Jake Epstein

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Jake Epstein
Born (1987-01-16) January 16, 1987 (age 31)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1999–present

Jake Epstein (born January 16, 1987) is a Canadian actor and singer who played Craig Manning, a bipolar musician, on Degrassi: The Next Generation. He also played Will in the First National Tour of American Idiot and created the role of Gerry Goffin in the Broadway production of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Personal life[edit]

Epstein was born in Toronto, Ontario. His mother, Kathy Kacer, is a Norma Fleck Award-winning writer of children's stories about the Holocaust, and his father, Ian Epstein (born 1955),[1] is a lawyer.[2][3][4] He has an older sister, Gabi, an actress and jazz singer. Epstein is Jewish and was raised in Conservative Judaism.[5][6]


Epstein made his professional stage debut in a Soulpepper Theatre Company production of Our Town at the Royal Alexandra Theatre before playing the Artful Dodger in Mirvish Productions' stage production of Oliver! After appearing on the TV show The Zack Files, he played Craig Manning on Degrassi: The Next Generation for five seasons and won the Gemini Award.[7] The character of Craig became a musician on the show and had to cope with parent abuse and bipolar disorder. Epstein said, "At the time, mental illness was not really something anyone was talking about. There was a huge stigma attached — I had never seen [bipolar disorder] on TV, and certainly not in a teenager. I loved the opportunity to portray someone who was conflicted and not perfect..." Craig impregnated a girl named Manny who gets an abortion, and Epstein noted that those episodes were "initially banned" in the United States.[8] Epstein indicated that he "got the chance to really flesh out this guy that felt like a darker extension of me."[9]

He left Degrassi during the fifth season to attend the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal and made theater his new focus. Epstein said, "One of the things I love about theatre is how raw it is. There's no faking it… I really wanted to have a base in theatre, and that kind of opened up all these doors for me." Epstein returned to Degrassi for minor guest appearances in season 6-8.[10] He replaced Kyle Riabko as Melchior Gabor in the First National Tour of Spring Awakening, officially beginning his run on July 7, 2009.[11] Epstein commented on the show, "I think it really doesn’t talk down to its audience. I think it portrays teen sexuality in a way that’s real, in a way that’s entertaining, and in a way that’s just really connects with people. Spring Awakening really doesn’t hold back, and I think people appreciate that."[12]

Also in 2009, Epstein starred as CB (a.k.a. Charlie Brown) in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, described as a "comedic deconstruction of the famous Peanuts characters." In this production, CB copes with the recent death of his beagle and discovers that he is in love with Beethoven (a.k.a. Schroeder). Theatre critic Richard Ouzounian wrote, "Jake Epstein is brilliant as CB, a bunch of nerve endings searching for a place to settle. Epstein is so beautifully open and honest that you go with him on every step of his journey."[13]

In July 2011 Epstein played Billy's older brother in a Toronto production of Billy Elliot the Musical. He spoke about working with alternate leads, "The most unique part of this show is working with a new Billy every night. Every Billy is different. They each bring something interesting and specific to the role. I am a different older brother each night, depending on who's on..."[14]

He played Will in Green Day's Tony-winning rock musical American Idiot during the 2011-2012 North American tour.[15] Epstein said, "I always think of American Idiot as my generation's The Who's Tommy or Pink Floyd's The Wall. American Idiot was very much like that time in the world, right after Sept. 11th...It was like a time of not knowing what to feel and that's what spawned this show."[16]

Epstein made his Broadway debut in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark as the alternate for lead role Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He joined the company on December 4, 2012, and performed Saturday and Sunday matinees, with his first show having taken place on December 8 at the Foxwoods Theatre.[17] Epstein referred to the role as a "childhood fantasy come true."[18] He played his final performance on August 12, 2013, to begin rehearsing for a new musical titled Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,[19] which opened on Broadway on January 12, 2014. This marked his second Broadway show in less than a year. The musical was based on Carole King's life, and Epstein portrayed her former husband Gerry Goffin.[20] He indicated that it was not easy playing the man who broke King's heart. Epstein said, "I'm trying to make his struggle clear, so people understand why he did the things he did. He's not just a villain. I hope people see it's more complicated than that."[18] He remained with the cast until September 21, 2014.[21]

In 2016 Epstein starred as a closeted gay man in the off-Broadway show Straight.[22][23] He spoke about the script, "What resonated with me is how a straight person is just a person, but a gay person is a gay person—it’s part of the title you give somebody...I thought the whole angle that the play takes about not a fear of coming out but a fear of definition, a fear of being labeled as a gay man, was an argument that’s not really made in our sort of post-acceptance society. It’s not about a guy who’s afraid of coming out; it’s about a guy who’s not connected with quote-unquote ‘gay culture.’"[22] Critic Michael Glitz described Epstein's performance as "immensely appealing" and wrote that the three-member cast "elevated the show considerably with their charm and chemistry, led by Epstein’s increasingly substantial stage chops."[23] New York Times critic Andy Webster wrote, "Mr. Epstein ably embodies a vaguely passive-aggressive, noncommittal male archetype."[24]

Many of the characters Epstein portrayed were troubled types. He said, "I'm a pretty upbeat person. I think I sometimes get cast as these brooding types because I bring light and joy, which hopefully makes them more likable."[18]




Year Film Role Notes
2000 Quints Brad TV movie
Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire Duffy TV movie
2004 Crown Heights
2008 Charlie Bartlett Dustin Lauderbach
2009 Degrassi Goes Hollywood Craig Manning TV movie
2010 Love Letter from an Open Grave Zombie Frank Short
2012 Blood Pressure Josh Trestman
2013 Jesse Jesse Turner Short
2015 4th Man Out Marc the artist
Borealis Fergus
Full Out Coach Pierce
Charming Christmas Woody TV movie
As I Like Her Jimmy Short


Year Title Role Notes
1999 Ricky's Room Brad unknown episodes
Real Kids, Real Adventures Chris Gilmore Episode: "Lost & Found: The Richard Prieur Story"
2000–02 The Zack Files Cam Dunleavy Main role, 52 episodes
2002–09 Degrassi: The Next Generation Craig Manning 2002–06, Seasons 2–5 (series regular)
2006–09, Seasons 6–8 (guest appearances)
2003 The Eleventh Hour Jacob McGibbon Episode: "Shelter"
Girls v. Boys Contestant Hawaii
2005 Radio Free Roscoe Jackson Torrance Episode: "Musical Influences"
2006 Angela's Eyes Brad Episode: "Undercover Eyes"
2008 Paradise Falls Jim Episodes: "Revelations", "Stardust"
2009 Being Erica Malcolm Abrams Episode: "Battle Royale"
2011 My Babysitter's a Vampire David Stachowski Episode: "Blue Moon"
2012 Murdoch Mysteries Eddie Driscol Season 5 Episode 12: "Murdoch Night in Canada"
2015 Remedy Jake Ruben Episodes: "Fight or Flight", "Day One"
2016-2017 Degrassi: Next Class Craig Manning Episodes: "#ThrowBackThursday" & "FactsOnly"
2016-present Designated Survivor Chuck Russink Recurring (Season 1) Main Cast (Season 2)
2017 Suits Brian Altman Season 7: 4 episodes
2017 Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays Charles Ponzi TV movie special


Year Title Role Notes
2009 Spring Awakening Melchior Gabor Tour
Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead CB
2011 Billy Elliot the Musical Billy's older brother
American Idiot Will Tour
2012–13 Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark alternate for lead role Peter Parker / Spider-Man
2014 Beautiful: The Carole King Musical Gerry Goffin


  1. ^ "Ian S. Epstein Lawyer Profile on Martindale.com". 
  2. ^ Post City Magazines | August 2007, Jake Epstein by Robin Heron Archived 2007-08-29 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Our Canadian Girl". Kathy Kacer. Retrieved June 26, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Kathy Kacer". Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP.org). Retrieved July 30, 2015. With short autobiography.
  5. ^ Miller, Gerri (July–August 2007). "Jake Epstein". JVibe. 3 (4): 12–15. 
  6. ^ Document2 Archived 2009-08-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Ouzounian, Richard. "Former Degrassi star Jake Epstein moves into more exploratory realm". thestar.com. Retrieved March 23, 2018. 
  8. ^ Brody, Caitlin. "Degrassi: Next Class: Craig returns". EW.com. Retrieved March 27, 2018. 
  9. ^ "You're A Big Deal: Jake Epstein of Broadway's "Spiderman, Turn Off The Dark"". WBD Entertainment and Lifestyle Magazine. Retrieved January 24, 2016. 
  10. ^ Gioia, Michael (February 24, 2014). "The Leading Men: Jake Epstein and Jarrod Spector, Beautiful's Gerry Goffin and Barry Mann". playbill.com. Archived from the original on January 30, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  11. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "'Degrassi' Star Epstein to Succeed Riabko in Spring Awakening National Tour". playbill.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2009. Retrieved June 2, 2009. 
  12. ^ "'Degrassi: The Next Generation's' Jake Epstein stars in 'Spring Awakening' in San Jose". The Mercury News. October 26, 2009. Retrieved March 26, 2018. 
  13. ^ Ouzounian, Richard. "Dog Sees God is as lovable as Snoopy". thestar.com. Retrieved March 27, 2018. 
  14. ^ Cameron, Kelly. "BWW Interviews: Jake Epstein talks Billy Elliot, Degrassi and Dream Roles". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved March 24, 2018. 
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth (December 21, 2011). "American Idiot Tour, With Van Hughes, Joshua Kobak, Jake Epstein and More, Tests Wings in Upstate NY". playbill.com. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  16. ^ Ahearn, Victoria (January 1, 2012). "Toronto actor Jake Epstein of 'Degrassi' fame rocks hometown in 'American Idiot'". The Canadian Press. 
  17. ^ Gioia, Michael. ""Degrassi" Star Jake Epstein Will Make Broadway Debut in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark". Archived from the original on 2012-12-09. 
  18. ^ a b c Stevens, Beth (December 12, 2013). "Jake Epstein on Disappointing Degrassi Fans and Breaking Carole King's Heart in Beautiful". Broadway.com. Retrieved January 23, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Jake Epstein, Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector Join 'Beautiful The Carole King Musical' Complete Cast Announced" Archived 2013-08-14 at the Wayback Machine. playbill.com
  20. ^ Hetrick, Adam."Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Starring Jessie Mueller as Music Icon, Opens on Broadway" Archived 2014-01-13 at the Wayback Machine., playbill.com, January 12, 2014.
  21. ^ Broadway.com Staff. "Scott J. Campbell & Paul Anthony Stewart Join Cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway". Broadway.com. Broadway.com. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b Lindsay, Benjamin. "'Straight' Actor Jake Epstein's 1 Secret to Doing Good Work". Backstage. Retrieved March 29, 2018. 
  23. ^ a b Glitz, Michael (March 2, 2017). "Theater: Jake Epstein Makes the Closet Sexy Again in 'Straight'". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 29, 2018. 
  24. ^ Webster, Andy (March 2, 2016). "Review: 'Straight' Glides Between Sexual Assumptions". New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2018. 

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