- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Andrew Rannells says he never dreamed of becoming a rock star while growing up. What he hoped for was a part on Broadway. Now he’s getting both at the same time - and a load of mascara as well.

Starting Wednesday, the Tony Award-nominated star of “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway and HBO’s “Girls” replaces Neil Patrick Harris in the title role of the show “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

Rannells will be playing a German transsexual rock singer in a tale of obsession, glam rock and a botched sex-change operation. It requires a leading man willing to eat cigarettes, wear a miniskirt, lick the stage and spit at audience members.

Rannells, a very polite man who hails from Omaha, Nebraska, is no stranger to Hedwig, having played her in Texas for four months a dozen years ago when he was 23.

This summer, he managed to wrap up season four of “Girls” while also filming Nancy Meyers’ new comedy, “The Intern,” starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway.

The Associated Press recently asked Rannells about inheriting the role from Harris, working with De Niro and if he’ll be rude to people onstage this time.

AP: What’s it like to return to Hedwig after 12 years?

Rannells: Now I feel more connected to the Hedwig that has more life experience, that has more time under her belt. It’s interesting to go back and look at it now. The things that really resonated with me 12 years ago still do but in a much different way now.

AP: Have you asked Harris lots of questions or just gotten out of his way?

Rannells: He’s been great. What a crazy summer and spring he’s had. What an overwhelming experience, I’m sure. So I’ve sort of given him some space to wrap up this experience without breathing down his neck and twirling my wig behind him.

AP: Is there pressure following him?

Rannells: It’s a very unique show. You see it and, I think, kind of lose the actor a little bit. You really do believe that there is this odd creature up there that you’re watching and this is all happening in front of you in a crazy way. The show itself, and Hedwig, is the star. So even if you’ve seen it six times, if there’s a new actor in it, it’s going to be a completely different show to you.

AP: Maybe like everyone has their favorite James Bond?

Rannells: Right. Timothy Dalton is weirdly mine. That’s my favorite Bond. He’s the first one I saw. Then later I was like, ‘Oh, Sean Connery did it?’

AP: Speaking of stars, what was it like to be around De Niro?

Story Continues →