Andrew Rannells is a walking, talking — and singing — success story, thanks in part to the The National YoungArts Foundation. Headquartered in Miami, the foundation was created in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to help propel the next generation of artists. Alumni include Nicki Minaj, Adrian Grenier and Kerry Washington as well as Rannells, who currently has a recurring role on Girls as Lena Dunham’s character Hannah's ex boyfriend, Elijah, who comes out of the closet. Before joining the HBO show, the Omaha native earned a Tony Award nomination for his role as Elder Price in the 2011 Broadway musical hit The Book of Mormon. We talked to the 35-year-old, who will be an honoree at Saturday night’s YoungArts Gala.
How did you first get started in your career?
I decided at about 9 years old [showbiz] is what I wanted to do. My mother says I never wavered in that dream. I started doing voice-overs for Saturday morning cartoons on ABC while still in high school. That gave me the first taste of working professionally. I was truly hooked after that. When I was a senior in high school I auditioned to be one of the YoungArts finalists in the Musical Theater category and much to my surprise, I was chosen to come down to Miami. I was beyond thrilled. It was such a incredible boost of confidence.
Did you ever think “Book of Mormon” would take off the way it did?
Absolutely. I didn't really realize that it would have such mass appeal, but I knew that we would find our audience. Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez are comedy geniuses. Our cast trusted them completely.
What is the like being a part of “Girls?” What else do you have going on?
Girls is the most collaborative and satisfying set I have ever been on. Lena Dunham creates such a supportive and loving environment; you can't ask for better as an actor. I am really thrilled that I am back to play with the cast this season. We will get ready to start Season 4 this spring. I just finished a couple episodes of CBS' How I Met Your Mother, and I have started some writing projects that have been really rewarding.
What advice would you give to a young performer just starting out?
That's a tough one. I would say you have to be 100 percent sure that this is the career you want. It's can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, but it can also be relentlessly devastating. It's more rejection than acceptance.
For gala tickets: www.youngarts.org