It’s funny, at times shocking, and poignant, but Ryan Murphy’s “The New Normal” carries more than a message — it’s also the vehicle bringing one of AccessHollywood.com’s Fresh Faces of Fall TV — Andrew Rannells — to the masses.
“It’s weird. I don’t really know what to make of it,” Rannells told Access of being exposed on a national scale to a primetime network television audience, via his role as Bryan Collins in the NBC comedy. “I recognize that it’s different and there’s obviously more sort of, eyes, but… I’m in it, but I can’t really like, see it yet.”
A Broadway star, who brought down the house (and left critics panting) in “The Book of Mormon,” Rannell’s first real taste of life in front of the TV cameras was playing Hannah’s (Lena Dunham) gay ex-boyfriend earlier this year in HBO’s “Girls.” (Click HERE to see a clip.)
So for Rannells, “The New Normal” is truly a new experience. Not only is the show, which sees him playing Bryan, the computer-challenged, fashion-gifted half of a loving gay couple (opposite Justin Bartha as the nerdier David Murray), his first starring TV vehicle, but it required Rannells to step off of the Great White Way and swap the East Coast for the West.
“I think it was a combination of things,” the Omaha-bred actor told Access of making the move. “I think that, obviously, Ryan, if he asks you to a television show for him, you should say, ‘Yes,’ because he’s fantastic… And I’ve been working on Broadway for the past well, seven, eight years.
“‘The Book of Mormon’ was the first show that I did that I opened in New York and obviously that was a huge thing for me, but I did it for a year-and-a-half; we worked on it for close to two years and at a certain point it’s like, [it’s] time to move on to something new,” he continued. “I don’t want to permanently leave that, but this is obviously such a great opportunity.”
Playing Elder Price in Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s “Book of Mormon,” Rannells got plenty of attention and Newsweek even put the actor on the cover. “Technically. With Mitt Romney’s head,” he added, referring to an issue of the magazine in June 2011, which featured Rannells’ body, in an image from the musical, with the politician’s head in place of his own.
And Rannells knows if “The New Normal” takes off, the magazines will come calling with real offers to put the star – and his castmates – on their covers.
“To be on the cover and not have done anything bad is pretty amazing. It’s the same thing with Time magazine, to be on the cover of Time, but not because you’ve murdered someone, it’s like, that’s a big deal,” he said, showing he’s funny without writers, when Access asked what a potentical cover would mean. “So… hopefully.”
His profile is growing, but Rannells is still feeling a bit wide-eyed as he settles into life as a rising star of primetime television, thanks to his heartfelt and hysterical performance on “The New Normal.”
“We’ve had ads in, like, People magazine and that’s very strange to be included in a story in that magazine, particularly because you’re raised as a kid reading People. It’s very strange,” he said. “There’s little things that you kind of forget about, or you forget that are possible, and then all of a sudden you’re doing [them]… Like today, I [looked] at my schedule and I’m like, ‘What the hell? Driving into this NBC lot, and you’re sitting down with Billy Bush.’
“[In] Los Angeles — every day I drive on to the Paramount lot I sort of can’t believe that that’s where I work. You drive through that gate and you’re like, ‘I can’t believe this I my life today,’” he said.
Catch Rannells in “The New Normal,” Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC – and in his big screen debut in “Bachelorette,” in theaters now.
-- Jolie Lash