Tony nominee Josh Gad made his Broadway debut as William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2006. He has since transitioned into television and film roles in 21, The Rocker, Love and Other Drugs, Back to You, and Californication.
Gad returned to Broadway earlier this year, creating the role of Elder Cunningham in the hit musical, The Book of Mormon, which won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Gad also keeps busy as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, voicing the lead character in David Gordon Green’s upcoming animated MTV series, Good Vibes, and starring in his own web series, Gigi,on MyDamnChannel.com.
Nick Orlando spoke to Gad about The Book of Mormon and his other projects
Nick Orlando: Congratulations on the success of the show and your Tony nomination! How does Mormon compare to your first Broadway show?
Josh Gad: Thank you! This is very exciting. I am conservatory-trained, so theater has been my first passion. Spelling Bee was an unbelievable opportunity because it was my big break. I wasn’t sure when I would come back or if I would do another musical, but then I got a call about The Book of Mormon in which I was able to create a character. I’ve worked on this show for the past four years and started from scratch.
Nick Orlando: What were your initial thoughts on this script?
Josh Gad: Bobby Lopez sent me a demo four years ago, and I thought it seemed really intense and problematic. I heard “Hasa Diga Eebowai” out of context and it made me very nervous because I was thinking, could you really say this on a Broadway stage where there is no barrier between the stage and the audience? But, after the first reading, I thought this was a very special and heartfelt story.
Nick Orlando: What was it like meeting Matt Stone and Trey Parker?
Josh Gad: We had been working for about a week when they walked in. For the first two days, I was calling Matt “Trey,” and Trey “Matt.” I didn’t believe them when they corrected me. I thought they were just being those funny South Park guys. It almost got me fired.
Nick Orlando: Were you expecting the show to be embraced as much as it has been?
Josh Gad: Not at all. I knew it was a special piece and I had to be a part of it. I was expecting fans of South Park to come see us, and expected it to be a talking point in the community. Every demographic is coming to see The Book of Mormon; we are constantly selling out.
Nick Orlando: Why are audiences falling in love with this musical?
Josh Gad: People like to be challenged, and to experience something they have never experienced before. They like good storytelling--the show taught me that good storytelling triumphs all else. The story has heart, the finest humor, and the best music. All this doesn’t happen that often.
Nick Orlando: Elder Cunningham exaggerates, lies, and basically makes up his own religion.
Josh Gad: He wants to fit in. When he is most desperate, he turns to what he knows: lying and exaggerating. His antics stem from insecurity, and when everything blows up in his face, he has a reality check and realizes that he needs to grow up.
Nick Orlando: He calls his love interest, Nabulungi, every name but her real name. Was that improvised?
Josh Gad: They gave me complete freedom. I started calling her different names in rehearsals, and later nouns and adjectives starting with the letter “n.” When a good one comes to mind, I throw it in.
Nick Orlando: How did your web series, Gigi: Almost American, come about?
Josh Gad: I created this character to make my wife laugh. I’m a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin and physical comedy, and am fascinated by immigrant stories. My grandparents emigrated here from Germany after World War II.
Nick Orlando: You play Mondo in David Gordon Green’s animated show, Good Vibes. You must be excited that it was picked up by MTV.
Josh Gad: Very excited! The team worked so hard, and the episodes are fresh and funny. The cast is great--Danny McBride and Adam Brody are part of this.
Nick Orlando: You hit it big with The Book of Mormon. What’s next?
Josh Gad: There is a luxury of opportunities out there. Right now, I am perfectly content doing my night job. I will take as much time as I need to figure it out.