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On a Roll

Andrew Rannells heads off into 2014 with a very special nod from Miami’s National YoungArts Foundation.

Andrew Rannells kicks back.

With his deadpan delivery and priceless expressions, Andrew Rannells is a man who knows how to get the laughs. He did it in his star-turning turn on Broadway’s The Book of Mormon, then again as the excitable Elijah on HBO’s hit dramedy Girls, to which he returns this month. And who can forget his rat-a-tat quips as Bryan Collins in Ryan Murphy’s short-lived but beloved The New Normal? His scene-stealing turns have not gone unnoticed. Rannells scored a Tony nomination for Mormon in 2011, and this Jan. 11 he will step up to the podium to receive the Alumni Award at the annual gala for the National YoungArts Foundation, a Miami-based organization that mentors high school seniors as they set off to pursue careers in the arts.

YoungArts helped you get started in your acting career. How does it feel to get this award from them now? I’m really touched, and I never expected it. My experience with YoungArts was what really pushed me to move from Omaha to New York to pursue acting. They gave me that boost of confidence I needed.

The gala and awards presentation on Jan. 11 is the culmination of a week of workshops for arts students from all over the country. You were at one of those at one point, right? Yes, back in 1997, and a year later I was in college in New York. It changed my life.

Have you worked on your speech yet? I’ve thought about it, but haven’t settled on anything yet. What I want to get across is that a career in the arts is very difficult, but what makes it great is the relationships you make along the way.

This month is a big one for you. You’re back on Girls this season. What can we expect from your crazy character? I’d like to say that Elijah has grown up, but he really hasn’t. [laughs] He’s pretty much the same and that’s great fun to play.

Any nude scenes for you again? Oh, it’s like a rite of passage on that show! But you know what? It’s such a relaxed environment that you never feel self-conscious. You just do it.

That line of yours in the first season where you turn to the Marnie character and tell her she looks like a “slutty Von Trapp child” became such a sound bite. How did it come about? It was just improvising with Allison Williams [who plays Marnie]. I looked at her costume and that’s what she looked like to me, so I said it and it stayed. That’s the great thing about working with [creator] Lena Dunham. She hammers out these great scripts, but she always gives us room to improvise.

Do you visit Miami often? A couple of times. It’s so easy to get there from New York.

What are your favorite places? Oh, God. You know what, I am so not cool, and I know things change very quickly down there, but I love staying at the Delano. Is that still cool? And I love walking along Ocean and Collins. Everyone just seems so friendly.

Any big resolutions for 2014? I always say to watch less TV, but that never works out. Resolutions are meant to be broken, so maybe it’s better not to say them out loud.