Rory O’Malley’s antics never fail to steal a show, whether he’s turning his sexuality off “like a light switch” in The Book of Mormon, spazzing out as Leaf Coneybear in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee or obsessively tweeting about reality shows as superfan Evan, one of three hilarious characters he plays in the new musical Nobody Loves You. (Opening night is July 18 at off-Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre.) By day, O’Malley is the co-founder of Broadway Impact, an organization of theater artists uniting to fight for equal rights. O’Malley recently chatted with Broadway.com about his Les Miz fanboy past, DOMA’s demise and his undying love for Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
How did Nobody Loves You cross your radar?
I’d known [composer] Gaby Alter because I did a demo for a show he wrote called Band Geek a couple of years ago. And Itamar [Moses], who wrote the book and lyrics, is an amazing playwright. When Nobody Loves You came up, I was really excited to get to be in a room these two up-and-coming, wonderful young writers.
How much of a hand do you have in creating the three characters you play?
They've been really good about giving [the cast] room to help create. They’ve given us all the lines and things we need, but there’s been a lot of discovering who these characters are together. It’s been a very quick process, but we made choices, saw what worked and what didn’t, and then made changes to lighten it up a little. So much of it has been working with the costume designer, Jessica Pabst, because she brought so much to the table initially that influenced us. For Evan, we had animal T-shirts and glasses, and for Chaz, who is kind of a stonery, middle-aged guy, she brought sandals, which really made him come to life for me.
Evan is the ultimate reality show fanboy. Have you ever been that obsessed with anything?
Absolutely! I was definitely that obsessed with theater, and I was so happy when cassettes were replaced with CDs because my tapes were almost dead. I loved Les Miz and Into the Woods—I used to cast Into the Woods with my friends, even if they’d never stepped on stage before. "Clearly, he would be the best Wolf," you know [laughs]. I was definitely Evan when it came to Broadway, so he’s very easy for me to identify with.
His big number, The Twitter Song, is hilarious—do you think it’s the first musical theater song to include the word “hashtag”?
I think it might be! When I leave the theater, the number one question I get, especially from people above 65, is “What is a hashtag?” But they still go with it! Everyone’s laughing at this word hashtag, and they just go with the flow, even if they don't know what it means.
How often do you watch reality TV?
I watch it more than I’d like to admit—my favorite is definitely Honey Boo Boo. I absolutely love Alana, and I have a whole case for it being better than other reality TV shows. At least they’re a loving family and hang out with each other! In most other shows, the people are just fighting and screaming and tearing each other apart. This family, even if you don’t like them or approve of the way they live their lives, does love each other and it’s pretty clear.
Do you have a lot of fans from The Book of Mormon coming to cheer you on at the stage door?
Every single show, I see somebody with a Book of Mormon T-shirt or iPhone cover, or someone I recognize from the Book of Mormon stage door, and it’s so sweet. I’m blown away by it. It’s wonderful to be a part of something where people are following what you’re doing. It makes me feel like I’m still part of the Mormon family in a way that I didn’t know was going be possible, so it’s a wonderful thing.
What is life after Mormon like?
It was strange at first to get away from the eight-show week—I’d start to get anxious at half-hour call and not be sure why; you just have that internal clock. After being chained to Midtown for two years, I traveled for three months, and it was a great experience. I was also able to go to London and saw The Book of Mormon there with my friend Gavin Creel on opening night. Kate Winslet was sitting behind me. Five years ago, we were at the Vineyard Theatre reading through half a show and five songs! It was amazing to be in a different country, watching British actors take on these roles you had a part in. I’m so lucky to have been a part of something that will live on for such a long time.
As the co-founder of Broadway Impact, what was it like for you on the day that DOMA was overturned?
It was amazing. What’s cool is that for many Supreme Court decisions, you don’t know when they’re going to happen, but for this one, we were able to plan. I think they did that on purpose, because they know the gays like to organize and have the party scheduled [laughs]. Jenny [Kanelos, co-founder of Broadway Impact] came over to my apartment and we watched together, and we Facetimed with Gavin [Creel] in London. It was beautiful, because it brought me back to when Prop. 8 passed and the three of us came together to say, “This is horrible. How can we respond to this?” Here we are, five short years later, and the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop. 8 were overturned in one day. An amazing day I’ll never, never forget.
On Twitter, you wrote that your mom is happy as an accountant and as a mother because she does your taxes. Is she hoping you’ll get married soon?
When you work on a marriage equality organization, you invite that question about yourself! My mom is so thrilled—I want to have a family and have all the rights for my family, so definitely that’s going to happen—but it’s more about the high school kids who are back in Ohio right now. When I came out, I thought coming out meant giving up a marriage and a family. That was, to me, the most difficult part of the coming-out process. And that was probably the hardest part for my mother, who will be the most kick-ass, amazing, wonderful grandmother this earth has ever seen. I know now that this is not only going to happen, it’s going to happen for me, and for LGBT kids forever from now on. Their dreams about their future will include marriage and a family—or not, but it’s their option.
See Rory O'Malley in Nobody Loves You, opening July 18 at Second Stage Theatre.