In The Book of Mormon — the sweetly irreverent, Tony Award-winning musical juggernaut from Avenue Q's Robert Lopez and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone — first-time Tony nominees Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells star as Elders Cunningham and Price, respectively, a mismatched pair of missionaries sent to Uganda to teach villagers about the Mormon faith. But the most valuable and entertaining lessons are the ones that these two young actors have learned along their blessed journey.
By Brandon Voss
Playbill: You guys have done loads of press in the past few months. Are you tired?
Andrew Rannells: Are you kidding? You're asking actors to talk about themselves. We'll be fine.
Josh Gad: This whole experience has happened so fast and furious, so I'm still in shock. I'm like, "Yeah, I'll go wherever you need me to go."
Is there an interview question that you hate?
JG: "Are you Jonah Hill?"
AR: "What's it like to work with Jonah Hill?"
JG: Honestly, I hate when people ask, "Are you having a good time up there?" Of course! I'm having the time of my life.
AR: Should we not be having fun?
JG: I wonder if people think we hate all this and wish we had done La Cage. We're the luckiest men alive right now. It's such a gift to be able to go into the Eugene O'Neill Theatre every day with those throngs of people waiting outside.
How can you top this Book of Mormon experience?
JG: We're already planning.... We're going to do The Odd Couple — the female version. No, to top this is impossible, so you just think, "How much longer am I allowed to keep doing this?" We know this is the coolest thing we'll get to do for a long time. The last time something like this happened — a sensation that transcends the medium and has Middle America talking — was a decade ago with The Producers.
Are you the next Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick?
AR: I think we're the next Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel.
JG: Or Laura Benanti and Patti LuPone. Or Patina Miller and the cast of Sister Act. I'm the cast.
What's been your most memorable celebrity encounter at the show?
AR: When Goldie Hawn came backstage and just hung out in our dressing rooms. It was, weirdly, the same night that Joel Schumacher and Kevin Spacey were there.
JG: Seeing Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin in the audience was as good as it gets for me. And Jim Carrey sent us a really nice basket of brownie bites and some beautiful orchids.
What have you learned from your characters?
AR: Humility. Elder Price starts out too confident, so he has to go through some crap to get back to a simple place of faith. It would be easy for me to get caught up in all the cool stuff we get to be a part of, but the reality is that we're doing a job that we really want to do.
JG: I've learned that the schlub can finish first. And that lying can be beneficial, which I've been telling my wife for years.
What have you learned from each other?
JG: That I will never have a good hair day when standing next to Andrew Rannells.
AR: Wow. Well, Josh has taught me simplicity in comedic acting. He's very precise in getting his laughs.
JG: Oh, now I have to give a serious answer? OK, I worked with many Prices through the workshop process, and the first time I got intimidated was with Andrew. He's so amazing at inhabiting his character that he makes me work for every single line. It's really a ping-pong match onstage and we continue to surprise each other every night.
So you're not sick of each other yet?
JG: We could get through a year and a half and not get sick of each other. At that point, we'll probably start saying stuff like, "I don't like that you..." and then it'll become an all-out war.
AR: We'll be the new Mandy Patinkin and Toni Collette!
If you were sexually compatible, would you make a good couple?
AR: No, I'd be too controlling. I'd micromanage everything Josh did.
JG: Yeah, he'd eat me alive. I'd be the abused housewife, sitting at home, crying, knitting. I'd be a knitter.
What are you most proud of outside of Book of Mormon?
JG: It's a stock answer, but it's my kid. When you have a kid, it changes your life. It reminds you, this is my life now: I'm responsible for this tiny person. It's so surreal.
AR: And I'd have to say it's my hair. No, but I'll still give a douche-y, actor-y answer: I've had a hard time in New York, doing the theatre thing, and this show has given me the opportunity to do some television work and work with some really cool people. It has nothing to do with creating a life, but I'm proud of it.
You've both been replacements in other Broadway shows. Who could fill your Book of Mormon shoes?
AR: I feel like Justin Bieber's career will be on the skids when I leave, so he'll come crawling to Broadway.
JG: And when I'm done, Louie Anderson will probably be looking for a comeback. Louie and the Biebs — I'd pay $800 to see that.
Playbill, August 2011 issue.