotional baggage and accurately depict the struggles of a teenager. Out of all the choices the creative team had with casting an accurate Evan Hansen, they neglected the obvious option, Andrew B. Feldman. Feldman made his broadway debut as Evan Hansen at sixteen years old in 2018, so there is no doubt that the now nineteen-year-old actor could have taken on such a big role. Feldman is much closer to the character’s age but can also emotionally understand all the vital topics. If Feldman was cast as the titular character instead of Platt, then the representation of the teen population would have been more truthful. Although Platt does put on a performance that is bound to make the audience shed a few tears, words fail to express how his casting neglected to rightfully depict teenagers.