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What's Up, Josh Gad? The 1600 Penn Star on Hanging Out With the Obama Daughters and the Genius of Ashton Kutcher

What's Up, Josh Gad? The 1600 Penn Star on Hanging Out With the Obama Daughters and the Genius of Ashton Kutcher
Josh Gad in '1600 Penn'
'The more I read [the pilot] I said, ‘If I see any other son of a bitch play this role, I’m going to be really upset.''

After scoring a Tony nomination as The Book of Mormon’s lovable doofus Elder Cunnigham, Josh Gad is refocusing his career in the political arena...on TV, at least. Gad stars as Skip, the awkward but endearing son of the U.S. president (Broadway vet Bill Pullman) in NBC's new sitcom 1600 Penn. caught up with Gad to talk about life in the White House, his upcoming Steve Jobs bio movie and more. 

Not only do you star on 1600 Penn, but you also serve as a writer and producer. Has it been difficult to balance all your responsibilities?
It’s crazy. Just when I think I’m done with the acting portion, I have to run to the writers' room and help break stories, then I have to go look at edits and discuss casting decisions. It’s a lot harder than the definition on Wikipedia. I’m making mistakes and learning from them and growing each day, so it’s been a blast.

In the pilot episode, Skip gets kicked out of school for a prank gone wrong. Did you get in trouble for any similar behavior during college?
Oh yes. There are a lot of stories, most of which are inappropriate and involve [college roommate and former Book of Mormon co-star] Rory O’Malley. One of the best ones I ever pulled was when I was at camp. There was a counselor I absolutely hated, so I did the whole Teflon on the toilet thing. We just all sat there and watched as he took a piss and it backfired all over him.

Do you see yourself in Skip at all?
I have elements of Skip in me, but he’s a different breed altogether. If you say “Go straight,” Skip will find a way to dig a tunnel, go to the right and still meet you at your destination. His perception of reality is a little different from yours and mine. Someone asked me what would Skip think of himself in the White House, and I think he believes it’s in everyone’s best interest that he’s there. He truly believes in his heart if he weren’t there, his dad would be a mess at leading the nation.

There are definitely some similarities between Skip and your Book of Mormon character.
Originally I had no intention of actually [starring on the show]. I wanted to try my hand as a producer, but didn’t want to jump into another role, especially because the role was so similar to Cunningham. Jon Lovett, who was one of Obama’s speech writers, came on board for the pilot, and the more I read what was happening I said, ‘If I see any other son of a bitch play this role, I’m going to be really upset that I didn’t do it.’ I think Cunningham would even make Skip blush a little bit. Cunningham is at the most extreme end of the spectrum in terms of a character, with no sense in what is truly happening and the right methods to pursue life.

Have you been pressing Jon to reveal top secret government information?
Every day! So far we haven’t broken him, but we’re getting close.

Bill Pullman is playing the president again after his famous turn as commander-in-chief in Independence Day. How is it having him as your TV dad?
It’s incredible. The first day on set everyone started saying "Oh, it’s good to have you back in office, Mr. President." We like to think of this as his second term and that he’s the first guy to get re-elected after a decade’s absence. Working with Bill is an honor. Everyone knows him from Independence Day, but it was his comedy chops that we were interested in, thinking back to his roles in Ruthless People, Spaceballs and While You Were Sleeping. The guy has such a dry sensibility. It was important to us that this president was never goofy, and that he be a president everyone could trust and respect as the leader of the free world, so that the chaos around him would land.

So, if you were a member of the First Family, what type of things would you do once you moved into the White House?
I would absolutely demand to know what’s at Roswell. I would have my dad fire anyone who wouldn’t tell me, and I’d get to the bottom of it and devote my own webpage to it. I’d also build an In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack inside the White House. I would create a giant laser tag room where the current bowling room is. Those would just be my first week mandates, and then we can go from there.

Do you think Skip would get along with Sasha and Malia Obama?
They would be too mature for him and turn into his babysitter. They would try to pass him off to Secret Service very quickly and be on their way.

You play Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the Steve Jobs biopic, Jobs, which hits theaters in April. How did you prepare?
I literally watched hundreds of hours of footage. I read autobiographies, biographies, listened to interviews as I went to sleep. I lived, breathed and slept Wozniak for a little over a month and it was an extraordinary experience. I think the real discovery in this movie is just how good Ashton Kutcher is as an artist. He has eerily brought Jobs back to life.

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