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How a ‘Nightmare’ Audition Finally Paid Off for Andrew Rannells

Girls,” HBO / Season 6 ep. 7, “The Bounce”
Written by Murray Miller and Tami Sagher, Directed by Richard Shepard

Andrew Rannells’ character Elijah Krantz, the narcissistic, wry and insightful gay ex-boyfriend-cum-roommate of Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) on “Girls,” has been a scene-stealer since season one of the Emmy-winning HBO series. In “The Bounce,” former love Dill (Corey Stoll) comes racing back into Elijah’s arms just as he musters the courage to audition for the Broadway musical adaptation of the big-screen comedy “White Men Can’t Jump.”

Elijah belts out a rousing, pitch-perfect rendition of “Let Me Be Your Star,” from the defunct NBC series “Smash.” He seems poised to become a star. And then they bring in the basketballs.

Rannells: “Lena [Dunham] had said she wanted to explore this idea of Elijah getting into musical theater and that was something we had sort of teased in the past. In the first season we had talked about how he had been a dancer and involved with musical theater in college, and in the past couple of seasons Lena and Jenni Konner had invited me into the writers room to talk through what might be going on with Elijah that coming season. So for our final season they were asking me about early audition stories, so I told them the story of auditioning for a musical called ‘Lysistrata Jones,’ a great adaptation by Douglas Carter Beane. I had auditioned for one of the leads, and I read and I sang and all of that was fine, and they brought me up for a dance call and they told me it was going to be really light on the dancing — more like a movement class, they said. So I went in and it turned out to be a hardcore dance call, and then halfway through it they introduced basketballs. I was horrified. I was like, this is a disaster, and I could not wake from this nightmare. I ended up being cast in the play, which was great, and I was able to learn what I needed to do. I told Lena and Jenni that story, and they thought it was hilarious.

“One of our writers, Murray Miller, came up with ‘White Men Can’t Jump,’ which was just a hilarious idea for a musical and then the rest just came together. I was happy to be a sort of unofficial consultant in terms of what open-call auditions look like and feel like. It was very close to what my actual experience was.

“The Athena Dante character was a real shift to our show, because we generally don’t have that much optimism in one place. So to have someone that was so positive, it was definitely a nice change of pace.

“I was so happy that Corey [Stoll] was able to come back for the episode, because we just had the best time together in season five. He’s a very busy man, but he made time for us to come back. We don’t have a ton of adults on the show, so to play against somebody who’s this very powerful man in that world — it’s a lot of fun to mix it up like that. The last season when Corey was on, all of his material was just with me, so it was interesting to have him in that world of the Hannah/Elijah apartment, to have to share him with Hannah. I definitely felt very territorial about my fictional relationship with him. I didn’t really get to do a ton with him in that episode; Lena really got the bulk of hanging out with Corey. So I was a little jealous. But we had fun doing the little bits that we all got to do together. He jumps right in and was so willing to play with Lena and me. Having done it myself, it’s sometimes difficult to come into a machine that’s already well-oiled and to have to fold into the rhythm of what’s going on, and Corey did it both seasons seamlessly and effortlessly. It was sort of the best combination of Lena, Corey and me.”

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