Film Music

According to Annie Hamilton, Actor and Musician Ben Ross Is the Kind of Guy You Want All to Yourself

Actor Ben Ross in his dressing room. All images courtesy of Ross.

I’m not Ben Ross’s best friend. He might be mine, but I know I can’t claim that title in his life. There are too many of us. It would be unfair of me. I don’t know where exactly I fall in the line up—and I KNOW it’s not a contest—but what I can say: I wish he were all mine.

I wish he were all mine because he’s so god damn good at it. He’s talented at being a good friend.

The greatest actors are often referred to as good listeners. I’ve never understood what that means. The more one tries to listen, the less one is actually listening. In knowing Ben, I don’t think real listening can be learned. Real listening requires investment; it requires sacrifice. Ben is a great actor, but mostly, he’s a devoted investor in people: not just his friends or in his peers, but in the world around him. 

Ben went to the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama for one year (yes, one single year)—he had to drop out in order to join the Broadway company of Dear Evan Hansen in 2017. He launched the first national tour of the show as the titular role, and then went on to make his film debut in Tick, Tick… Boom! opposite Andrew Garfield on Netflix. Over the last year, Ben originated the lead role in a new musical from Tony-award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown entitled The Connector at MCC theater. He played Ethan Dobson, an Ivy-League graduate trying to rise in the ranks of a downtown New York magazine in the mid-'90s. 


So, yes. I fell in love with him first as an actor (when we met, I was merely a fan)—and then, as a person I could learn from. Ben tells me when I’m behaving badly. He drafts texts for me. He tells me when my tears are actually just anger. He cheers me on and he delivers hard truths.

What most interests me about Ben is his ability to separate himself from his talent. Ben is one of the most nuanced and intelligent and soulful artists I’ve ever met; and yet, I don’t think about his work when I’m around him. His humility and his sense of humor allow us all—his many fans and friends—to treat him like he’s only ours. 

And he really was only mine for an hour on FaceTime a couple of days ago. Below is our conversation.

Annie Hamilton: I’m recording everything. We’re recording now.

Ben Ross: We’re recording now!

Hamilton: When I went to see theater growing up, I’d watch the show and immediately start daydreaming about the actors when they got off-stage. What were they going home to? What did their apartments look like? What were they facing in their personal life? Could they be going through a break up? So I’m wondering about your personal life during the run of The Connector—how it seeped into the role, and how you brought what was happening in your life into the part. 

Ross: I was also that person when I was younger, wondering about the actors. How are they getting home? I always pictured them all on the Upper West Side. When you’re doing a musical like The Connector, with the amount of singing I had to do in it, the rest of my life sort of… crumbled into nothingness. Luckily at this point, I have the kinds of friends in my life who understand that during the rehearsal process into the previews into the opening of the show—they’re not going to see or hear from me very much.


Hamilton: What was your head like, not getting to see your friends? You’re very social. Where was your head during the show?

Ross: Kind of horrible during the days. It’s incredibly isolating. 

Hamilton: Ethan—the character you played—that role does quite lend itself to being isolated, to isolation.

Ross: Honestly, it’s not even about that. It would be cool if I was really going method and blending my work and personal life… but in reality, my isolation was coming from more of a physical need—more like an athlete. During The Connector, I really wanted to do all of the shows. I didn’t want to get sick; I didn’t want to lose my voice. I didn’t want to fuck around too much. This was my first time originating a role. So I wanted to have complete and utter control over my performance. I didn’t want any unwanted variables to come into play. So part of that was just sitting at home quietly so that my voice could be exactly what I needed it to be that day.

Hamilton: That’s amazing, Ben. And honest. I do believe that you specifically are able to separate the job from your personal life, perhaps better and with more consistency than any other actor I know. Which is good, 'cus you’re working back-to-back right now. You’re about to begin working on Gatsby.

Ross: Yeah. I’m starting rehearsals for Gatsby: An American Myth which is a musical of the novel The Great Gatsby with music written by Florence Welch and Thomas Bartlett. It’s having its premiere at the American Repertory Theater this summer. I’m playing Nick Carraway; I’m really excited about it. 


Hamilton: What’s been happening leading up to rehearsal?

Ross: I’ve been working on and off in workshops of the show since the spring of 2023. So to finally see it come to fruition in a full production… it’s a dream. The book has been adapted by Martyna Majok. It’s being directed by Rachel Chavkin, and choreographed by Sonya Tayeh—three women at the top of their fields coming together. It’s the collaboration of the decade! 

Hamilton: Seriously.

Ross: And Sandy Powell is designing the costumes. I kinda can’t even believe it. The score is just so truly beautiful and unlike any music I’ve ever gotten to sing before, especially in a musical. 

Hamilton: What’s Nick like? I haven’t brushed up on Gatsby in years.

Ross: Nick is a character that’s been interpreted in a few different ways over the years. Something that really excited me about our production, is that from the beginning the creative team wanted to portray Nick as a gay man who is at a turning point in his life—leaving the war, leaving his twenties, searching for purpose, safety, love, and excitement. I’m just at the tip of my exploration now, and it’s already been really thrilling. 


Hamilton: I’m pivoting. Is there something that you wanted to talk about today that I’m not asking?

Ross: Well, I just know that you were a musical lover growing up.

Hamilton: I was not. I started listening to musicals three years ago, and I became obsessed. I wasn’t allowed to see them growing up. My mom thought they were tacky. And so I started with Tick, Tick… Boom! That was the first musical I fell in love with.

Ross: You might also have to say that this is how we met.

Hamilton: Uh, that’s not how we met.

Ross: You came up to me! At that screening!

Hamilton: Wait. What did I say?

Ross: You said, “Hi. My name is Annie. We have a lot of mutual friends. I just watched Tick Tick... Boom! last night, and you were wonderful in it. I could show you RIGHT NOW that I was texting my manager about it this morning.” And then you took out your texts with your manager, and showed me. So Tick Tick... Boom! was our in. 


Hamilton: Really? I thought I did that crazy opening line—but I guess that came later.

Ross: That was day one, babe. 

Hamilton: Fine. Okay. I love Tick Tick... Boom! And you’re amazing in it. And for some reason I thought that being your fan was the best way to become your friend. I’m gonna ask you a series of questions that I shouldn’t be asking to wrap this thing up. So, give me hell.

Ross: I’m ready.

Hamilton: What kind of person most scares you in this world?

Ross: Social climbers.

Hamilton: What’s your favorite memory of you in a bath?

Ross: Two nights ago, I was in the bath, and I accidentally spilled candle wax all over my body. I kind of liked it.

Hamilton: Are you a suck-up?

Ross: Yeah.

Hamilton: Are you a mysterious person?

Ross: No.


Hamilton: What was the shittiest period of your life?

Ross: The summer after my freshman year of college.

Hamilton: How did you get out of it?

Ross: I clung to the people that were kind to me.

Hamilton: Fuck yeah. What’s your worst habit?

Ross: Uhhh... I wanna go somewhere very deep here. But it’s just sitting for hours on my phone. Unfortunately, that is the answer.

Hamilton: Healthy!

Ross: I mean, I’ve lost days. Like months of my life probably.

Hamilton: Being a phone monster is the only thing that gives me comfort lately. Okay, how do I remind you of yourself?

Ross: Well, that story of how you came up to me is, I think, something that I would have done when I had more confidence. I had it when I was younger, and then it went away when I was in my early twenties. When you came up to me, I was like, “I can be an adult who has the gravitas to go up to someone that they respect and just flat out say that I respect them.”


Hamilton: I mean, I gotta control that impulse. But for you it was so worth it. I read the room. 

Ross: You did. I see the way you satisfy that want in your heart, and it never feels malicious—it never feels manipulative. It’s from passion. I think that’s a beautiful thing.

Hamilton: It’s a problem loving so many people. How often do you get embarrassed?

Ross: Not very often.

Hamilton: That’s actually true for you. Now, I need to talk to you about my personal life so I’m going to stop recording.

Ross: Sounds good.

Hamilton: I love you!

Ross: I love you too, but we’re not hanging up yet.