Who Is Zendaya’s ‘Challengers’ Costar Mike Faist? 5 Things to Know | Us Weekly

March 28, 2024

Zendayas Challengers Costar Mike Faist Has a Broadway Past 5 Things to Know
Zendaya, Mike Faist. Getty Images(2)

Mike Faist was already a known star of the stage before teaming up with Zendaya in the upcoming movie Challengers.

Faist, 32, got his start in Broadway musicals before branching out into film and TV. He generated buzz with the Prime Video series Panic, written and created by author Lauren Oliver, but it was his performance in the 2021 movie adaptation of West Side Story that caught Hollywood’s attention.

“Maybe this is so pretentious, but West Side was everything I had ever hoped to accomplish as an actor,” he told The New York Times in 2021. “It’s really crazy, but it was transcendental: either I didn’t feel like I was myself, or I was the most authentic version of myself. I can’t really tell which one. Having gone from having no money, wanting to just be a working actor — I don’t want to just be a working actor anymore. I had that experience.”

At the time, Faist confessed that he had a love-hate relationship with acting. “It’s not like I don’t plan on doing it. I just don’t want to follow the trajectory of what the industry wants me to do,” he explained, adding that he wasn’t interested in being told to “put on a cape and wear a mask.”

West Side Story earned Faist a BAFTA nod for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, but after the blockbuster hit, he turned his focus back to the theater. Faist joined Lucas Hedges in a 2023 West End production of Brokeback Mountain, playing Jack Twist (portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal in the 2005 movie).

Fans have been eager, however, to see Faist command the screen in Luca Guadagnino‘s Challengers alongside Zendaya, 27, and The Crown‘s Josh O’Connor. The tennis movie was set to debut in 2023 but was delayed due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

“The three of us, really, we had a lot of fun training together and working together. It was definitely a memorable summer,” Faist said in a 2023 interview.

Challengers hits theaters on April 26. Scroll down to learn more about Faist:

1. He Was on Food Stamps Before His Big Break

In a 2017 Interview magazine profile, Faist opened up about moving to New York to pursue acting. After dropping out of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, he was dragged “kicking and screaming” to an audition for a production of White Christmas in Ohio.

“I ended up booking it. I was collecting food stamps and getting paid $150 a week. We lived in the back of a McDonald’s parking lot, but I was a professional, working actor. That was my first gig. I was 17, and that gave me enough confidence to finally go and say, ‘I can actually do this,’” he said.

Zendayas Challengers Costar Mike Faist Has a Broadway Past 5 Things to Know
Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

2. He’s Originated 2 Roles on Broadway

Faist made his stage debut in the 2012 production of Newsies, originating the role of Morris Delancey on Broadway following a regional production in New Jersey. He was later cast in Dear Evan Hansen, playing Connor Murphy in the original cast alongside Ben Platt in the title role. Faist left the show in 2018 after two years.

Connor was played by Colton Ryan in the 2021 movie adaptation. “I feel like I couldn’t do it. I started that when I was, like, 21 … It really took a lot out of me, and I didn’t really have it in me anymore,” Faist told The New York Times.

3. He’s a Grammy Winner

Faist and his Dear Evan Hansen castmates won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album in 2018. He was also nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical at the 2017 Tony Awards.

4. Not All His Movies Are Musicals

While many fans will recognize Faist for his acclaimed performance in Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story as Jets leader Riff — Quentin Tarantino argued in a recent podcast interview that Faist should’ve won an Oscar for the 2021 film — Challengers is not his first non-musical role. He made his big screen debut in 2012’s The Unspeakable Act before appearing in 2022’s Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game and 2024’s The Bikeriders.

Zendayas Challengers Costar Mike Faist Has a Broadway Past 5 Things to Know
James Devaney/GC Images

5. He’s a Proud Ohioan

Faist grew up in Ohio and quickly found a way to stay true to his roots following his Broadway success. “One of the things that I’m working on is trying to create a playwright’s festival in Ohio where we bring New York actors, directors, and writers and we integrate them with local actors, directors, and writers,” he said in 2017. “It’s like a one-week playwright’s festival where we sit down, mix it up, and, at the end of the week, create a little reading series of these new plays and these new works.”

The inaugural Ohio Artists Gathering was held one year later.

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