Andrew Rannells (‘Black Monday’): ‘A lot of drama this season in a way that is unexpected’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

“‘Black Monday’ takes some really big swings for a half hour comedy,” declares co-star Andrew Rannells. In our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video interview above), he adds, “Tonally we are, in a fun way, all over the map. There is certainly a lot of drama this season in a way that is unexpected for a half hour comedy. David Caspe and Jordan Cahan (the creators) have always said they were going to push it as far as they can in a half hour format.”

In its second season the Showtime program explores the excesses and greed of Wall Street in the wake of the Black Monday crash of 1987. Set in the 1980s, it allows the show to take comedic swings at social issues in a way that allows reflection on how far we have (or haven’t) come. Rannells explains, “In the first season we did this over the top sexual harassment seminar. As we read it, it was so funny and over the top. But when we were filming it, at the beginning of what would become the #metoo movement, we realized we have not come that far. A lot of people still don’t know how to behave in the workplace. This season they explore sexism with Regina Hall’s character specifically. We are not talking about that long ago. As those storylines come up, you wish we were further ahead.”

It is also a show that allows for fun moments. In the fourth episode of the season (literally titled titled ‘Four!), Rannells’ character pretends to be good at golf. The sequence ends with Hall hitting him with a golf buggy. The actor explains, “That was probably the closest I’m going to get to a zany 80’s comedy. I felt like I got to be Jack Tripper for a moment. Regina and I had not got a lot of time to spend together this season. I love working with her so much. There is such a great tone to those scenes. Regina and I swing for the fences comedically. It was a fun couple of days at a golf course. I’ve never played golf, so that part was easy. But I have played miniature golf.”

On ‘Black Monday’ Rannells plays Blair Pfaff, an ambitious but initially idealistic stockbroker entering Wall Street. By the second season he has helped framed his boss for the Black Monday crash and is a cynical and cutthroat trader. Rannells says, “The biggest challenge was not thinking of him as any kind of villain. Everyone has their own motivations. As the last few episodes air you’ll see where it gets a little trickier because he seems like he’s crossed over to something very deceitful and dark. I try to remember where he came from. The shine of being new and the optimism about the way he’s gonna do business has flown completely out the window now. He’s really come into his own for the moment. It’s been a really fun flip to get to play.”

The actor explains how his own experiences reflect that of Blair and his Tony-nominated role. He says, “In ‘The Book of Mormon’ I played Elder Price who shows up to go on his mission. He is very optimistic and confident in his own skills. He quickly learns after being sent to Uganda that things are not going to work out as he planned. With Blair, that’s also his path, he shows up on Wall Street and he’s ready to take it over and do it his way. He realizes he has to compromise everything that he thought he was doing to get ahead. When I moved to New York City in 1997 I thought I was going to be a Broadway star and it was going to be so simple. Not that I did anything horrible, I don’t think, but it was a little harder than I thought it was going to be. That is where I relate to these characters most. There’s an optimism that kind of gets knocked out of you as you hang out a little bit longer. But I never felt like I had to marry a woman to get ahead. Especially not on Broadway.”

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