It was the end of an era. During a week of tear-filled good-byes in early June, Andrew Rannells and Josh Gad, the stars of Broadway's ridiculously popular musical The Book of Mormon, passed their Temple garments to the new elders and took their final bows. But with the show -- written by the creators of South Park -- being the hottest ticket on Broadway, the boys were bound to move on. Gad will appear in the new White House comedy 1600 Penn on NBC, and both Glee's Ryan Murphy and Girls' Lena Dunham saw the cartoonishly handsome Rannells as something more than the uptight straight man to Gad's Chris Farley-as-a-religious-zealot shtick.
Last year, Dunham cast him as her character Hannah's formerly closeted, HPV-carrying, ex-boyfriend on her hit HBO show. "The part was supposed to be this yoga instructor with a beard, but she liked me and so I did my own take on it," says Rannells, who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, "dancing around to Solid Gold" and pretending he was Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2. He'll have a bigger role in the second season as Hannah's new roommate. And Murphy tapped Rannells to star in his groundbreaking new NBC sitcom The New Normal about a gay couple who decide to have a baby with a surrogate. Rannells plays Bryan, the flamboyant partner (loosely based on Murphy himself) of the more serious "straight" David (Justin Bartha). "I was happy to be the more outrageous one, particularly after having to be the straight man for a year and a half," says Rannells, a few days before he moved from New York -- his home for the past 15 years -- to L.A.
But like TV actors Jim Parsons and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Rannells hopes to keep crawlin' back to Broadway. "I used to joke that I would never get cast in a Broadway show because they would always cast someone who'd been on television. It didn't matter what kind of television it was. I was like, 'Do I have to go on The Real World?' I always feel sad seeing Ruthie from Hawaii at like Carlos'n Charlie's," he says with feigned concern. "It could have gone that way."
The New Normal premieres September 11th on NBC.