Jonathan Groff: Just Jared Spotlight of the Week (Exclusive!)
The 28-year-old actor was photographed for the feature by Justin Campbell at Caulfield’s Bar and Dining Room at the Thompson Beverly Hills hotel.
Jonathan currently can be heard as the voice of Kristoff in the new Disney animated film Frozen, in theaters everywhere now. He will also be seen in the upcoming HBO series Looking, set to debut in January.
You may recognize Jonathan from his work on Glee as Jesse St. James, the rival to the New Directions in the first season. During our interview, he let us know if he will return to the show before it ends and also where he thinks his character is today.
Click inside to read our exclusive interview with Jonathan Groff…
Jonathan Groff – JustJared.com Exclusive Interview
Just Jared: Congratulations on Frozen! Can you tell us about your character in the movie?
Jonathan Groff: I play a character named Kristoff who makes ice for a living and in the beginning of the movie, Arendelle, which is the land in this film, gets completely frozen by Idina Menzel‘s character, so he is out of a job. So Kristen Bell‘s character sort of hires him to help her find her sister and a large chunk of the movie is us on this big adventure to try and find her and get the palace unfrozen.
JJ: Your character is described as a “rugged, mountain man.” Would you consider yourself similar at all?
JG: Complete typecasting! [Laughs] I’m not at all a rugged mountain man. I do love the outdoors, but this guy lives alone in the woods with nobody in his life except a reindeer and that is definitely the opposite of my experience.
JJ: What was the experience like recording your voiceover work?
JG: I didn’t meet… well, I met some of them before, but I didn’t work with any of the cast members at all until we had this screening of the movie for the cast. The co-directors were there, Chris [Buck] and Jen [Lee], who also wrote the movie. They would sort of guide each of us through, tell us what the other person had done in the other recording and we were open to improv a little bit, but it was sort of us alone in a room. The big revelation was that I used to sit in my room alone in elementary school and pretend to be Disney characters, and actually being a Disney character, the work of it is the same thing. You’re in a room alone sort of using your imagination.
JJ: Do you get to sing in the movie?
JG: I do! I sing a little ditty. In the movie my character has a pet reindeer who doesn’t talk. In some animated movies animals talk and in this movie a snowman talks, but my reindeer makes actual reindeer noises. Because I’ve lived alone in the woods so long with him, I’ve created a voice for him. The character Kristoff has created a voice for him, so I sing a duet with myself.
JJ: What was your favorite Disney movie growing up?
JG: Mary Poppins. And then animated probably… I don’t know. It’s really hard. I love them all. I saw Snow White in the movie theater when I was maybe 3 or 4 and I cried when it was over and I begged my mom to take me back. She said that we would just get it when it came out on video and then Disney vaulted the movie for ten years and I never got to see it again. I was so devastated that I would never let her live that down. So I think that might be my favorite one.
JJ: So you have The Normal Heart coming up. What was it like working with Ryan Murphy on this project compared to working with him on Glee?
JG: It was great. I mean he is a creative genius and from Glee to Nip/Tuck to American Horror Story to The Normal Heart, all of his work is so different and at the same time has a similar sensibility and it was sort of the same thing working with him. I actually did a pilot with him years ago before I did Glee called Pretty Handsome. So I did that with him, then I did Glee with him, and now I’m doing The Normal Heart. You know, loyalty is such a special quality in this business. Not only with me, but so many of the actors and crew that he works with remain so loyal and I think that’s really special. I really appreciate him for that and I love the play. I saw it off-Broadway ten years ago and then I saw it on Broadway two years ago and I think it’s so powerful and I just hope we can do the play justice because it’s such a powerful piece of theater.
JJ: How would you describe your cast members from The Normal Heart in one word? Matt Bomer?
JJ: Mark Ruffalo?
JJ: Jim Parsons?
JG: I never worked with Jim, but I would say southern.
JJ: Taylor Kitsch?
JJ: Julia Roberts?
JJ: Your HBO show Looking will be coming out in January. Tell us about that.
JG: It’s about a group of gay guys living in San Francisco, modern day, sort of navigating their lives and trying to find a place in the world, which actually has less to do with them being gay and more to do with them sort of figuring out their lives.
JJ: A lot of the roles you have done deal with the same themes. Are you ever nervous of being typecast?
JG: I feel like anyone who is an actor that finds success at doing… in the beginning I had done Spring Awakening so it was tough to break through the thing of people thinking I could only do musicals. I think it’s a universal problem for actors. If you get successful in one job or one particular thing, then people think that’s all you do. I feel like every moment of my career will probably be trying to bust through some sort of preconceived idea of what I can do as an actor. But, I think that every actor goes through that. You get success at one thing and they go, “Oh, you do that,” and they try and place you in that box. I feel like it’s going to be a lifelong challenge to constantly break through what people expect you to be doing, but it’s a great challenge too. I feel like I’ve really had to fight for things I’ve believed in and work extra hard to prove that I could do things other than musicals. It’s been great so far. I feel really blessed to have been able to do the things I’ve done so far.
JJ: Speaking of musicals, it was announced that Glee will be ending after its sixth season. Do you ever want to return to the show?
JG: Absolutely. Yeah, I love that show. I think contractually I can’t because of the HBO show at this moment and if it goes for more than a season I probably won’t be able to. But you never know what could happen. I still have a year to get in there and come back again, but who knows.
JJ: Where do you think your character Jesse is right now?
JG: My dream for him is that he would be in New York sort of pursuing a career as a male diva, but I feel like there’s also a version of the story where he becomes a coach in Ohio. Like, he continues to be a glee club coach because I think he likes being a big fish in a small pond.
JJ: Do you see yourself working with Lea Michele again in the future?
JG: I hope so! I’m having dinner with her tonight and I see her all the time. I love working with her and it’s the same thing with Ryan Murphy. When you go back to work with someone that you’ve worked with before, there is a shorthand and an ease. With her and I, we’ve done such intense and intimate work together on Spring Awakening and then we had so much fun on Glee. I know that we’ll be in each others lives forever, but it would be fun to continue that creative collaboration as well.
JJ: Lea called you out on TV for not calling on her birthday last year. What did you do to make up for it this year?
JG: So she had a little party that I obviously attended. [Laughs] There is this nickname that a yoga teacher called us that we sort of latched onto, which we thought was really funny, and so I got t-shirts made of that for both of us to wear. You know how they make t-shirts for family reunions? I got t-shirts like that made, so that was my birthday present to her.
JJ: What was the nickname?
JG: I’m not going to tell you! [Laughs]
JJ: Are you able to do any impressions of famous people?
JG: That’s a great question… no! Unfortunately, no. I don’t think I can.
JJ: Do you ever break into song in real life?
JG: Yeah! On a daily basis for sure.
JJ: What is your favorite song to just belt out and sing?
JG: Well on Looking, on the TV show that I just did, I would sing all the time. I miss singing so much and they were like, “Oh god, Jonathan.” They couldn’t shut me up. I was just singing [all the time]. Russell Tovey and I, and John Hoffman, one of our writers, we did the full “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line one day on set. We would just sing everything. I sing all the time. I love it.
JJ: This feature will be running on Thanksgiving Day, so can you tell us your plans for Turkey Day?
JG: This year, to be home in Pennsylvania with my family and we’re going to go see Frozen because my family hasn’t seen it yet. I’m going to go to Lancaster, my mom will cook dinner, it will be great, and then we’re going to go see my movie.
JJ: Speaking of Pennsylvania, Skylar Astin told us to ask you about when you guys took a trip up to Lancaster and to have you tell us what he did to make you stay up all night crying of laughter.
JG: [Laughs] Okay, I remember the trip… What he did? Oh, he has got his stories confused. Because I know now what he is talking about, but that happened on a different trip. When we went to Lancaster, we went as a cast. I went skinny dipping in my pool with my brother and John Gallagher Jr. Skylar was in bed, so that doesn’t make any sense for that, but what I think he’s trying to say is when we went with Lea’s family to the Hamptons. He and I and Lea and a couple of the other cast members were staying up till all hours and he had us laughing so hard because he was doing an impression of Jenna Ushkowitz [in Spring Awakening. She] is a cast member on Glee and was in Spring Awakening with us. It made us all hysterically laugh. She was there as well. That’s when he was doing it. But he got his stories a little confused so I’ve got to call him and call him out on that.
JJ: Do you see yourself returning to Broadway anytime soon?
JG: I would love to. Doing a play in New York is my favorite. I feel most happy when I’m doing that. It’s my favorite thing. I have no specific plans to do that, but it’s definitely something I would love to do.
JJ: Any dream roles?
JG: I don’t really have any. I’ve never really been a dream role person. Like Spring Awakening, when that happened I was thinking, “Wow, this is every dream I’ve ever had come true,” but a year before that I could have never imagined what that experience would have been like. I sort of take things as they come.
JJ: Do you have any favorite shows on Broadway recently?
JG: I haven’t been in New York to see [anything]. Let’s see. What is the last thing I saw? I saw a bunch in the spring like right before the Tony Awards. Oh, and I love Pippin. Patina Miller and I are really good friends. We did Hair together in Central Park and then I was doing a play in London while she was doing Sister Act in London and we would see each other every Sunday for Mexican food and movies. She is nailing it so hard in that show. I’ve seen it twice on Broadway and I love the production. She is amazing.
PHOTO SHOOT CREDITS (PICTURES BELOW) —–
Photos 1 and 4:
Emporio Armani blazer and trousers
Tom Ford shoes
Photo 2 and 5:
Gladys Tamez Millinery hat
J. Lindeberg blazer, shirt, and bow tie
Stylist’s own suspenders
Photos 3 and 6:
Reiss full look
Producer: Jared Eng (@jaredeng)
Photographer: Justin Campbell (@justjustinnyc)
Stylist: Avo Yermagyan (@AvoYermagyan)
Hair & Makeup: Anton Khachaturian (@antonkhach)
Interviewer: David Niederhoffer (@dnied)