STAGE TO SCREENS: Andrew Rannells, From The Book of Mormon to TV's "The New Normal"

By Christopher Wallenberg
11 Sep 2012

Rannells and Justin Bartha on "The New Normal."
photo by Jordin Althaus/NBC

What were your early years in New York like as a struggling theatre actor? Were there times when you wanted to quit the business? What kept you going as an actor?
AR: There were. And I did leave for a short while. I stopped acting for some time to do voiceover work. I worked for a couple of years just doing animation voiceover work. I had gotten a little overwhelmed and a little beaten down because I was not booking jobs. So I had to take a little break. I did a lot of animation and a lot of commercials, which was great. Then after about three years, I decided that I needed to get back into auditioning for theatre roles again. And all my closest friends, like Jenn Gambatese and Gavin Creel, were still working in the business. So I auditioned for Hairspray right after I recommitted to doing theatre, and I booked that job. And that part got the ball rolling on this whole current wave of my career.

Both the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly recently published articles about the so-called "new normal" of actors and other famous figures like Anderson Cooper, Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto coming out as gay during media interviews in a no-big-whoop sort of way, without the big hullabaloo and magazine cover stories that once attended the coming out of celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres and Lance Bass. You were cited as an example of that in both articles and lumped in with the "trend" because you mentioned being gay in an interview. But you were never actually in the closet, were you?
AR: Well, I mean, that's the silly part. I worked for a long time in New York, and I lived my life honestly and openly. But nobody cared. Nobody asked me about my sexuality. Nobody paid attention. I mean, I took my boyfriend at the time to the Tonys for The Book of Mormon, and nobody asked me anything about that. It was not an issue. So it was funny then that I sort of became part of the story. It was a fancy group of people — Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons — so I was honored to be a part of it. But it wasn't a conscious decision on my part to come out publicly [in an interview]. I was already out, definitely within the Broadway community.

What's your perspective about actors who are in the closet in Hollywood? Do you think they have an obligation to come out and tell the truth about their sexuality — even if it could potentially harm their careers?
AR: I don't know. I mean, you can't really force anyone to be a spokesperson for anything. I don't think that's necessarily fair. You just have to live your life as honestly as you're able to, I suppose. I mean, coming out is not something that you can force anyone to do or should force anyone to do. It's something that I wish was easier. I wish it was easier for people to come out. But it's hard for a lot of reasons — and not always the ones that people assume. Sometimes families make it hard. Obviously society makes it very hard. Luckily for me I have a very supportive family and a loving group of friends. So it's never really proven to be much of an issue for me. I feel very fortunate about that — the fact that I get to live my life honestly and freely and have not been penalized for that professionally. I'm very, very grateful for that.

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