Andrew Rannells Talks Elijah’s Bathroom Fun On ‘Girls’ And Love For Reality TV

In last week's episode, Elijah (Andrew Rannells) & Hannah (Lena Dunham) partied hard. (HBO)

The show may be called Girlsbut there’s something that happens when Andrew Rannells appears on the show as Hannah’s friend, Elijah. And since the actor, best known for his roles in Broadway’s “The Book Of Mormon” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” as well as TV’s “The New Normal,” became a series regular this past year, it’s been even more fun to watch the Lena Dunham comedy.

After this past week’s episode, where Hannah moves to Iowa to be part of a writing program and Elijah shows up to party with her, it was the perfect time to jump on the phone with Rannells, who has already been in the new lately for a faux pas on behalf of E! News during the Golden Globes where he and Dunham were misidentified as ‘Liza Minnelli and Guest.’

We talked about all that as well as Rannell’s TV viewing of “The Bachelor” and “Branson Famous” and what he thinks of people (primarily in Los Angeles) who claim to not watch television.

I feel like anytime they let you and Lena just kind of run in a party or a club, it’s just rife for a lot of fun and terror maybe a little bit.

Andrew Rannells: Well, those are always my favorite, I mean, we got to do a few of those parties together, Lena and I, and that’s always my favorite time, like my favorite parts of those episodes are just when we get to sort of f*** around and just be silly together. And this coming episode on Sunday, we filmed it over the course of a couple days and it really did feel like we were at some sort of weird frat party for 12 hours a day. It was so much fun and obviously getting to watch her Jell-O wrestle was something I never thought I would get to see but it was very, very fun.

I actually think Elijah brings out a side of Hannah that she needs at different times, do you kind of see it that way?

AR: That’s certainly how I see it. Playing the character I feel like as lost as he is, he obviously needs to find some things where he can kind of try to co-op her grad school experience for himself but I feel like it does help her out at the same time. I was so happy when they told me that I got to go to Iowa with her because I wasn’t sure. When that sort of started to develop at the end of last season that she was going to Iowa, we were all a little curious to see how that was going to play out for the rest of us so I was really excited that Elijah got included on this little side trip.

In the season premiere, you have a run-in with Danny Strong’s character, Pal, who’s just awful.

AR: Yeah, he’s terrible.

How much does that stir up Elijah or just kind of crush him a little bit because the guy really rubs it in his face.

AR: Yeah. I think that’s the thing, a big part of the reason that Elijah ended up going to Iowa a lot is not directly because of running into Pal but maybe indirectly that he doesn’t know what he’s doing in New York and he doesn’t really have a plan. And I think this season the girls are making steps in the direction of actually taking control of their lives and Elijah still doesn’t really have a grip on that so I think running away to Iowa seems like the most logical decision for him at the time.

Talk to me about shooting the lovely romantic bathroom scene in the second episode. I'm guessing there was a technical aspect to shooting that.

AR: Well, you sort of go for it. The crazy thing about that day was we did one take and [Daniel Covin] was very sweet and really game to like sort of jump in and do this, so we did one take of it. And then in-between takes they were making some adjustments, he said ‘hey, I’m from Omaha, Nebraska too.’ We went to different high schools but we were both from Omaha, Nebraska, which is hilarious. I think this one of his first on-camera jobs and here I am. Lena’s like, ‘Lick his face in this take!’ It was equal parts uncomfortable and hilarious, as it should be.

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Is Elijah somebody that you personally would be friends with if somehow you existed in the same world?

AR: I feel like I would like him at a party but I don’t think I would trust him very much. I mean, he’s not a bad person but I think the age difference between me, the actor, Elijah’s character, I think would probably keep me away from him a little bit. But he’s certainly fun at a party, I’ll give him that.

What would be one piece of advice that you could give to Elijah that you would hope maybe he would hold onto and take home?

AR: I feel like, and I was a little the same way, that I’ve had to sort of find my way on my own. I’m sure I was given bits of advice along the way that I chose to ignore but somewhere along the line I managed to pull my s*** together. I don’t think you can really give advice to people like Elijah. I think he just has to sort of figure it out for himself.

I feel like the show is basically a bunch of 20-somethings all just making mistakes like we all did.

AR: Absolutely and it feels like an eternity that it goes on. I was just talking about this other night. I was talking to a very young actor about careers and timing. It took me a while to kind of get started. I moved to New York in ’97 and I didn’t get my first Broadway show until 2004 and seven years, when you say that to someone who is 20 it might as well be a lifetime.

In fact, in looking back on it, that time was filled with a lot of activity and a lot of highs and lows but it ended up happening in its own time in a way that it was good timing for me but when you tell a young person that it takes a while to get started, it's frustrating to hear, but it's the truth. Things happen in their own time. But it's fun to revisit with these characters that kind of flaily time because I certainly had it in New York City.

What’s Elijah’s journey the rest of the season, if there’s anything you can tease that we’ll see with him?

AR: I wish that I could say that he like pulls his s*** together, but he does not. It’s a very cool season, I will say. Becky Ann Baker and Peter Scolari, who play Hannah’s parents, have some incredible, incredible work to do this season that is very exciting to get to see and get to be a little bit a part of that.

But in terms of my personal character journey, he just remains anchorless and like without a clue, but in a fun way. It was a very fun season to get to be part of and it was my first season officially as a regular, so that was really cool. But he doesn't really find himself this season I would say, but he has a lot of fun.

Let me ask you about a couple other things. I was looking at your Twitter feed…

AR: Oh s***…

Rannells followed up NPH in playing 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' (Broadway)

I’m guessing you enjoy watching “The Bachelor?”

AR: Well, a very good friend, Patti Murin, who’s an actor that I’ve worked with a few times, she is obsessed with “The Bachelor.” I off and on have watched “The Bachelor” since it started but this season is particularly like drunk and crazy. The girls seem so much more nuts and there seems to be so much more alcohol, I don’t know, I’m very much enjoying watching it this season.

Safe to say you watch it more for the bachelorettes, not the bachelor, right?

AR: Yeah. The thing is it’s like such a f***ed premise. It’s all these girls and they’re all fighting for one guy, which to me is what if you don’t like the guy? The odds are such that you’re not going to really dig him and the premise is that everybody wants to be with him. I always love when there are girls on the show who are like, ‘I’m just not feeling it’ and they leave. I think they should have like five bachelors and still have the girls and then like the girls date a bunch of them and just sort of see how it plays out.

Tell me about “Branson Famous.” It looks so crazy.

AR: Holy s***, I watched another episode of “Branson Famous” with my friend, Patti. Patti is such a bad influence on me television-wise because she introduces me to these things that such a f***ing time suck. The most insane part which is so hard to describe is that they sing their confessional. That moment in reality shows where they’re like, ‘well, Jess is being a real b****,’ and they have those moments. They sing original songs on it and it’s so weird and jarring that you can’t even, like I don’t even know what’s happening right now, but it’s really a special treat and it’s also only a half an hour, so you don’t feel like such a loser giving up 30 minutes of your life. It’s worth a watch, Jim, if you have a moment. It’s really worth checking out.

I mean, if you're going to be mis-labeled on TV, Liza Minnelli is as good as it gets.

Would you agree with me when I say there’s almost too much TV though because there’s so much out there?

AR: There is a lot going on. It’s an exciting time to get to work in television but there’s a lot. There’s a lot happening, which it’s great because there’s a lot of opportunity but it is hard to see everything. I’m sure, living in Los Angeles, you come across these people who say, “well, I don’t really watch TV,” which always bugs the s**t*out of me. It’s like that’s not a thing! Everyone watches television! Everyone watches television! You can say I don’t watch a lot of television, but I feel like I hear that particularly a lot in Los Angeles, like “oh, I don’t really watch TV.”

I think it's a big fat lie. I think people say it because they want to sound above it all, like "I don't do that."

AR: Yes, which is bulls***. Just be in the world, be in the world, admit that you watch television!

I have to ask you about the whole little Golden Globe's hiccup fun thing with being mislabeled and Liza Minnelli. It couldn't have been anybody but Liza Minnelli.

AR: I know, it really couldn’t have been. Part of me is hopeful that I am Liza Minnelli, you know, I assume that it’s Lena, but it would be great if it was me, I understand.

When did you get wind of that? Was it like the next day because you were obviously there so you weren't watching the show?

AR: Yeah, somebody sent it to me but now some people are saying, “no, no, no, it was not a mistake on E!, it was made for The Soup and it was meant to be a joke.” So, I don’t really know what the correct origin of that photo is, but I know that it brought Lena and I a lot of joy whoever made it. We were very grateful.

“Girls” airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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