In early performances of Broadway's The Book of Mormon, offended audience members would sometimes get up and walk out of the theater. Andrew Rannells, who originated the role of Elder Price, didn't mind.
"It was pretty exciting," Rannells told NPR's Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg. "It didn't happen that often but when it did happen, it did feel like we were a part of something special."
The controversial show — which won the 2011 Tony for Best Musical, and earned Rannells and his co-star Josh Gad Best Actor nominations — was written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
"There were two walkout points," Rannells said. "There was a walkout point after the opening number, people were like, 'they're making fun of Mormons, this is ridiculous.'" The other walkout point was after the rather explicit song, "Hasa Diga Eebowai," which Rannells delicately described as, "a number when the Ugandans kind of explain their theory about life and religion."
Rannells has since appeared in HBO's Girls, Peacock's Girls5Eva, and stars in the Showtime series, Black Monday, which takes place around the 1987 stock market crash.
Rannels said he doesn't remember the crash when it occurred — he was a kid, after all — and was refreshingly honest about how he prepped for his role as an aspiring stock broker. "I'm not going to lie, I didn't do that much research. But I read an article... maybe it was a blurb... but in any event, I did have to learn about the stock market crash."
Rannells' Ask Me Another challenge was inspired by his love of the home improvement channel, HGTV. More specifically, his fascination with Chip and Joanna Gaines of the show Fixer Upper. Rannells uses the opportunity to explain what a "German smear" is and why vessel sinks are overrated.
On some of his favorite Tony performances
'93 was a real good one. It was Kiss of the Spider Woman, Blood Brothers, The Who's Tommy. So yeah, I would record those and rewatch those numbers. It was before YouTube, so you couldn't just Google it.
On being approached to voice Matthew MacDell in the animated series 'Big Mouth'
When Nick Kroll, one of the creators of the show, asked me to do it, he was like, "Yes, you are playing the gay character. But you're the gay bully." Which I had never been pitched before - that the gay kid was also the bully and the one who had the most power in middle school. And I thought that was a very interesting way into that character and not just have it be like, "and then there is a gay kid." Because I've certainly done a lot of that.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.