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Eli Golden

Offering authenticity to Netflix’s ‘13: the Musical’, NY’s Eli Golden sets his eyes on Broadway & bringing home the bacon.  

Jason Robert Brown articulates the wholeness of adolescence as he surmises the heart of his 2008 Broadway musical ‘13’ to be about ‘finding out who you are, finding out what you need, and finding out what’s really important.’ Channelling this into the era of streaming as the original stage show reaches the living room screen, NY-based talent Eli Golden reveals both the struggles and satisfactions of finding out exactly, that during a pandemic-bound film set. Too long thriving has the running joke been that teenage on-screen characters remain acted by individuals who almost definitely look like they know too much about paying taxes!

Where the beauty of Jason Robert Brown’s original musical finds itself in its uniquely all-child cast, Tamra Davis’ 2022 Netflix adaptation only propels such a concept. As a young actor and budding musician, Golden shares the joys of the filming process in which the actor and character feel so comfortably entwined. Already accustomed to the strums of Netflix, acting in Emmy award-winning series Orange is the New Black, Golden’s first leading role as the neighbourly ‘Evan’, attempting to navigate a new school, an impending Bar Mitzvah and his parent’s divorce, certainly affirms his integrity as a theatrical ‘triple threat’! Brimming with aspiration for both stage and screen, Eli Golden undoubtedly delivers himself as the thespian of tomorrow’s age.  

1883 Magazine speaks to Eli Golden about his role in 13: The Musical, perfecting a performance, and more.

 

So, 13: The Musical movie is of course adapted from the innovative 2008 Broadway musical. I learned that you’d seen the Broadway production already, but did you find your performance as Evan draws particularly on the acting of the original Broadway cast or did you prefer to draw more from your interpretation of the character? 

I was a baby when it was on Broadway, so I had only seen it performed once or twice locally before I got the audition. I did try to watch things on YouTube, but I had to depend on my interpretation of Evan. 

 

Similar to Evan in both age and faith, you really can feel that connection to the character in your acting; and with it being a story centred on the chaos of new experiences around this time of adolescence, I feel that both the original production and the new Netflix adaptation make the perfect choice of defining it through music. I remember when I learned that Hairspray wasn’t a song and dance- are there any films or books etc you’ve found recently that could do with the musical treatment? 

This is not a recent movie, but I would have to say The Martian by Andy Wier. I thought the book and movie were spectacular and I would love to see Matt Damon sing and dance alone on Mars! The Godfather would be pretty great, too. 

 

Matt Damon singing a bit of Bowie’s Life on Mars is very much a ‘when worlds collide’ moment I’d pay money for! One of the first things that struck me about your film was how pleasant it was to see the construction of a middle school that is so welcoming to difference. Looking back on cliquey 80s flicks such as The Breakfast Club, we see trails of this in the groupings of popular students and borderline outcasts, and yet Evan’s arrival is met only with enthusiasm- I think it’s really important to see this type of unity in family films, do you agree? 

Absolutely! I think a great deal of inclusion in this movie is really what makes it special. You can see from start to finish how characters learn to accept others, and how characters learn to make mistakes and take accountability.

 

The dynamism between yourself and Gabriella Uhl (Patrice) made your scenes together my favourite to watch- I loved seeing a male/female friendship stay both affectionate but exactly that. Did you find that chemistry together clicked instantly when meeting? 

Yes! I remember the first time we read together. It was over Zoom which makes it more challenging to connect instantly but even so it was just easy to play off of her. They asked us to talk with one another and get to know each other and the first question I asked her was “What is your favourite food?”. She said sushi and I said bacon. We still talk about that moment! 

 

Sushi has my heart any day! I hear you were close to Debra Messing on set as well; any career-defining words of acting wisdom from her or any other co-worker’s past or present that you’ve taken on board? 

Working with Debra has taught me so much. I learned something new with every scene I did with her. She told me about comedic timing, acting choices, and how to always stay ready to be in character on set. She is amazing! 

 

It’s great to have a mentor like this, but I love that regardless of experience there’s no end to what you can learn from each other. Expanding this to the whole cast then, how did you find working on a set with predominate people your age? I expect you had the crew wrapped around your fingers! 

The crew was amazing! They were all so patient and kind, even though I’m sure it was a little bit of a headache for them with all of us being such close friends; we would just be laughing, singing, and talking constantly. It was such a close set, everyone from the AD to the extras, we all had a blast filming! I was so sad and, although I missed my family and friends back home, I didn’t want to leave Canada at the end of filming! 

 

I’m sure! And the narrative touches on the crucial topic of friendship, as well as identity and self-growth. Filming this during the Covid-19 Pandemic must’ve made these additionally complex for you- did you find the filming bubble kept you sane in potentially losing those vital years of youth? 

The most challenging part of doing this movie during the pandemic was singing and rehearsing in face shields and masks. With that being said, I made some of my best friends from being in that bubble! With the cast and set being in the same bubble, I was able to navigate the trying time with friends my age experiencing the same thing. I think filming this movie was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me when it comes to my career and social life! 

 

You are a native of the industry working on TV since the age of six! Did you find being in the entertainment world from such a young age made the experience of growing up different from your friends around you? 

It is the most surprising thing when I tell people my friends could care less! They know me as Eli who is their friend, not Eli the actor. I go to a public school and people who don’t know me just know I act, but my friends who do just know me as Eli. I am so lucky to work in this field because I have learned some incredible life lessons that most kids my age don’t get to learn until much later. I’ve learned about professionalism, how to speak well, and relate to people older than me. I’ve also learned about being grateful, and that you have to write a lot of thank you notes. 

 

We all know you can sing, and you’ve recently said you’d love to enter the world of Broadway but is there any show or role, in particular, you gunning to play in the future?

I would love to play Evan Hansen or Hamilton! Those are my 2 Broadway dream roles. 

 

They are the hot shots of the moment! I feel like you’d need a powerful memory to pull off learning lines, lyrics, and choreography all at once- I’d be terrible. How was that for you? 

The choreography was harder for me because I’m not a dancer. Jamal and Nicky spent a lot of time breaking it down for me. It was like starting from scratch for me since I had not taken lessons and didn’t have any technique, so I had to practice a bunch. 

As for lines…people ask me a lot about how I learn my lines all the time. I think because I do that all the time (auditions and roles) I have figured out what works for me. I have been doing this since I was young, so I think my brain is just used to doing it. Some parts feel more challenging than others, and might take longer for me to learn, but I just keep doing it over and over. I stay patient and just spend a little more time nailing them down.  

 

And finally, any special tricks to keep your voice in check for constant singing? I warm up, drink tea and use lozenges! 

 

Stream 13: The Musical now on Netflix. 

Interview Mia Roe

Photography Stephanie Diani

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