Next Friday, 12th August, Eli Golden will be seen starring as lead character Evan Goldman in the Netflix release of 13: The Musical, which marks his major film debut and was filmed during the pandemic. Eli will be starring in the screen adaptation of the stage musical alongside a cast including Debra Messing (as Jessica), Peter Hermann (as Joel), Josh Peck (as Rabbi Shapiro) and Rhea Perlman (as Grandma Ruth), and the film’s music and lyrics were written by Jason Robert Brown. Last year, Eli played Max Blackwell in the thriller Hide and Seek, and his guest roles on TV have included Max in Deception and Dylan in Orange Is the New Black. As well as an acting career, Eli is currently working on his music, and will be releasing his debut album in the future. Catching up with Eli, he told us about the upcoming release of 13: The Musical on Netflix, starring as Evan Goldman for his major film debut and working on his original music.
You will be starring as Evan Goldman in the new Netflix adaptation 13: The Musical, how did it feel booking your role and making your major film debut?
It has honestly been such a dream come true! I remember when I got the call for this part, I had gotten very, very close to booking another part the week before but I did not get it. I wasn’t feeling Zoom auditions, as I found it very hard to convey my best performance over Zoom and told my mom I wouldn’t do another audition until I could be in person again. We got the email about the audition for 13: The Musical and, because I was so disappointed, I almost didn’t do the self-tape. Believe it or not, when it came down to the last round of the 13: The Musical audition process, I was on Zoom for eight hours straight that day. At the end of that session, they said “thank you” and that it was okay for me to go. I was so tired, I needed to go to the bathroom and eat something. I was in the bathroom and the casting director called my mom and asked me if they could get me back on the Zoom for two more minutes, as they “needed me for one last thing”. We ran back to the room we had set up for the audition, we got the computer back up and running, and I thought I was still auditioning. But to my surprise, that is when they told me and all of my cast members that we had gotten the parts. If you would have told me in March of 2020 that the next year I would be living in Canada, rehearsing and filming a Netflix musical, I would have told you you’re crazy. Yet somehow, a year-and-a-half later, I got the part, filmed a whole movie, and it’s about to be released. I love the responsibility and privilege of starring in this movie. I not only think this movie shows what kids can do, but it also has very important messages that I am so lucky I get to share with people all around the globe.
What was it like on the set of the musical and what was Evan like to play?
The set was the most lively set I’ve ever been on. There was never a moment where either me or my castmates weren’t singing something from the show or from our playlist. Trust me when I say we made each other laugh, and when you put 14 kids, who are close with each other, in the same room, things are bound to get a little rowdy. We did get into a little trouble for laughing during takes, after takes, and before takes. 13: The Musical filmed during the pandemic, so many of us were without our families for five months. We literally created our own little family, and we now have friendships that will last a lifetime.
How did you prepare to play Evan and what was it like getting into character?
Playing Evan was easy in some ways and harder in others. I remember every day after being on set, I would come home to get the scripts for the next day. I would set up my phone and record myself saying the lines… it helped me see what I was doing. Getting into character was very different for certain scenes. If Evan was having a conversation with friends, I felt he’d be more laid-back. However, there were also moments where Evan was conversing with his mom, grandma, dad, and Rabbi. In those conversations, I felt Evan would be a bit more respectful, well-spoken, and mature. I made sure to always wake up with Evan in my mind, and once I got off set, I was okay to be myself again. I didn’t treat it like method acting, although it was semi-method acting thinking back to it now.
What was the experience like working with the rest of the cast, which includes Debra Messing, Peter Hermann, Josh Peck and Rhea Perlman?
I had the best time with my cast. I’m still close with many people from the cast and crew and talk to them daily.
Working with the adults of the cast was very cool because they are all so great and I really felt like I had to play up. I learned so much from watching Debra and Rhea act together. They were both incredibly nice to me and spent time explaining techniques. Debra even shared some of her comedic timing tricks with me. When Peter walked on to the set the first day, I vividly remember thinking, “he’s tall!”. Peter treated me like an adult and talked to me like one, which I found super nice. I have to say when Tamra (Davis), the director of 13: The Musical, told me that she had cast Josh Peck as the Rabbi, I quite literally screamed. I had watched Drake & Josh when I was younger and I remember thinking I wanted to be funny like Josh. Working with him was so much fun, and he was so nice to me. Everyone in the adult cast taught me something unique that I will never forget.
How was it performing the musical numbers and recording the film’s soundtrack?
I remember coming in on the first day of rehearsals and feeling petrified. I wasn’t the most confident singer, and today I am still working constantly on my voice. For rehearsals, we sang in masks and face shields, which added to my overwhelming stress of trying to sound okay. I also have no formal dance training under my belt. Working with Jamal Sims and Nicky Anderson was intimidating. They did a great job of making me look like I know what I’m doing. Recording and filming all of the numbers was so much fun because it was after many weeks of rehearsals. It felt so great to hear the soundtrack and perform it all together.
How much did you know about 13: The Musical before auditioning and what was it like reading the script?
I had seen some productions of 13: The Musical before. When I found out they were still asking for people to audition, I watched videos on YouTube. When I first read the script in one of our initial read-throughs, it was so cool to see all the puzzle pieces coming together.
How do you think you’ll feel attending the red carpet premiere and seeing the completed film for the first time?
I cannot tell you how excited I am about our premiere. I hope COVID allows us to have one! I don’t know what I’m going to wear, but all I know is it’s going to be to the nines. I cannot wait to see what it finally comes out as and I am antsy to see what everyone else will wear. I have talked about it with my cast members for the last year-and-a-half so it’s going to be a very exciting night for all of us.
Why would you recommend watching the musical on Netflix and who do you think it will appeal to?
Because it is a fun, family movie, I believe it will appeal to a wide range of people. It is an uplifting story with so many good messages. One message is forgiveness, which I think is so important in our day and age. If you never forgive or allow people to make mistakes, there will be nobody else but you at the end of the day. Also, the movie puts a smile on your face. You’ll be tapping out the beat of each song. The music written by Jason Robert Brown really gets the endorphins going.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from filming 13: The Musical and is there anything you are looking forward to most for the release?
There are so many great moments I had with my castmates while on set. I remember while filming one of the musical numbers, Ramon Reed made a funny face at me while there was direct coverage on my face. He made me laugh mid-take, which made other people laugh. We couldn’t stop! We just had so much fun making this film. And with all of the amazing memories I have from set, I cannot wait for the world to see what we’ve created.
How was it playing Max Blackwell in last year’s thriller Hide and Seek?
Playing Max was an incredibly fun part to play and film. It was a very cool set, and I got to work with incredible actors that I’m still in touch with to this day. I had never worked on a thriller before. I loved getting to scream and act scared.
Is there anything you enjoy most about working as a guest on a TV series, which has seen you play Max in Deception and Dylan in Orange Is the New Black?
I like working on TV sets as everything is a lot quicker. I rarely had to worry about a script change, or a scene change while on a set of a TV show. Both parts were incredibly fun to play. I had a stunt double for Orange Is the New Black and they let me try the stunts she did for me. On the set of Deception, I got to watch Jack Cutmore-Scott do his magic.
You started your acting career working on commercials, can you tell us about some of the ones you have filmed?
I booked the first audition I ever tried out for. It was an Optimum commercial and it was at a time when my two front teeth had just fallen out and I guess I looked cute? I think starting in commercials and transitioning into film and television was the best route I could have taken. It’s a great way to learn.
We understand you are currently working on your upcoming debut album, how is this going and what can you say about it?
I have been writing and composing songs for the last five months and I am hoping to release an album as soon as possible. I have most of the songs written, and I am just deciding which songs will be on the album, and which songs won’t be. I take writing very seriously and treat it as an art form – it is a part of me told differently and it means a lot to me.
Where do you get the inspiration for your songwriting and what can listeners expect from your music?
I find most of my inspiration from R&B and pop singers. My favourites are Bruno Mars, Shawn Mendes, Olivia Rodrigo, Rex Orange County, Giveon, Khalid and Frank Ocean. You can expect a blend of ballads, pop songs and R&B tracks on the album.
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
My parents tell me that I was born for the stage and that when I would participate in a school play, everyone would be amazed by how I stayed in character. I have always loved grabbing the mic and singing my heart out whenever I got the chance. I don’t do it as much today, but when I was younger, if I ever got lost, my parents would always say they would look to the stage just to see me up there with the mic. My mom was a singer-songwriter when she was younger and she prayed for her children never to be in the entertainment business, but you get what you get and you don’t get upset, right?
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I love a really good film with exceptional acting and storyline. My favourites when it comes to acting are legends like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Samuel L. Jackson, Jim Carrey, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Paul Rudd and Leonardo DiCaprio.
I like to spend time writing music, exercising, playing video games on my computer or hanging out with my friends.
Apart from the release of 13: The Musical and working on your debut album, what are you hoping the rest of 2022 brings for your career?
I am open to whatever comes at me. I want to do as much as I can to expand my career in as many ways as possible. Hopefully, I will get more chances to act and with the release of my album, I can play my music for people. One of my dreams right now is to work on an action movie. I’d LOVE to write a song with Bruno Mars, be in a movie with Jim Carrey and perform at Madison Square Garden.
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