Black Monday’s season premiere on Showtime revealed a new role for Andrew Rannells. Typically cast as the gay best friend, Rannells shared his thoughts on his first role as a straight man in a TV series.
While based on the historic stock market crash in 1987, the series chronicles a fictional series of events resulting in this demise. Considered a dark comedy, Black Monday follows a firm called the Jammer Group, run by Maurice “Mo” Monroe, played by Don Cheadle. In order to raise the bottom-feeding company, Mo turns to Blair Pfaff (Andrew Rannells), who doesn’t quite fit in to the band of street-smart misfits. Mo manipulates Blair, destroying his career. The once naive Blair takes a turn, exploding on, who destroyed his career. Rannells commented on his character’s sudden change, seemingly surprised himself. “It’s a funny tone to play with, because it is very broad, and yet in other moments very grounded and human,” Rannells told The Hollywood Reporter. “That line is crazy, and the only way to say it is to truly believe it. I remember being like: well, I gotta really believe this! My dad died while beating me!”
Black Monday, which had been in the works for over a decade, began for Rannells with a meeting with Seth Rogan nearly 10 years ago. “I met with him while I was still doing Book of Mormon. Over the years I would run into him, and we’d always say ‘We’re gonna work together, we’re gonna find something someday that’ll be a fit for us,’ and then this was it.”
The character of Blair is far removed from Rannells’ typical casting as the gay best friend, such as in HBO’s Girls. Concerning this choice, Rannells admits it was deliberate. “I didn’t want to jump into anything out of panic after Girls,” Rannells revealed. “I was getting offered every gay best friend role in the world, and they were all the same. Sassy, kind of drunk …” Indeed, even his appearance in The Romanoffs happened to be as a gay best friend of sorts. Rannells’ avoidance of any type-casting seemed successful, as his new role of Blair reveals a naive, yet hard-working individual with no inkling of flamboyance.
“He comes in really thinking that he’s just gonna be able to work hard and be honest and will be rewarded for that,” Rannells explains. However, his character comes out of this disillusionment with a sense of empowerment. “He realizes, over time, that you do have to play the game and be manipulative. That, for Blair, is a real disappointment, and yet he takes to it. Once he figures out that’s what he has to do, he gets right into it.”
David Caspe and Jordan Cahan, co-creators of Black Monday, had already casted Rannells for the role in their minds, especially after his expanded role in the last season of Girls. “He was just someone we loved,” Cahan admitted. “His character has an intense amount of growth in the season, and it felt to us like it would be a really fun, meaty thing for him to dig into.”
Over the ten episodes, Blair’s character changes drastically. Rannells enthused over this alteration: “That’s not something I get to do a lot. I was excited to get to turn into a bad guy.” Despite this excitement, he clarified that he did not find gay roles limiting, but that “it’s only limiting if the writing is bad. I think people assume that there’s one gay type of person, and he’s usually a girl’s best friend.” His decision to avoid such roles was simply to broaden his horizons. Rannells remained hopeful, adding that, “There are more human parts for gay people, and different parts, and it’s not all the same type of guy. I’ve read a lot recently that’s exciting, stories that I’d like to be a part of telling in the future, and that’s encouraging.”
Watch Black Monday Sundays on Showtime.