Wonderland.

ANDREW RANNELLS

The star talks new film The Prom and working with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Andrew Rannells
Andrew Rannells

“Andrew, besides being wickedly funny (emphasis on wicked), also has a kind of elegance and wit-held-in-check, he watches and waits, then pounces. His great pleasure was in surprising James (Corden) and making him roar with laughter” – Meryl Streep

Streep is not the first to give him a rave review, he’s been a beloved performer for many years for his brilliant Broadway performances in The Book of Mormon, Hairspray, Falsettos (his favourite), Hamilton, as Neil Patrick Harris’ replacement in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (his most challenging role to date, he thanks James Cameron Mitchell for getting him through it), and more recently Jersey Boys; Andrew’s talent also landed him a leading role alongside Don Cheadle and Regina King currently in Black Monday and years, before we all loved him on the smash, hit GIRLS and in The New Normal he was a lead character loosely based on Ryan Murphy himself in the much ahead of its time series. Murphy also had him on GLEE and The Boys in the Band film and now their latest collaboration is The Prom musical film on Netflix alongside Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Sofia Deler and newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman.

At some point we will stop defining people by their sexuality; but till then we, fortunately, have creators like Murphy who help educate, inspire and entertain all walks of life. Thankfully Will & Grace paved the way for others to share LGBTQ+ stories, and now just in time for the strangest holiday season ever Netflix brings us; The Prom which will make you laugh and cry, it’s a big-hearted spectacular for the whole family, and enforces that a girl taking her girlfriend to prom is as acceptable as any boy/ girl dates. I talked with Andrew (and his co-stars) about this very special project, how he’s been handling this pandemic and more. You must immediately watch Andrew on YouTube singing “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon, and make sure to also check out his latest performance with Jimmy Fallon where they recap 2020 with Broadway songs.

Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix
Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix

“Time to make some better choices Drop the hate, and raise your voices Love thy neighbor.”

These lyrics from Trent’s song, (played by Andrew) are so relevant, he delivers them flawlessly. Of course, he was nervous working with Oscar and Emmy winning co-stars, “ I was totally intimidated, I met Meryl and Nicole in passing at a Big Little Lies premiere with Zuzanna Szadkowski (BFF since a teenager in The YoungArts Foundation) they were so approachable and once six-weeks of rehearsals and shooting began there was no movie star hierarchy ever, it was a blast improvising with Streep and laughed endlessly with everyone.”

Lucky for Andrew real-life prom was great too, “I was the perfect date, I wasn’t fully out so I went with girlfriends and we just danced, I wasn’t handsy, I was safe since I was also deeply in love with Collin, who was sadly not a homosexual.”
 
Andrew is whip-smart, wickedly funny, and equally kind even over the phone. Dashing, humble, and witty; a sort of boy next door you want as your BFF or boyfriend. Streep, Kidman, Corden, Washington, and Jo Ellen Pellman shared with me about their love for him too;

“My favorite thing about working with Andrew was his sense of humor, joy, talent and big heart. It was constantly funny, we were always practicing, like dance moves in the hallway. I felt like I’ve known him for years. I would love to do something on Broadway with him” – Nicole Kidman

“I adored working with Andrew. I owe Murphy every piece of pleasure we all had making this – he’s a master yenteh. He put us all together like that guy who does the commercials for EHarmony. He just knows who will click. Andrew was so game, ready, and on the tip of his toes with the quips and the comebacks – he and James were like a tag team of competitive smartassery … Nicole and I laughed at every single thing they did – we couldn’t help it!! I’d love to do a remake of “Sunset Boulevard” with Andrew, where the young writer and the diva dress up in each other’s clothes, settle down on the couch together to watch her old movies, he imitates her and does a running commentary on how bad they are, she screams with laughter; because he is right. Yet, she pushes him into the swimming pool! Because, secretly, her feelings were hurt he is not ever going to be attracted to her, and the bald guy caretaker is played by Stanley Tucci, because, well, of course? I’m not sure what he does except make me my martinis and dinner for all of us. No singing.” – Meryl Streep

Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix
Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix

“People want to be seen and heard; our job is to ask how we can help. Andrew understands how to do this. He’s brilliant, plays everything with real truth comedically speaking and is the best company in all circumstances, he knows exactly what to say and is just terrific to be around for any feeling you have. Onset I was always near him, some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard are from him. We would laugh so hard daily; I’ve never laughed harder. Meryl set the tone for the whole thing; she took work seriously but not herself seriously at all and along with Andrew’s deeply inappropriate humor, we had the best days… Since I felt lot of pressure to do this part justice, I deeply appreciated the support from him too. Every day on set we were all so thankful to make something that might help just one person. I thought about my nephew who recently came out and hoped this film would be positive for him and people like him.” James Corden

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw Andrew perform. He knocked down Radio City Music Hall with “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon at the 2012 Tony Awards– if you somehow haven’t seen it, RUN to YouTube!!– his conviction, command of the stage, and sharp comedic timing blew my musical obsessed teenage self away. THAT is how you act through a song. Andrew is an actor’s actor; I think that’s why he looked out for me so much on set. He knew what it was felt like to be the new kid, just starting out, and he made sure that I knew I belonged.” – Jo Ellen Pellman

“Andrew’s brilliant sense of humor, kindness and work ethic make me want to do absolutely any project with him in the future.” “You know that thing that happens when you work long hours and laugh non-stop, so everything becomes a inside joke? That’s what working with Andrew was like, the funniest things would make no sense to you, but that is what family looks like.” – Kerry Washington

With all this praise I was curious how Andrew stays grounded. He shared he thinks he was old enough not to buy into the noise once his career took off, also “doing Broadway shows 8x a week you’re too busy to get affected or even to relax, and he heeds his own best advice he’s been given, Keep your eyes on your own paper. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others or being jealous. (easier said than done of course).”

Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix
Andrew Rannells THE PROM Netflix

Devastated the Theater District is a ghost town, he’s finding ways to support the out of work community. In October he and a group of actors gathered, led by NYNext, to sing (masked/distanced) to raise funds for the community via sponsors. Working with Murphy also supports Broadway as he continues bringing theater to the screen like Boys in the Band which Andrew stars in. It’s a confronting film based on the musical about gay men’s struggles in 1968. Luckily his family has always been supportive, but “coming out is scary no matter what” that’s why making this film and The Prom was important to him. When he moved to NYC he thought he’d be totally out and OK, but found himself having ongoing conversations about his sexuality which was so uncomfortable, he even worried people would turn on him, just like some of the characters turn on each other in these films. These are important stories for everyone.

An award-winning actor himself and multi-Tony Award nominee, he’s also a singer, dancer, producer, writer – he’s published articles in The New York Times and is the voice of Matthew on the adult animation series Big Mouth – a coming of age story dealing with awkward teen issues with a stellar comedic cast. In 2019 he also authored his first book Too Much Is Not Enough: A Memoir of Fumbling Toward Adulthood about life hoped living in New York would be like a Sex in the City episode (it never was) up till his Broadway debut in Hairspray. He shares hilarious, often messy experiences from romance to auditions. Even trying to be someone he wasn’t when he and Zuzanna attempted to shake their Midwest awkwardness to be cool club kids. He wore a shirt from Trash and Vaudeville that said, “hooker 2000” (he still has no idea what it meant). He danced with a Debbie Harry lookalike in the meatpacking district, she complimented his shirt, then he realized it WAS Debbie, so he retired from the club scene – top of his game, what could be better than the queen herself approving of you?

Andrew won’t be heading to any clubs when things open back up, but he will immediately see a Broadway Show. He has faith 2021 will get us into a new normal with much more gratitude for all we have. Till then he will be home, continuing to use this downtime to connect with loved ones, writing with his BFF and watching beloved old movies like Death Becomes Her, She Devil, Drop Dead Fred and 9-5.

He hopes The Prom will connect with a larger audience than he can usually since this is finally one for all ages, so wholesome its even absent of cursing. Let’s hope it’s a precursor to 2021.

Photography
Benjamin Chabanon
Fashion
Yaelquint
Grooming
Angellavalentine using Kevinmurphy products
Words/Ent Dir
Erica Cornwall
DP
Will Colacito
Video
Jeffrey Thomson
Fashion Assistants
Mckey Terrell and Oliver Campbell
Location
The Pierre Hotel New York
Special Thanks
Slate PR & Netflix
ANDREW RANNELLS