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

By Christopher Wallenberg
11 Sep 2012

Rannells in The Book of Mormon.
Photo by Joan Marcus

There does seem to be more Broadway stars and actors associated with theatre working in television than ever before — from the regulars and guest stars that pop up on "30 Rock" and "The Good Wife" to Laura Linney and Mary-Louise Parker, Audra McDonald on "Private Practice," Sutton Foster on "Bunheads," and Laura Benanti on the new Matthew Perry series "Go On."
AR: People keep asking me about this trend of Broadway performers transitioning into TV and film. I think it's cyclical though. It happens every 10 or 15 years. So I'm really thrilled to be a part of this current wave. But you know, there's been a lot of really great folks that have come from the Broadway and theatre worlds that sometimes people forget. Jane Krakowski and Taye Diggs and Jesse Martin all came from Broadway. They've been on TV for so long that you forget musical-theatre is where they actually started.

Why do you think it's so challenging for Broadway actors with a resume dominated by musical theatre to get casting agents, directors, and producers to be open-minded and take them seriously in the casting process?
AR: As an actor, particularly in theatre, you're trying to get jobs on TV; but you're also losing jobs in theatre to people who are on television. [Laughs.] I had many, many auditions for things that ended up going to someone who had been on a single TV show or who had done a single movie — and it didn't really matter how successful it was. Casting directors, I think, are just drawn to those people, because they feel like there's more momentum there or something. So it can be very frustrating as a theatre actor, because you kind of get stuck in the middle sometimes. That's why The Book of Mormon was a real gift for me, because Trey [Parker] and Matt [Stone] came in not really caring about any of those rules that theatre casting directors sometimes follow. They didn't want to cast a celebrity. They didn't want a star. They wanted to find somebody who they thought was funny and that would serve their show well. I had never opened a show on Broadway before; I didn't have a TV series; I was never in a movie. And they gave me that opportunity, in a way that I think a lot of other New York theatre folks were not willing to take those chances. But Trey and Matt did. So I will always be grateful to them for that.

Are Trey and Matt working on a Book of Mormon movie? Is there any truth to that rumor? Do you think it will happen?
A: You know, there's a listing on IMdb that is bullshit, I'll be honest. I think that you can post things on IMdb sometimes without any credentials. So that page was created, and I think it caused a lot of rumors and a lot of jibber-jabber. For Trey and Matt and Bobby [Lopez], I think that their focus now is getting the new tour on its feet, getting the production in Chicago up and running, and then getting the production in London set. And they're committed to making great theatre, which is amazing. So to my knowledge, they're not in a huge rush to make a movie out of this.