Behind every great girl there’s a great gay guy. Andrew Rannells returns as Elijah, gay boyfriend-turned-bestie of Lena Dunham’s Hannah, in the fifth and penultimate season of HBO’s Girls, premiering February 21—and it’s about time he grew up and became more than a candid, quippy sidekick. A Tony nominee for The Book of Mormon, the 37-year-old out actor teases Elijah’s serious new boyfriend and his own post-Girls game plan.
By Brandon Voss
Next: You’ve been in New York since 1997, so you’ve probably picked up a copy of Next at some point.
Andrew Rannells: Absolutely. I had some friends come in from Los Angeles recently, and they asked, “What gay bars are there?” I literally didn’t know any. So many of the ones I always used to go to — Wonderbar, The Slide — are closed now. So I had to use Next to figure it out. My finger isn’t exactly on the pulse of where the young people are going nowadays. Of course, when I’m working on Broadway, musical theater folk love Flaming Saddles—because you get a little show with your drink.
You and Lena Dunham should show off some of your famous dance moves there.
Oh, I would love to see Lena in a gay bar. Maybe I can make that dream come true during the final season of Girls that we’re about to start shooting.
Yes, how are you processing the recent news that the sixth season of Girls will be its last?
If you look at past HBO shows, six seems to be the magic number, so we sort of had a heads-up. We’ve had such a great run and it’s been such an amazing job. We start filming again in April, film through the summer, and then that season won’t air for another year, so I’m trying to delay the sadness. But I can only imagine that last day on set.
I want Girls to end with a Six Feet Under montage that shows how everyone dies.
Well, that was the most fabulous finale of all time, because there were no questions left unanswered. But Lena has expressed interest in revisiting these characters years from now, so I think the door will be left open for us, and that’s exciting.
What are your hopes for Elijah?
I just hope we continue to explore him as a fully realized human. I’m excited about season 5, because Elijah finally gets a shot at a real relationship. We haven’t really seen him with a boyfriend, other than some failed attempts, and it was really fun to play and explore that. How he fits into a relationship is really funny and sometimes sad. He is not the best at it.
Did your real-life relationship with actor Mike Doyle ever inform your relationship on the show?
It’s interesting because I’m older than Elijah, so I’m revisiting a time in my 20s that was equally as messy and directionless as his. It’s a nice place to visit, but I was very grateful for the stability of my relationship at the end of the day. Coming home to my boyfriend after playing such a mess is much appreciated.
There hasn’t been an official announcement about who’s playing Elijah’s boyfriend, but the most recent Girls trailer includes a glimpse of you and Corey Stoll getting handsy in Times Square. I’m putting two and two together.
OK, Sherlock Holmes. Yeah, I guess that’s out there in the world now. It’s hard to keep casting under wraps, particularly because we filmed all this last summer, but we did a pretty good job keeping that secret. But yes, there’s me and Corey Stoll in the trailer. So there you have it.
Does this new relationship mean more sex scenes?
It does mean more sex scenes for me. I haven’t had any in a while, so I was beginning to take it personally, but they certainly made up for it this season. Elijah has a lot of sex.
You tweeted, “You’ll see a lot of me this season. Literally.” What are we talking about here?
Nothing you haven’t already seen.
Is it stressful to stay in shape for those scenes? I’ll bet craft services on Girls is really good.
It is really good! But the nice thing about nudity on Girls is that we’re playing real people, normal folks. If I were asked to be in a Marvel movie, there would be much greater pressure to fit that mold. Elijah’s just a guy hanging out in Brooklyn, so he doesn’t have to be so perfect.
Speaking of imperfections, gay television characters are often criticized by gay viewers who don’t feel they’re being adequately or accurately represented. Because Elijah isn’t exactly the best role model, have you ever heard any of those complaints?
I feel that all the characters on Girls are flawed, human, and multi-dimensional. We’re not claiming to represent anyone. When I did The New Normal a few years ago on NBC, Justin Bartha and I played a gay couple having a baby through a surrogate, and there was a lot more pressure there because people were looking for us to be a poster-couple for gay parents. We were just trying to tell a story about these human beings trying to start a family, but it turned into a political thing where we were supposed to stand for something or represent something we weren’t prepared to represent. I know people have their opinions about Girls, but I think Elijah gets a pass. I don’t think anyone’s looking to him for guidance.
Do you consider yourself a good gay role model?
I don’t know. Particularly when I’m working on Broadway, I meet a lot of young people before and after the show, and I talk to kids who want to get into theater, who maybe come from places like Nebraska, where I’m from, and don’t know how to get started. I want to encourage them that you can grow out of your circumstances and go for your dreams, even if it seems so far away. I love that. As far as being a gay role model, I don’t even know where I rank in that lineup.
You’ve done brief stints on Broadway in the last couple years in Hamilton and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Are you planning a major Broadway comeback after Girls?
I’d love that. I was so lucky that Hedwig and Hamilton came up at a time that I could commit to that. I love doing theater. It’s my first home. I haven’t actually opened a show in New York since The Book of Mormon, so I’d really love the chance to get to do that again.
You worked with Ryan Murphy on The New Normal. Any chance we might see you on American Horror Story?
You’ll have to ask Ryan Murphy about that. But I’m certainly up for getting killed.
Next, February 2016.