When Andrew Barth Feldman won the Jimmy Awards alongside Renee Rapp in 2018, Laura Benanti was the host. Now, in what Feldman describes as a “full-circle” moment, Benanti is playing Feldman’s mother in his first feature film, No Hard Feelings, in theatres nationwide. And the two reminisced about it.
“We were like this Broadway family [on the film’s set],” Feldman told Broadway Direct by phone the day after the movie’s big New York City premiere. So, as you might imagine, there were some musical moments when the cameras weren’t rolling. “One thing I remember was, Matthew [Broderick, who plays Feldman’s dad opposite Benanti] would sometimes sing, ‘I Am What I Am’ [from La Cage aux Folles] as Andre DeShields. I remember that happening. And that was pretty exciting.”
Feldman, now 21, was 16 when he wowed the judges of the national high school musical-theater showcase by singing “Goodbye” from Catch Me If You Can. It earned him a $10,000 college scholarship. That was quickly followed by being cast as the first actual teenager to play Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen back in January 2019.
In 2020, Feldman announced he would be going to Harvard University (presumably using the scholarship money he won at the Jimmy Awards) that fall and planned to study theater, dance, and media with a focus on writing and directing. But he pushed those plans back an entire year due to the pandemic. So he started college in the fall of 2021 and completed his first semester.
Then Netflix called with an opportunity to do a movie called A Tourist’s Guide to Love, which Feldman couldn’t pass up. “We were traveling in Vietnam for a month and a half. So I considered that as my study abroad,” he quipped. Following a leave of absence from Harvard, he was planning on going back in the fall of 2022 and had already picked out his classes.
Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence rang this time, with No Hard Feelings.
In the R-rated comedy, Feldman plays Percy, an awkward 19-year-old introvert from Montauk, New York, who’s heading off to Princeton. His helicopter parents, played by Benanti and Broderick, hire Lawrence’s Maddie — a desperate 32-year-old in need of cash and a car to save her house — to seduce Percy and break him out of his shell.
Surprisingly, Feldman said filming the nudity and sex scenes wasn’t so scary. “There were more emotional moments that I felt the pressure of, especially in the third act of the movie, when the truth starts to come out. There’s some real emotion that’s got to be there,” he said.
In many ways, the part was meant to be. Feldman was going from playing nerdy 17-year-old Evan Hansen to nerdy 19-year-old Percy. “There was just a series of full-circle, universe moments working on this movie, that it was just signs that it was exactly where I was supposed to be,” Feldman said.
Feldman lived in his Long Island childhood bedroom, much like his character, while filming a short distance away. So he was able to really immerse himself as Percy. And he finally got to attend prom by shooting a prom scene in the movie. Feldman missed his junior prom because he was in Dear Evan Hansen, and his senior prom was canceled because of the pandemic.
“It was a really special day. The premiere yesterday felt a lot like prom too. I was with all my friends, and everybody looked amazing,” he said. “It was just a celebration.”
He also got to sing in the movie with a version of “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. “There was a moment missing for Percy — a moment for him to come out of his shell in a real way and a turning point for him as the character. When I got cast, John Phillips, the writer, sent [director] Gene [Stupnitsky] and Jen a video of me singing “Rocket Man” at 54 Below. They thought [me at the piano in the film] would be the perfect thing to see him grow up a little bit.”
Now that the movie’s out, Feldman says he’s not in “any rush” to return to Harvard. “It’s always going to be there,” he said. “But I do really want to go back. Besides the allure of obviously having a degree and everything, there are classes I still want to take, experiences I still want to have.”
During the pandemic, Feldman starred as Linguini in the viral TikTok musical Ratatouille. Everyone on the internet believed he and the cartoon character had an uncanny resemblance. Feldman has also been working on an interactive murder-mystery party game series called Foul Play and tapped a who’s who from Broadway to be part of it. He’s also busy writing.
He’s “desperate to come back” to Broadway, but he feels the project has to be the right story and character. “That’s the only guiding force. Not what’s going to catapult me and get me taken more seriously. It’s got to be a story I’m passionate about — that I can look at and be proud that I was part of it.”
But will he continue to play a teenager at 21?
“I mean, I’m still a younger guy! As long as it’s truthful,” he said, laughing.
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
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