Broadway and "Glee" Star Jonathan Groff Chats About Normal Heart Film, HBO Series and More

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20 Jul 2013

Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff
Photo by Joseph Marzullo

Jonathan Groff, the Tony-nominated Spring Awakening actor who has gone on to TV and film success in "Glee," "Boss" and "Taking Woodstock," is poised to become one of HBO's newest stars in 2014.

The gifted young actor, who has also impressed in New York productions of The Singing Forest, The Submission and the outdoor Public Theater staging of Hair, has landed roles in both the made-for-HBO film version of Larry Kramer's landmark AIDS drama The Normal Heart and an untitled comedy series about four gay friends, also for the award-winning cable network.

Filming for HBO's "The Normal Heart," which features direction by Emmy winner Ryan Murphy ("Glee") and a screenplay adapted by playwright Kramer, began last month in Fire Island. Groff plays Craig, who is the first in a group of friends to die from the then-unnamed disease at the dawn of the AIDS crisis. Groff, who spoke with towards the end of June, said the first week of filming was "kind of amazing. The play is so sad and intense, but the beginning of [the film] takes place on Fire Island, just as the disease is starting to hit, and so we got to shoot all of the fun stuff this week, like the Fire Island party time. It was a moment of levity, and it was a blast. I've never been on Fire Island before. ... It was so beautiful. We were in the Pines, and they're shooting in places that have never been shot at before."

The made-for-TV film boasts a starry cast led by Academy Award winner Julia Roberts as Dr. Emma Brookner, Mark Ruffalo as the protagonist Ned Weeks, Matt Bomer as Felix Turner, Taylor Kitsch as AIDS activist Bruce Niles, Emmy winner Jim Parsons as Tommy Boatwright (reprising the role he played on Broadway) and Tony winner Joe Mantello, who played Weeks on Broadway, as Mickey Marcus.

Jonathan Groff in Spring Awakening.
photo by Joan Marcus

"It's an incredible cast," Groff enthused. "I'm just so proud to be a part of that piece. I saw the play at the Public when it was there like ten years ago with Raul Esparza and was blown away by that. And, I saw it again this last time around when it was on Broadway and just cried through the whole thing — so powerful. I hope that the movie turns out great, but I think that it certainly has all of the right ingredients. And, everybody working on it is very passionate.

"People are just so excited that this movie is being made," he continued. "I think people really want this story to be told for the masses because theatre people know about it, and obviously everyone in New York saw the revival two years ago, but being on TV and being on HBO, it's hopefully going to reach a whole new audience — a wider audience and a whole, hopefully, new audience of people my age and younger… I was born in 1985, and so there's a whole generation growing up that has heard tell of it, but didn't really live through it the way the generation before us did. I think, historically and in terms of the gay community, it's amazing that this movie is going to be all over TV and the story is going to be out there, and people are going to be talking about it. I think it's incredible."


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