IR Exclusive Print Interview: Andrew Rannells For “Black Sunday” [Showtime TCA Winter Press Tour 2019]

Andrew Rannells has run the gamut of interesting roles. From his breakout with Josh Gad on Broadway with the irreverent “Book Of Mormon” through his multi-faceted journey on “Girls” for HBO to the recent groundbreaking TV show: “The New Normal”, the challenge from him is to keep moving the dial. After conducting a panel with his fellow actors at the Showtime TCA Press Day for the new series: “Black Monday”, he spoke exclusively with The Inside Reel about character building, the journey and the importance of location.

When you look back at that period, is it the fashion that strikes you, the attitude, the drive?

Andrew Rannells: It’s a bit of everything, I mean the the humanity of the character that I’m playing is pretty easy to tap into. Like having like [me] move to New York at a young age…feeling like I was very much from the outside of where I wanted to be. But yes the second you throw on suspenders, that does a lot of work for you. I remember saying “I just want to look like Michael J. Fox”.

Could you talk about sort of the mentality, the mindset that this character has to be in.

AR: It reminded me a lot of what I got to do in “Book Of Mormon”…the character I played was a little boy…this young missionary who had a lot of knowledge but not practical experience. And that’s exactly who Blair is. He has this algorithm, he’s done all this homework and he’s never put it in practice. So he very idealistically thinks that he can come and take NYC by storm. And then another character really teaches him very quickly that “That’s not the way this works!”

But within the character it is also about playing the white noise…those beats between the lines…

AR: The tone’s a funny balance of finding exactly what it is we are doing. My scenes with Casey Wilson were very different to my scenes with Don and very different from my scenes with Gina. It was funny to have such a wide playing field, particularly later in the season because Regina [Hall] and I as characters become closer, in a very specific way. It was fun to have all of that exist at the same show.

“Black Monday” is set in New York. But it was filmed in LA. But then you shot “Girls” actually in NY. Can you talk about the sort of identity of New York in this from your perspective?

AR: Well, “Girls” was very much — we got to use the city. I hate when people say this, but it’s true. But you use the city as a character. And it was so important to the look and the feel of that show. We shot all over the city. And it really was a huge part of it. This is sort of the backdrop of our story. There’s an energy that I think just naturally kind of comes in from the idea that we are in New York. There’s a pace to it. It’s incredible to me what they did visually [in “Black Monday”] because I thought that it would film in New York. I was like — exciting to live at home (laughing). So I was a little disappointed but – what was it going to look like? Is it going to look right? Are we going to use back lots? Like, how are we going to be doing this? But then, when they came up with this stock footage thing, it’s really pretty crazy because I know where those moments are. And you can’t always tell. It’s pretty seamless, particularly in the pilot when they show my apartment. It’s like they blended it in so perfectly

Can you talk about building the character because Blair, like a reverse Clark-Kent in the sort of awkwardness narrative… it sounds like you had input on these aspects…

AR: I mean, the thing that I wanted — I wanted them to start off with “The Secret Of My Success”, and then sort of end up [somewhere else]. And that’s such an outside-in process. But I knew speaking with hair and makeup that there were just going to be subtle things that started to happen.

Like the colors in the wardrobe…

AR: The colors. Like, the glasses change. The hairstyle changes. My hair – because we shot over several months – it like, gets longer. And it gets like — it’s just sort of like finding who Blair thinks he is in that world and what he should look like, and what he was trying to emulate. And it’s those guys…like Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”….Blair wouldn’t want to look like that. So it was fun to get to play with that stuff. Generally, for me, wardrobe is very informative. It’s a huge part of building the character. So the fact that we got to like pace it out — I mean, it’s so silly. But like, what’s his hair doing? (laughing) Like, that weirdly became a big part of it to sort of track what his mental state is and where he is.

This era was a world of perception, a world of masks…how many layers do you have to put within Blair? Could you talk about – not so much the details — but that sort of structure.

AR: It’s so much about labels, and the Rolex, and the cars, and the what kind of suit [you’re wearing]. All of that was a thing. And I think it was just to show it’s all very different. I guess we didn’t really do that with the actresses as much, but certainly on Wall Street at that time, that was a way to show you’re successful, right? So I think as Blair proceeds to becoming more successful, he has to do those things. He has to get better clothes. He has to get a better hairstyle. So it was in a lot of ways that I think Blair goes through sort of maybe the most changes personally and physically through the course of the season. So it was fun to get to do that.

By Tim Wassberg

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