Ethan Slater was a sophomore when he took a train from Poughkeepsie for an audition that would secure him his first Broadway musical. From playing SpongeBob to getting cast in the highly anticipated movie Wicked alongside pop icon Ariana Grande, the Jewish-American actor’s journey has been a fascinating one.
An actor, writer, singer and composer, Ethan Samuel Slater has been a familiar name in the Broadway scene for years now. The multi-hyphenate is best known for playing the titular character in Kyle Jarrow’s musical, SpongeBob SquarePants, directed by Tina Landau in 2016.
Other stellar works in his acting portfolio include Baghdaddy (2017), Camelot (2019), Assassins (2020), Goodnight, Oscar (2022) and Wicked (2024). Slater has also appeared in several short films including Lightning Bugs in a Jar (2015) and Evol: The Theory of Love (2015). His TV show appearances include hits like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017-2023).
With such a diverse oeuvre, Slater has earned several accolades such as the 2018 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical for SpongeBob SquarePants. He also won the Broadway Audience Awards for Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Male) for the same role that year.
A Tony nominee, Slater has been grabbing headlines, of late, for reportedly dating his Wicked co-star, Grande.
Things to know about Ethan Slater, his career and links to Ariana Grande
Who is Ethan Slater?
Born in New York to Jewish parents on 2 June 1992, Slater is a popular American actor. He grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland along with his two sisters and attended a private pluralistic JK-12 school in North Bethesda followed by the Georgetown Day School.
He first found his footing in the industry with a theatre appearance at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in July 2015 as Luis in John Tartaglia’s musical Claudio Quest. This earned him a nomination for Best Individual Performance in the festival’s awards.
Slater’s love for the theatre started early on
According to a 2018 Broadway League press release, Slater loved plays as a kid. So much so that one of his favourite things to do with family was going to the theatre.
Sharing the reason, the actor said it wasn’t because “it left me in awe but I left with something to talk about with my family and friends. It doesn’t go away when you leave the building, it sticks with you!”
Slater has been a thespian since his school days
When asked if he would like to do anything apart from Broadway, Slater shared in a June 2018 Deadline interview that he loved getting involved in plays during his school days.
He said, “I was a big drama person when I was in school. I love doing comedy, but it wasn’t my main thing. So, I would love to be able to do a drama, do a play, if they ask me.”
He was roped in for SpongeBob while at University
After his schooling in Maryland, Slater attended Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was during his sophomore year here that he attended a casting call for a Romeo and Juliet production. The casting director suggested Slater audition for the Tina Landau project, which later turned out to be the SpongeBob musical.
Having been a part of the production since he was 19, Slater finally made his Broadway debut when it premiered in 2017.
Speaking about his character, the actor told New York Theater Guide, “Even though I’m playing a sponge, I’m also playing a human and a relatable person. That was a challenge that I had to keep on touching base with. When I’m doing a backbend and my head is nearly grazing the floor, I’m still connected to a real emotional place!”
Paul Simon served as Slater’s childhood inspiration
Slater mentioned in an August 2021 interview with Pop-Culturalist.com that music meant a lot to him as a kid.
He also added that it was American musician Paul Simon who inspired him the most. “I was really, really influenced by Paul Simon because of my dad; he loved Paul Simon. He played [Simon’s] records all the time. I grew up listening to Graceland and it just seeped into my bones,” he recalled.
He co-wrote a musical based on his mother’s demise
Did you know Slater had co-written the musical Edge of the World based on the loss of his mother?
Talking about it in the Pop-Culturalist.com interview, the actor said, “One of the big things is the mining [of] my personal experience for writing. When I was seven years old, my mom died, and so that’s been a really big, formative thing in my life. She had left this huge imprint on me, even though I had so few memories.”
Relating this personal experience to the musical, Slater further added, “And that’s what happens to this character, Ben. He grows up not knowing his mom, being raised by a single dad, and yet the impact she has on his life and his life trajectory is immeasurable. So those are the two inspirational elements that came together.”
Slater co-wrote the musical with long-term best friend and writer-performer, Nick Blaemire.
Ethan Slater and Ariana Grande dating rumours
According to TMZ sources, the Wicked co-stars started dating “several months ago during production”. However, they also clarified that the two started dating only after separation from their respective spouses.
Confirming this, Us Weekly reported, “Ariana and Ethan are dating; however, things are fairly new. Ariana Grande and Dalton Gomez split in January, and Ethan is separated from his wife. Ariana and Ethan have only recently begun seeing each other but they have a lot of fun together and are enjoying each other’s company.”
While news of the relationship broke out in July 2023, earlier in March 2023, the two were photographed sitting together while celebrating their Wicked co-star Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win. In addition, an Entertainment Tonight source said they have a lot in common and enjoy spending time together.
Slater was married to musician Lily Jay
Prior to being involved with Grande, Slater was married to his school sweetheart, Australian actor-musician Lily Jay.
It was in 2012 that the duo started dating. They eventually got married in November 2018 and welcomed their first child, a son, in August 2022.
People reported that Slater and his wife separated after news of the former dating Grande became public on 20 July 2023.
On 22 July 2023, a source close to Lilly told ET that the new mother is “devastated” and further added that “this is not the future she had in mind”.
What does Slater play in Wicked?
In 2022, it was revealed that Slater would join the Wicked cast alongside Grande and Yeoh.
The actor is playing Boq, a university friend of Elphaba (Cynthia Erivo) and Glinda (Grande). He will also be the love interest of Nessarose (Marissa Bode).
Based on acclaimed author Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the movie tells the story of Elphaba Thropp. The plot will focus on her school days when she first befriended the popular Glinda and when the duo ended up falling for the same man, Fiyero (Jonathan Bailey).
Directed by Crazy Rich Asians (2018) fame Jon M. Chu, Wicked part one is slated to release in November 2024.
Hero image: Courtesy Ethan Slater/Instagram; featured image: Courtesy IMDb
This story first appeared here.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Ethan Slater married musician Lily Jay in 2018. According to sources, the duo parted ways in 2023.
Answer: Yes, Slater has a son with ex wife, Lily Jay.
Answer: Yes. According to multiple sources Slater and Grande are the new couple in Hollywood. A July 2023 report by 'TMZ' revealed that "Ethan began dating Ariana several months ago" during production of their upcoming movie 'Wicked'.
Answer: Slater is 31 years old as of July 2023.
Answer: Slater is popular for playing the lead role SpongeBob SquarePants in Kyle Jarrow's Broadway musical of the same name directed by Tina Landau in 2016. He is also best known for the 2020 Classic stage company musical 'Assasins'.