Age & Hometown: 30; Cleveland, OH
Current Role: Tap dancing away as Elder McKinley, a closeted Mormon missionary who goes to great lengths to suppress his homosexuality, in Broadway's new hit musical, The Book of Mormon.
Bee Buddies: O'Malley knew very little about Mormons before playing one onstage, but his performing career did get an early kickstart from playing Joseph in a second grade Christmas pageant. "I took it so seriously and acted like that was my Broadway debut," he recalls of the nativity scene. "Right after that, I told my mom [acting] is what I wanted to do the rest of my life." Seventeen years later, armed with a degree from Carnegie Mellon, O'Malley actually made it to Broadway as a replacement in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, alongside his college roommate and current Mormon co-star Josh Gad. "Getting to bow on a Broadway stage next to someone whose wedding I was in is such a gift," he says of Gad. "He's a genius and a wonderful human being, but don't tell him I said that." (Sorry, Rory!)
Turn It Off: Playing a character struggling with coming out is "fascinating" for the openly gay actor. "I love how passionate Elder McKinley is about his faith," O'Malley says, "but he's a perfectionist in a bad way…to the point he denies his true feelings. It’s a common story, unfortunately." O'Malley, who came out at age 19, says he didn't feel repressed due to his Catholic upbringing. “You can’t waste time in your life trying to hide the truth," he says of pressure to remain in the closet. "The way to talk about something sad is to sing a funny song about it." With Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez and South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone behind Mormon's score, there's no shortage of hilarious tunes, including O'Malley's standout number, "Turn It Off." "I was blown away by how hard they work," he says of the writers. "This show could’ve opened two seasons ago because it was already so funny, but they are so meticulous."
Making an Impact: While McKinley hides his feelings, O'Malley has done the opposite as a co-founder of Broadway Impact, an activism group dedicated to marriage equality. "If we start fighting back, we can overcome these terrible laws and change things," he says. To raise money for the cause, the actor trained for last year's New York City Marathon, raising $5,000. "The first 20 miles were amazing," he recalls. "I was screaming and high-fiving people along the way, but then I hit mile 21 and someone just turned off the gas. [Finishing the race] was the greatest experience of my life."