In the ten years(!!) I have been writing about celebrity, Chris Evans has undergone an evolution. At the beginning of my tenure with LaineyGossip, I wondered about his ability to make Captain America, a fuddy-duddy B-list superhero, work for modern audiences. Around that time, he was going through his bro phase of celebrity, coming across in interviews as “Guy you want to have a beer with”, and indeed, one of his interviewers did, and the result was a rather appallingly exploitative profile (that was certainly A Time in celebrity profiling, remember it?). Then, as the Avengers became cultural icons and Evans an internet darling for his dog and his not-so-occasional digs at Trump, Evans entered his A-list phase of profiles, which were all about how he’s A Serious Dude, Not Just A Bro. Now, with Marvel in his rearview and a political website in his future, Evans has entered his defensive stage, when he seems guarded and slightly combative with his interviewers.
His latest profile is in Esquire, and it is objectively about his upcoming Apple TV+ show, Defending Jacob. He talks about the pleasure of working in the greater Boston area, of getting to stay in his own home while working, which, after a decade of globe-hopping for Marvel, must have been nice. He hosts—or rather, hosted, in a pre-quarantine world—karaoke nights at home with his friends. Evans has always seemed like more of a nerd than his biceps should allow, and that impression is not dispelled here, and honestly, it’s long been part of his charm. But I would not describe the Evans of this interview as “charming”.
Case in point: musicals. The writer, Mike Sager, asks about his rumored upcoming role as the dentist in the remake of Little Shop of Horrors. Sager asks if he wants to be in Little Shop because he loved musicals as a kid. The response:
“A cloud descends over his face. His brow beetles. He shifts himself uncomfortably in his chair.
“It’s not like, ‘Oh, I love musicals!’” he says, throwing up a pair of jazz hands.
At first, I can’t tell whether he’s joking.”
Sager then writes that this becomes a pattern, that Evans reacts a little defensively to pretty much every question. Here’s the thing though, just last year Evans said he was dying to be in the remake of Little Shop. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, he said, “I want to do a musical so badly. […] Someone told me they're [remaking] Little Shop of Horrors and I was like, ‘Oh, can I be down? Please? Can I be the dentist?’”
Dude, YOU SAID you “want to do a musical so badly”. Don’t get peeved when someone asks you about playing the EXACT ROLE you namechecked in a national publication! This reminds me of how pissy he got about people asking about his ever-impending retirement from playing Captain America, when he spent most of the 2010s talking about how he wanted to retire that role. It is very clear, based on the trajectory of his questions, that Sager did his homework on Evans before the interview. That he read and/or watched multiple previous interviews and based his questions on the things Evans has said in the past. And then for some reason, Evans is constantly roasting this guy for…doing his f-cking job.
The more famous he’s gotten, the more clearly uncomfortable Evans has gotten with the press. That free-wheeling interview from 2011 came in a time when Evans was B-list, at best, more of a “that guy” than a “hey isn’t that” guy, and he clearly didn’t feel any pressure to be any certain way in the press. You can almost clock to the moment when Evans realized his profile was getting too big to be that loose and, well, fun in interviews (2015, for the record, after his “peppy” public appearances became meme fodder). But this Esquire profile is the strangest damn thing. Sager is hardly asking anything inappropriate, he’s not at all challenging Evans’ boundaries of public vs. personal, at one point he compares Evans, flatteringly, to George Clooney. And yet Evans is spiky the whole time.
A decade has passed. Chris Evans is older now than he was then, he’s a different person. We’re all different people than we were ten years ago. To quote Calvin, “People change whether they decide to or not.” I’m not saying I expect Evans to be the same guy he was back then. But I miss that guy. Defensive Chris Evans is a lot less fun to cover.