John Gallagher Jr. rose to Broadway fame playing troubled heroes in Spring Awakening (winning a Tony as suicidal Moritz) and American Idiot (as a druggie musician). These days, the talented young star is immersed in the wordy world of Aaron Sorkin as producer Jim Harper in HBO’s new drama The Newsroom. And this time around, it looks like his shy but adorable character just might get the girl—Tony nominee Alison Pill, as anxiety-ridden associate producer Maggie Jordan. Back in New York to play a concert at Rockwood Music Hall, Gallagher spoke to Broadway.com about The Newsroom, his thoughts on the Spring Awakening movie, and more:
Are you having fun trading quips with Broadway greats like Sam Waterston and Jeff Daniels in The Newsroom?
It’s a tremendous group of actors, and they make it feel not quite like going to work. It feels like going to the playground, and they’re a lot of fun to play with.
You’re part of what we’ve dubbed a “Tony love triangle” with Alison Pill and Thomas Sadoski. Did you know one another?
Alison and I have known each other for 10 years. We did an independent movie together called Pieces of April [released in 2003] in which we played brother and sister, so it’s funny to me that we are playing prospective love interests. I had met Tom Sadoski several times through mutual friends and had seen him onstage; it’s great to feel like there is this community that exists in New York, and all of a sudden we all found ourselves on a soundstage in L.A. filming this television show!
You’ve played your share of messed-up characters on stage. Is it a relief to play a normal, contemporary guy?
One of the things I love about my character is that Jim is a consummate professional when it comes to the workplace—he’s a multitasker, he’s a news geek who sleeps and breathes the news—but because he has funneled all of his care and time into his work, his personal life suffers. He’s not the suavest guy when it comes to the ladies! [Laughs.] I was really interested in the fact that this guy is so brilliant in one area of his life and such a novice when it comes to basic social skills and day-to-day interactions.
You had a guest-starring role as a campaign volunteer in Aaron Sorkin’s previous hit, The West Wing. Did that help you get this part?
No, as a matter of fact, Aaron Sorkin didn’t even connect until the end of shooting season one of The Newsroom that I was the same guy. We shot that episode in 2002, when I was 18. I had really long hair and I looked entirely different. I never got to meet Aaron when we were doing that.
Spring Awakening had so many loyal fans. Do you keep up with Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele and the rest of your castmates?
As much as we can. Anytime we find ourselves in the same place, we try to get together. Jonathan texted me the night The Newsroom premiered. He watched it and sent me a very nice message about how much he liked it. I just saw Remy Zaken the other night; I played a concert here in New York, and she checked it out. It’s always fun to see what everybody’s working on, because it’s such a talented group.
Are you surprised that you’ve all done so well?
It’s not a surprise in the sense that I’m such a fan of everyone I worked with on Spring Awakening—I felt like any one of them could have gone on to conquer the world. Lea and Jonathan, in particular, are just such stars that I knew it was in the cards for them from the beginning.
Would you like to re-create your performance in the Spring Awakening movie?
Oh man, I have no idea. I think we’re probably too old now [laughs]. Who knows what they have in mind for that? It would certainly be fun to do something like a reunion concert or a one-night-only type of performance, but I have a feeling that they’re probably going to want to get people who are little more age-appropriate if and when they finally make that film.