When Tony-nominated Book of Mormon alum Andrew Rannells first appeared as Elijah on HBO's hit comedy Girls, his ex-girlfriend Hannah (played by show star/producer/director/writer Lena Dunham), accused him of giving her HPV. By the end of the season Hannah made amends with her now openly gay former flame, and the duo will begin season two as roommates. Broadway.com caught up with Rannells, who also leads the NBC series The New Normal, to chat about those crazy twentysomething Brooklynites and how he's adjusting to life as a big TV star.
Hannah doesn’t always have her life in order. Does living with Elijah help change her habits?
In the first episode of season two Hannah and Elijah are planning a housewarming, so you get to see them playing house a little bit. He gives [their apartment] a sort of Domino gay makeover. He really goes all out. He gives it a good cleaning and a lot of Urban Outfitters furniture.
Are they having fun living together?
They are exploring having a very grown-up friendship. They sort of feel that after they broke up, their re-entering into each other’s lives wasn’t necessarily the smoothest, and now they’re trying to be adults and be bigger people.
In the first season finale audiences met Elijah’s boyfriend George. Will viewers get to see more of Elijah’s personal life this year?
George is very much involved in the second season, and we get to see a little bit of their relationship dynamic. Elijah pulls George into their circle of friends.
Lena’s profile has exploded since the show began its run. What’s it like working in her world?
It’s fantastic. I’m so grateful to have her as a friend and to also get to work with her. It’s an inspiration to watch the way she works and gets things done. She’s the hardest worker and has handled all of this success and the scrutiny of having a show like this with so much grace. It’s been a real lesson to see her do that, and it’s taught me a lot of how to maneuver in the world and in the public eye. She’s a very wise lady.
Has your own life changed now that you’re starring on two high profile TV shows?
Things have definitely changed, not crazily, but I do feel a different [sense] of just people being aware of me in places. It’s sometimes fun and sometimes a little weird, but I guess it comes with the territory.
How do you think Lena and you would fare if you two were to actually live together?
I lived with her for a week in Los Angeles actually after we had filmed the first season. I was still doing The Book of Mormon and was just taking some meetings out there. It was fantastic. We really hit it off. We both were working during the day and would come home and recap our days together. I would definitely live with Lena Dunham.
Have you ever reconnected with any old girlfriends after you came out like Elijah and Hannah did?
No, I never really had girlfriends. I knew I was gay at a very young age and decided not to pretend when I was in high school. When I got to college I was already out, so no girlfriends coming out of the woodwork.
Between Girls and The New Normal you play two of the most fashionable characters on TV. Do you feel like you’re just playing dress up all the time?
Very much so. Jenn Rogien, our costume designer from Girls, shops at stores where these people would actually be able to afford clothes. A lot of those clothes are like $15 shirts from H&M and TJ Maxx. On The New Normal the stores are a little different, so I’ve cracked open a whole other world of clothing that I never even knew existed. It’s crazy.
The New Normal is more than halfway through its first season. Do you feel adjusted to the world of TV now?
I’ve got the schedule down. Every week brings new challenges and new stories and new directors, and that keeps you on your toes. We have seven episodes left to film, and I’m anxious to get back and see how the rest of the season goes.
Show creator Ryan Murphy just became a father via surrogate much like on the show. Do you think being a father will change the way he works?
He and [co-creator, writer and executive producer] Ali Adler, who has two children herself, sort of pull from their own lives as do all the writers on our show. Some have kids, some don’t. Some are married and some aren’t. Some are gay and some are straight, so little bits of their lives always find their way into our stories.
Has working on the show taught you a lot about what the parenting process is like for gay men?
Not quite what it’s like to be a parent. [Co-star Justin Bartha] and I are sort of discovering it as [our characters] Brian and David are learning. If we had jumped into the show with the characters already having a family that would be a little different, but we’re getting to do it with them and going along for the ride.
Will we get to meet the baby by the end of the season?
Well, I think mathematically we would have to have it by the end of the 22nd episode, but I don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen!
Girls returns to TV on January 13. The New Normal airs Tuesday nights on NBC.