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Andrew Rannells Doesn’t Want to Play Relatable Gay Characters

Andrew Rannells

Andrew Rannells has come a long way since his breakout role in The Book of Mormon on Broadway (for which he received a Tony nomination). He’s since leapt from stage to screen (and back again) with a recurring role as the messy, sarcastic Elijah on Girls, a gay dad-to-be on the short-lived The New Normal, and even in a limited run as King George in Hamilton.

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In a recent cover story with Vulture, Rannells talked at length about his career, dredging up embarrassing and funny stories, and about how he’d rather play a character who isn’t relatable to an entire group of people.

On why hyper relatability shouldn’t be the goal of gay representation on television:

I worked on a show on NBC called The New Normal for a season that I was very proud of, but there was a different expectation on a network. Justin Bartha and I had to be a little more perfect; we had to represent a group, which was challenging.

It now feels like we were just a little too early to do that show, and there were a couple things that were tricky about that: There was a lot of pressure to be a likable, relatable gay couple that wasn’t going to be overly sexual or affectionate and that people were not going to be offended by in some ways. Look, I was coming from HBO, working on a show where anything goes, so I remember filming that episode in season two where Lena and I do coke, snorting lines off a toilet seat, and a month later I’m in L.A. doing an episode about buying baby clothes! It was just a much different feeling to get network notes. At HBO, I never experienced that, so all of a sudden to be receiving notes from the head of the network, I felt immediately, Oh, there’s a different pressure here.

On that time he, as the only gay man on set, had to explain how anal sex works to a bunch of straight people.

 If I’m being honest, when we were blocking it, I had to explain the mechanics of anal sex to this group of people and why missionary was the way to go. Corey was very cool about it. There was very little discussion about who was the top and who was the bottom, and it was decided that it just makes more sense that Corey would be the bossy bottom in that scenario. But I felt like I was doing some sort of gay-sex tutorial to explain the mechanics of how anal missionary works. It was my public service for the season.

Read the full Vulture interview here

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