DETAILS: For those who don't know, The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy about two missionaries who travel to a Ugandan village racked by AIDS. So the potential to shock is high. How has the reaction been?
Andrew Rannells: People definitely seem to be listening and coming to the show in the right spirit, which is great because I think we were all concerned. Is the audience going to get on-board with the story? Are they going to be offended? But it's been a really pleasant surprise.
DETAILS: So no large-scale protests?
Andrew Rannells: When we started previews, we were geared up for people to pounce, and we were surprised to find there wasn't a lot of backlash. They're keeping [co-star] Josh Gad and me a little protected right now in terms of mail. We've gotten some letters, but I haven't read any of them… I kind of want to.
DETAILS: You probably aren't getting a lot of Mormons in the audience.
Andrew Rannells: Last night we had a huge influx of Mormons. I'm just happy that people are sticking through. We had one woman walk out last week, but the rest of her party stayed, which I thought was pretty hilarious. They wouldn't even back her up.
DETAILS: It makes you wonder what show she thought she was going to see.
Andrew Rannells: Exactly. I would assume if you heard it was Trey Parker and Matt Stone from South Park, you'd understand there was some irreverence to it. I guess some people aren't readers.
DETAILS: The first truly shocking number involves a Hakuna Matata-style song that translates as "Fuck You, God." What did you think the first time you read that?
Andrew Rannells: Reading it made me shudder. When I read it, I was like, "How in the hell are they going to say this?" But for some reason, singing it softens it. There's a song in the second act that surpasses that one. I sneak peaks at the first couple rows during that one. People are covering their faces; there was a man who pulled his face into his shirt last night. They're laughing, but they're just horrified!
DETAILS: How did you land the role?
Andrew Rannells: They were doing workshops on the show for a couple of years, and I'd always hear about it after the fact. I was always a little jealous of the folks who were involved. Then last spring I got a phone call about an audition. They wouldn't give out a script, but you could go to the casting director and read it, and then you had to give it back. It was this weird study hall for actors—people trying to frantically memorize—and it felt really cool and secretive. But when I actually got into a room with Trey and Matt and [show producer] Scott Rudin, that was very intimidating.
DETAILS: What do you think would be harder about being a young Mormon missionary—no sex or no caffeine?
Andrew Rannells: I'm going to go with caffeine. I can wake up and not have sex. I can't wake up at all without caffeine.
DETAILS: The actors in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are risking life and limb in that show. What's the most dangerous thing you do in yours?
Andrew Rannells: I would have said "walk on stage," because we all thought shit was going to be thrown at us. But it's probably the tap-dancing number. I am not a tap dancer, and those tap-dancing Mormon boys are out for blood. They will not slow down.
DETAILS: Speaking of danger, your character gets a religious text shoved up his ass in one scene.
Andrew Rannells: Yep. That was one of those things that, when I read it, I thought, "OK, that's fine." And when we finally did it, I thought, "I feel wildly vulnerable right now." But it's funny. The payoff is good. If it gets a laugh I'll do it.
DETAILS: In spite of all the off-color jokes and jabs at religion, the show is, dare I say, sweet.
Andrew Rannells: By the end, we come to a very sweet place. Amongst all the "cunts" and "fucks," there's some heart in there, too.
DETAILS: Do you have dreams of becoming the next Matthew Morrison—the Broadway guy who parlays that success into television stardom?
Andrew Rannells: I'm fine having high, vague expectations. Matt is wildly successful and really talented. He's a friend of mine and I've worked with him. I've watched him work his ass off for ten years before Glee. So opportunity is the only thing I'm hoping for.
DETAILS: Would you like to see a song from The Book of Mormon performed on Glee?
Andrew Rannells: I would love to have Lea Michele belt out "Fuck You, God." I think the kids would love it.