Andrew Rannells: Meet The New Normal's Bryan

Actor Andrew Rannells leaves behind missionary work in Broadway’s most outrageous musical to redefine fatherhood in the surrogate baby sitcom The New Normal.

BY Jeremy Kinser

July 10 2012 3:00 AM ET

Left: Rannells plays Elijah, Lena Dunham’s petulant gay ex-boyfriend in the HBO hit Girls.

 

“I continue to be so fortunate, particularly in the past year,” Rannells says about never having been in the closet professionally and never having to make a big public pronouncement. “It could have been an issue in The Book of Mormon, but it was never brought up. No one cared that I’m gay.”

His openness likely even aided his being cast in his two series.

“To play a really well-thought-out and developed gay character on Girls has been fantastic,” Rannells offers. “Then to have Ryan Murphy come along with this fantastic, really heartfelt, very self-possessed and normal gay man, that’s a real gift.”

Murphy, who helped make household names of out actors such as Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch, predicts equally big things for Rannells.

“I think Andrew is a star,” Murphy says. “I think this show is the next step for him. He’ll be widely seen and then he’ll get movie roles.” When they tune in to The New Normal, viewers won’t see more neutered gay men, as has often been the case with network characterizations. Murphy insists he won’t skimp on the romantic and sexual lives of Bryan and David. He even cast the relatable leading men to make this reality more palatable to mainstream viewers.

“With a show like this you need someone likable like Andrew to take you on this journey,” Murphy says. “I feel like a proud papa and want to show him off and make sure he gets the right material and gets a chance to shine.”

In an election year and with LGBT equality still such a divisive issue, there must be pressure on Rannells to represent as a gay man portraying a gay father-to-be.

“I feel like there’s responsibility with any character you’re playing to flesh them out and make them as realistic as possible,” he admits. “As a gay man I put responsibility on myself to make sure the characters read as real people. That doesn’t mean that Elijah on Girls can’t be an asshole, that he can’t act like a petulant child.”

Rannells hopes viewers will respond not only to the provocative comedy in The New Normal but also to the show’s message.

“Gay or straight, the family dynamic has very much changed based on who’s around to raise the kid,” he says. “Because of divorce or financial reasons there are all sorts of people who have to pitch in to help raise kids.”

Children of his own aren’t in the immediate picture for Rannells, who is in a happy relationship with someone he prefers to keep anonymous.

“I go back and forth,” he says about becoming a father himself. “I haven’t made up my mind. Maybe this show will tip the scales when we start acting with a baby.”

Watch a clip from The New Normal below.

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