Josh Gad Leaps From Broadway to This Week’s “Modern Family”

Josh Gad

While Josh Gad has been around for awhile in television and movies, it took a little musical about Mormons to launch his career into the stratosphere. Of course, that little musical is The Book Of Mormon, the huge Broadway success from Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez which won multiple Tony Awards this summer including Best Musical. Gad received a Best Leading Actor in a Musical nomination for his role as Elder Arnold Cunningham and while he continues to perform eight shows a week on the Great White Way, he found time to do a guest spot this week on ABC’s gay-friendly sitcom, Modern Family.

In tonight’s Modern Family episode, Gad (r, with Nolan Gould, l and Ty Burrell, c)

is a former neighbor who returns a billionaire.

Gad jumped on the phone with late last week and the actor, who is straight, talked his Modern Family gig, the life-changing success of Mormon and his feelings about marriage equality. How did the Modern Family gig come about?

Josh Gad: It has been in the planning for awhile because of my history with Steve Levitan and Chris Lloyd, who obviously are the creators of the show, since we worked on the sitcom Back To You a few years ago on Fox. It was kind of that moment when the stars aligned and we could have it happen. Of course, Ty Burrell was also one of the stars of that show, so it was amazing to play with him again after a few years.

AE: And your character is entwined with Ty’s character, Phil, right?

JG: Yes, it’s completely entwined with the Dunphy family. Kenneth, my character, is somebody who used to live in the neighborhood who everybody thought was going to go nowhere and be a deadbeat and he wound up becoming this billionaire. He comes to visit the Dunphys and bestows the knowledge onto Phil that he never realized that he idolized Phil, and he used him as a benchmark to achieve all his success.

While Phil (Burrell) is usually trying to get praise, Kenneth (Gad) had plenty to give.

AE: I love that since Phil is always put upon and constantly tries to get the approval of everyone. It’s great that your character gives him that.

JG: Exactly, so it’s really nice that the character can say ‘Phil, you taught me life lessons.’

AE: I know you’re busy with Book Of Mormon but have you been able to be a fan of Modern Family?

JG: Oh yeah. I think it’s one of the best, if not the best, comedy of the last decade so I’m so honored to have a history with these guys and the writers and become a part of the family. I adore the show, and I hope it’s something that I get to do in the future again. I had a blast even though it was kind of insane because I had to fly in that morning and fly out late that afternoon because of my commitment to Book Of Mormon, but it was well worth it.

Gad (right) in his Tony-nominated role of Elder Arnold Cunningham

(with Rema Webb, l, and Andrew Rannells, center) in The Book Of Mormon.

AE: Safe to say that the door left open so you can return to the show again?

JG: I think so. I think it’s safe to say. I had a blast and hopefully it ends up being as much fun onscreen as it was to shoot.

AE: Congrats on all the success of Book of Mormon. I tried unsuccessfully to get tickets last time I was in New York!

JG: I always feel like I have to apologize but that’s crazy. It’s amazing.

AE: That’s good job security though! But can you even put into words how it’s changed your life?

JG: It is crazy! I’ve done film, I’ve done television and I’ve stuck my hand in every single format out there but there’s something truly rewarding about getting any sort of recognition for stage work. That was my training ground and it’s very unusual that that should be the breakout thing that changes your life. That’s exactly what launched me so it’s really, really been the most incredible experience and every night that I get to perform it I just am honored to be on that stage.

With success comes the chance to hobnob with stars

like Jake Gyllenhaal (at last year’s AFI Fest in Los Angeles).

AE: Like Modern Family, Book of Mormon has a sweet quality about it even if it also tends to be offensive at times. Do you think that sweet quality is the key to the show’s success?

JG: I think that’s the universal appeal of it. I think when you come to the show you leave with this huge smile on your face and a sense that there’s a message beyond just the insane antics of Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Bobby Lopez. There’s a much deeper message to walk away with that I think is pretty powerful and pretty cool.

AE: You’ve also been a big proponent of marriage equality and it’s great that we see gay characters as a part of the fabric of a show like Modern Family. Do you think we’re going to get to a point where all the talk about equality is in the past?

JG: I think we’re getting to the point of no return because I think the fact is that the younger generations really don’t see this as an issue whereas the older generation obviously still does. I think that once we get to that point where our generation is running things, I truly believe we’ll look back at this time and question why we were ever so complacent withholding something as universal as the freedom of equality and marrying someone that you love.

AE: You did Modern Family and Book of Mormon is keeping you busy but anything else going on?

JG: It keeps me busy but it affords me amazing opportunities at the same time. I just wrapped a film that I’m very proud of written and directed by Stu Blumberg, who was one of the writers of The Kids Are All Right, and it stars me, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo. It’s essentially about three guys – me, Mark and Tim – and we’re sex addicts that are helping each other get through what is their major disease. It’s a pretty touching, pretty hysterical, pretty tragic film and I think it’s also pretty great. I’m really excited about that. Then, I have a show airing on MTV called Good Vibes, which is an animated show created by David Gordon Green and I star as the main character, Mondo, and that’s a lot of fun. I’m also writing two pilots for NBC so that’s keeping me busy. It’s been an enormous explosion of great activity in my life right now, which I am very grateful for.

Modern Family airs at 9pm et/pt on ABC. Check out more about Book Of Mormon here.

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