Why It Was Important For Andrew Rannells To Get “The Boys In The Band” Right For The LGBTQ Community

Andrew Rannells Photo Credit: Luke Fontana

The “must” movie of the moment is The Boys in the Band, Netflix’s small screen adaptation of the 1968 play of the same name by Mart Crowley. The play — which focuses on a group of gay friends who reunite to celebrate one of their birthdays in New York, which is disrupted when the host’s straight former college roommate shows up uninvited — was revived in 2018 by Ryan Murphy with a cast of exclusively openly gay actors, including Andrew Rannells, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington and Tuc Watkins, all of whom reprised their roles in the adaptation.  We chatted with Rannells, a Grammy Award-winning stage, film, and television actor known for roles such as ‘Elijah Krantz’ in the HBO series Girls, as well as films including A Simple Favor, Why Him and The Intern and stage work in Hairspray, Jersey Boys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hamilton and Falsettos, about reprising his role, his favorite moments from set and his upcoming work — once again a Ryan Murphy production — in the screen adaptation of the new musical The Prom alongside Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and James Corden.

Andrew Rannells
Andrew Rannells as Larry and Tuc Watkins as Hank.

Photo Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX

Let’s talk about “The Boys in the Band.” When you got together with your Broadway castmates, what kind of revelry ensued?

We all had various connections and history before getting started on the Broadway readings, so falling into a chemistry was very easy. We were a – what’s the best word?, a “social” group. We genuinely loved being with each other, so it made the long hours of rehearsals and then later filming a true joy.

Which experience was preferable to you – performing live or the film adaptation?

That’s tough. They both have their pluses. I am from the theater world originally, so that is where I am always most comfortable. But the film let us dive into new aspects of our characters. I think Tuc and I particularly got to explore new aspects of Hank and Larry’s relationship on film.

How has your character changed from the Broadway show to the film adaptation?

As I got to know Larry better, it became more fun to explore him. Improvising as Larry was a real kick, and Joe Mantello gave me the freedom to try and find new colors to him. It felt like when we got to the film, I really understood Larry and what he was afraid of.

Was the “TBITB” the most fun you’ve had on a filmed project? If not, what was and why?

There were certainly a lot of laughs. Maybe too many. We loved trying to crack each other up. Jim was particularly good at making me laugh, even in the tense moments. I think we needed that. The film takes a dark turn and the fact that we could find those moments of joy in between was really important.

Andrew Rannells
Jim Parsons, Robin De Jesus as Emory, Michael Benjamin Washington and Rannells

Photo Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020

Can you share a fun memory from filming?

I can… but it involves theft. Jim and I decided to take momentos from the set, and we decided they were going to be two vintage pillows. We had named them “Deb” and “Trish”, and when we wrapped…we just took them. I know. I know. Not a great look but we had grown very fond of them.

How does it feel now that LGBTQ shows are finally becoming more mainstream?

Encouraging. The Boys in the Band was 52 years ago, and the fact that the nine of us can come together and play these roles as out gay actors, who all have active careers, is really wonderful. Some of the original cast was, I guess, punished in a way for being a part of that film. I am so grateful to them for paving the way for us all these years later. It felt like a big responsibility to get this right. Not just as a film but for their legacy.

Did Ryan Murphy give you any advice or insight? On that note, what’s the most important piece of career advice you’ve received and from whom?

The most important piece of advice I have received is “eyes on your own paper.” Don’t try to keep up with what others have around you. I wasted a lot of time in my 20s being jealous and feeling less than. It was a true waste of energy. As soon as I figured out that it was okay to be on your own timeline, I saved a lot of time and worry that I thought I should be somewhere else or have something else. It comes when it comes and positions keep changing. There is room for everyone, so don’t stress about your “moment.”

 Andrew Rannells
Robin de Jesús, Jim Parsons and Rannells

Photo Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020

How and where have you been spending the pandemic?

I have been mostly in LA but just recently came back home to New York to start work again. It feels great to be back, but it has been interesting to see how the city has changed, and how it hasn’t. It’s a resilient place and I am very happy to report that, as always, New Yorkers are finding creative ways to keep life moving.

During this timeframe, have you learned any new skills or done the whole self-reflection thing that most people seem to be doing, or have you been working on anything in your spare time, etc? How has Covid-19 impacted you personally?

I have been writing a lot, which has been great. It’s something I love to do, but often find myself without the time to do it. And, let’s face it, I had no excuse to not do it now. I certainly struggle with some days feeling more productive than others, and I am trying my best to not be too hard on myself about that. Some days you get a lot done – you work, you clean, you reorganize a closet. And other days you just have to sit on your couch and watch TV. And that has to be okay too.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life and why?

Time is the greatest luxury. I have certainly found myself with a lot of it on my hands, and you can’t take it for granted. Even if the situation is not ideal at the moment, if you can create something or connect with someone, it is time well spent. I’ve been calling people more recently, which has been very nice. Texting is sometimes the only way it seems I communicate, but I have remembered I love a phone call. It makes me feel like a teenager again. Also, candles. A good scented candle can change your whole house.

Andrew Rannells
The full cast: Tuc Watkins, Michael Benjamin Washington, Robin de Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Rannells, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Carver and Matt Bomer.

Photo Credit: Scott Everett White/NETFLIX ©2020