“Degrassi” and “Designated Survivor” Star Jake Epstein Offers Talent to Arena Stage
Actor Jake Epstein steps into the role of Captain Jack Ludwig for Tony Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig’s world-premiere play of “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”. Epstein played the role of Craig Manning, a bipolar musician in the hit television series “Degrassi”, and since then he has continued a successful acting career, appearing on “Designated Survivor,” “Suits” and performing on Broadway.
DC Life Magazine had the pleasure of asking Jake about his acting journey thus far and his debut at Arena Stage.
DC Life: Hello Jake, it’s such an honor to speak with you!
Jake: Thanks so much for speaking to me as well Monika!
DCL: Your résumé boasts a lot of great projects such as the “Spring Awakening” at the Kennedy Center, the Tony-nominated show “Beautiful”, starring in the show “Suits” with Meghan Markle, Degrassi, and you played “Spiderman”! I think that is so awesome.
I had the pleasure of getting more familiar with your work, and I wanted to know which acting environment you prefer between theatre and on-screen and why?
Jake: (LOL) I wish I had a great answer to that question! I sort of fall in love with all the different acting environments. I love doing theatre. There is absolutely nothing like it. I also love the immediacy and excitement of being on a film set with all the quick changes that go into a TV show. I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to do a lot of different types of acting and if anything that’s what I love the most – getting to do as many different things as I can.
DCL: Absolutely! That is amazing. So in the story of “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”, you actually portray the playwright’s father, Jack Ludwig where the lines of communication are actual LINES written via letters. I believe there’s a point in the play where they briefly get to hear each other’s voices, but they are mostly pen pals developing a bond through this. Do you relate at all to Jack Ludwig’s character?
Jake: I don’t know if I relate so much to his actual personality. He’s very a shy person and spends his entire life in school and gets drafted right after graduating medical school. Little to zero experience with the ladies and gets set up on a date with this woman named Louise who is an aspiring actress from Brooklyn, and they couldn’t be any more different. She’s this outgoing and charismatic personality and what I love about this play is that amidst this inevitable horror of World War II, this relationship becomes their source of life, comedy, and love with one another.
On a personal level, my wife and I were in a long-distance relationship for about 5 years before we got married, and it was not always easy. Being long-distance for that period of time with someone you love that much can be hard and so frustrating. It can also be kind of funny because you’re always trying to find time to FaceTime and to connect. Everything is like this tragic comedy when you’re maintaining a long-distance relationship. So when I first read the script as someone who has spent quite some time in a long-distance relationship, I really appreciated the story celebrating this long-distance love.
DCL: Do you think long-distance relationships are realistic?
Jake: Yes, long-distance relationships can be worked out. I think there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The hardest parts of our relationship were not knowing when we were going to see each other or when the long distance was going to end. It felt like this constant struggle that we weren’t finding a way out of. But once we knew the space wasn’t forever, it gave us a goal to hang in there. One of the other things I love about this play is that it’s all about celebrating the written word. Letters. It’s all words, and they had to sustain their relationship solely through writing the right words to each other. When you’re long-distance with emails and texting, it became so clear to me that the right words in your texts or emails help sustain your relationship.
DCL: That’s so true and I do think there’s a difference between how people communicate. Some people are more literal while some are more metaphoric, and it really forces you to get on the same level as the person you are communicating with.
Jake: Exactly! Even being sarcastic through text or email and having humor is sometimes hard to tell. It’s one of the things I found really funny about the play because it makes fun of that dynamic where they don’t know if the other one is joking at times.
DCL: What do you feel Jack’s character provides to the story?
Jake: He’s very genuine. He has a bit of a moral compass and is extremely intelligent. When he doesn’t really know what to say or when he’s feeling very vulnerable, he’ll start shouting facts like a professor. As an actor, I find that very interesting, even though he can be kind of boring. He often states facts rather than emotions even though there’s a lot of emotional things about why he’s choosing not to answer certain questions so clearly.
Much of the play is about the two characters (Jack and Louise) bouncing off each other and what they each bring to the story. Also how they each affect and change one another.
DCL: Do you want the audience to feel anything from this play about the present time where everything is so quick and microwave when it comes to human interaction?
Jake: At the end of the day, I truly want people to be entertained and moved by the play. Within this World War II story, I actually think people can relate to the struggle of finding love amidst the stresses of your own life. Especially because today we’re in this age where people communicate mostly through text messages and in dating, people often meet through online services. I love that this play is about the real history of letters. You can see where it all started. I think people will relate to that and certainly people that have lived through and make sense of this time. This is not the easiest time in the world right now and it’s an important story because it does recognize the complications of the times we live in. Jack and Louise have the ability to find lies and find humor in life with each other. I find it really inspiring and I hope that other people will too.
I want to give a shout out to Amelia Pedlow (Louise Rabiner, co-star). She is such a great acting partner and has been a great friend throughout this whole process. Jackie Maxwell, our director has also been phenomenal and one of the highlights has been being in the room with her.
After viewing this love story of “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” at Arena Theatre that playwright Ken Ludwig wrote about his own parents, I was truly amazed. I was inspired watching Jake Epstein and Amelia Pedlow bring such a colorful, humorous and relatable performance to this story. I firmly believe that a great show makes you feel a variety of emotions across the spectrum, and their performances made me do just that. I highly suggest you make it a part of your holiday season to check this one out. “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” runs at Arena Theatre in Southwest DC from November 21 – December 29, 2019.