All cheerful, all supportive, but all of them also — and here’s the first clue — always on stage. “Even if they wound up taking advantage of you instead.”It was kind of a shock to the system for Epstein to leave that world of TV adulation and plunge into the no-frills theatre studies of the National Theatre School, but he made that choice, leaving Degrassi to do it.“Man, I had to struggle that first year.“Uh, yeah,” he concedes, “I do come from a high achievement family.”Older sister Gabi was the one who always had her eye on the showbiz prize and Epstein remembers “she was always singing, so as her kid brother, I just wanted to join in and one-up her.”Raise the curtain on playtime at the Epstein house.“I was obsessed with X-Men as a kid,” Epstein blushes, “and I would have to go and play every last one of them. So we would create these X Men-Barbie combos and perform weird musicals where they interacted with each other.”But despite all of this (and frequent family trips to Broadway to see musicals), Epstein didn’t want to go into show business.“I wanted to be a soccer player.” No surprise there. It was the first time I ever heard music that loud. I formed a band of my own shortly after that.“And for a while that was it for me. It was like boot camp for theatre, breaking you down, making you start from scratch. We met in April and then in December of that same year , we did another reading, and that was the end of that.
The closest thing to melding rock music and theatre that I can think of. You know what they say: you never forget your first.
But despite all this success and a supportive family that anyone would envy, life hasn’t always been a series of Epstein’s Greatest Hits.
Watching him in the rehearsal hall as he goes through the private hell of his character, Will, his eyes are hollow sockets as he sings the hurting lyrics of “Give Me Novocaine”: “Take away the sensation inside, bittersweet migraine in my head …
The good-time vibe comes honestly to him, from the world he grew up in.“I won the family lottery,” he boasts. Those were years full of media attention, screaming fans, Gemini Awards and, er, other benefits.“It allowed me to go out with girls I shouldn’t have gone out with.
“I come from the best family in the world.” And having met his father, Ian, his mother, Kathy and his sister, Gabi, one is inclined to agree. Look, when you’re an awkward teenager and suddenly girls way out of your league are going after you, sure, you’re gonna take advantage of it.” He pauses, remembering those days.