Joshua Ilan "Josh" Gad is an American actor best known for voicing Olaf in the Disney film Frozen, Elder Arnold Cunningham in the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, and Ryan Church in the television series Back to You. He has also appeared in ER, The Daily Show, Modern Family, New Girl, Bored to Death, and Numb3rs. His film roles include The Rocker, Crossing Over, She Wants Me, 21, Love & Other Drugs, Jobs and Skip Gilchrist in the short lived political sitcom 1600 Penn on NBC.
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Hi guys! I did an AMA a while ago and now I'm back to answer more of your questions.
My latest movie is The Wedding Ringer ( trailer ) and it hits theaters next Friday, January 16.
Victoria's helping me out over the phone. Proof: http://imgur.com/Ow1kLRh
Edit Well, thank you guys so much for taking time out of your busy (or not busy) days to ask me ANY questions. I could not be more excited or proud of my new film with Kevin Hart, THE WEDDING RINGER, opening January 16th. It's a laugh-a-minute film
that will literally cause you to fall to the floor. Hopefully in a good way.
And to you all - warm hugs!
I am a huge fan of The Book of Mormon play. I listen to the soundtrack almost everyday. What was your favorite moment being on Broadway?
Also, what's your favorite song in the play? (Mine is "Man Up!")
First, I want to ask if you intended to rhyme every other sentence in that question, and if so, congratulations, remarkable job...
My favorite moment in the show, for me, is "I Believe." I remember when that song was added, at the 11th hour basically, we had done 3 workshops and there was another song that had been in that song's place, and it never really popped, and then one day Trey, Matt and Bobby came in and demo'd that song, and the ENTIRE room just literally - there was this silence that came over the room because everybody stood up and applauded, the show finally had that identity, that moment. And gave Elder Price this unbelievable perspective. And it showed the joy that he had for this religion, and that to me was the A-Ha moment. So I loved that.
Personally I loved performing "Man Up" every night - it was a blast from start to finish.
I am a big fan of Book Of Mormon. Unfortunately I didn’t see it in its original run, but I’d heard the soundtrack many times before seeing it live. What were the rehearsals like for that show? Was it very demanding or just a good laugh? Any funny behind-the-scenes anecdotes would be cool. :)
The rehearsal process for that show was about 4 years long of stop & go workshops. And every day... throughout those 4 years and throughout the entirely of the run, it never topped being funny or funnier than the day before. Every day was such a joy to come into work and do my thing because i was working with MASTERS of satire... people that have since become my family.
A good anecdote is: I'm trying to think of what I can say that i haven't already spoken about that's unique... here's one!
I was originally supposed to be a part of the "Hell" sequence that starts the second act. And I had this GIANT Josh Gad head - giant ceramic head on top of my body, I looked like a horrifying Disney character. And we did it in the previews, and I think I came close to death about 4 times. The audience had no clue what the hell was happening. I kept being like "Please cut this, please cut this" and it took them like 20 shows to figure out "This is probably not going to work" so 20 unique audiences got to see me running around onstage with a giant deranged face on my head.
It was beyond heavy and I had to wear shoulder-harnesses to hold it on. It was GIGANTIC. If you google "Josh Gad Book of Mormon Head" I think pictures of it exist.
It might even have its own tumblr account, if I'm not mistaken...
Hi Josh! What's your favorite leg?
What the hell does that mean?!
What's your favorite leg?
I would say the Turkey Leg at Disneyland.
Who do I yell at for canceling 1600 Penn? Show had so much promise. Though, I'll say, happy to see you have moved onto bigger and better things.
You know, I think that unfortunately "1600 Penn" never got the audience we would've liked for it to get. At the same time, I never look back. It was an incredible creative opportunity and i got to meet lifelong friends doing it. It got better and better as it went along. I look back on it fondly. We missed the mark as we got out of the gate, but if it were still on the air, I wouldn't be able to do the amazing projects I'm doing now, like I'm looking forward to my new TV series "The Comedians" with Billy Crystal premiering this spring on FX... n
Show me the money!
Just watched that spoof you did. Looking forward to Wedding Ringer.
My question is, did you think Frozen would be as big of a hit as it was, and are you yourself stilling singing let it go?
I absolutely had no idea FROZEN was going to be what it became.
I think it's safe to say that nobody thought it was going to become a pop cultural touchstone, the 5th highest grossing film of all time. I thought it was an INCREDIBLE film and I can tell you I remember going to the first screening that I ever saw it at, where it was just about 10 of us including me, Kristin Bell, Jonathan Graf, and John Lassiter, and the directors, and they showed it to us, and you know, when you're doing animation it's a lot different than live action because when you're doing live action you have a sense of how things will come together - in animation you're living in a bubble. So it was one of those few moments in my creative career where I was shell-shocked by what I saw - because i had no gauge for it.
I remember leaving that theater going "This reminds me of the movies I grew up with in the Disney golden age - Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast..." I hoped people would feel similarly. But never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be that big.
And yes, not a week goes by where I don't hum "Let it go" because i have a 4 year old in my house who sings it constantly.
Did you ever meet any Mormons who weren't happy with your satirical performance in Book of Mormon? If so, how did you respond?
I can safely say that in the 1.5 years I did that show, I never got a single complaint from a practicing Mormon.
To this day, I'm actually shocked by that.
To the contrary, I probably had a few people - a dozen - tell me they were so moved by the show that they took up the Mormon faith.
My response was "I think you might've missed the point, but that's awesome."
But that's the beauty of what Trey and Matt do - the product is so joyful, and so celebratory, that even though it's raising certain points that you can question and have your disagreements with - it's something where everybody leaves feeling happy. I'm not surprised that people felt that way. I'm just surprised so many people felt that way.
Howdy Josh. I have two questions.
What was your favorite piece you performed when competing in forensics?
Also, I volunteer at a Children's Hospital and a lot of my little patients love Olaf. Would you be interested in making a couple phone calls to a few?
I would always be interested to making phone calls to any kid that might be helped by a little Olaf hug.
And my favorite thing that I did in forensics was "Oooh-Ha" just because of how personal it was to my life and experiences.
And I just want to thank you for the work that you do at children's hospitals.
Hey Josh! Did you and Ty Burrell make up that handshake on Modern Family?
ROLL UP THE CURTAIN
Yes. Ty Burrell and I have known each other for many years because the 2 of us did my very first TV series together, called "Back to You" which was created by the same team behind "Modern Family" so we have this rapport from knowing each other for many years... we wanted to do something that was absolutely insane, trying to top the other's gestures, and that became the infamous handshake.
The New Girl episode you were in was the best ever. it's permanently dvr'd at my house. Is there always a little Bear Claw in you?
Bear Claw, there's always a little bear claw in everybody. But Bear Claw is definitely on the outskirts of who I am as a person, which is what excited me so much about that character, and I'm excited to revisit that character this season.
I just have one question that I know is on the mind of everyone here:
Do you want to build a snowman?
I have... surprisingly... not been asked that question more than 3 times already today... and my answer would be:
Who DOESN'T want to build a snowman?
Somebody actually tweeted me the other day that their child asked them "do you want to build an Olaf?" so I'm a bit concerned that "Olaf" is now becoming the noun to replace "Snowman" and that worries me a little bit. But i haven't had an opportunity yet because we haven't been around snow to build a snowman with my daughter, and that's something I've always wanted to do. I should just get on a plane and go to upstate New York and start building... but I don't have the time...
Do kids freak out when you tell them you played Olaf?
I don't usually tell kids that I played Olaf. I actually think it would freak them out in a BAD way because it would just... it's kind of demented for a grown man to go up to somebody and tell them he's a snowman? And usually if a parent thinks their 2 year old will understand that cocncept, it backfires. When a 14 year old finds out I'm Olaf, they get happy and excited and it's always a humbling, joyful experience for me. But anybody younger than 5, it's horrifying and traumatic and I think it's going to ruin their childhood.
Would you be interested in doing a BoM movie?
Yes, I would absolutely be MORE than interested in doing a BOM movie. It's up to Trey and Matt and the producers to decide if a man in his 30's is the best option for playing an 18 year old missionary...but that project, really, to this day, it defines me as an artist and it's something I committed so much time and energy to that in one way or another, I would love to revisit the character of Arnold Cunningham down the road.
Hey Josh, this probobly isn't what you would expect to be known for, but I just wanted to say your Original Oratory finals from 1999 NFL finals is where I was
originally introduced to you by my amazing former high school speech and debate coach, who I still work with today.
She coaches and teaches at camps in South Florida and makes it a thing to show your speech to absolutly anyone wanting to get into the speech side of forensics.
I was more into debate, but she would still play this speech on the projector over and over during lunch or during classes and I would always listen. I don't hesitate
to say that I think she is by far your biggest fan, and whenever things got tough at a hard tournment or when she had surgery, she would always shout "HOO-AH!" to herself.
Speech and debate changed my life and it was speeches like yours that carried over into more than just tournements. My question is
1: Do you still look back at this time in your life as a source of inspiration or material for your professional life now? Obviously one or two nights of the Book
of Mormon more than likely gave you a bigger audeince than all of NFL nationals, but do you still remember your roots when performing on the big stage? How big of
an influence did this activity carry over into the bigger roles you have today?
2: What advice would you give a now speech and debate coach like me who wants to ~~finally beat University School and Nova~~ instill that sense of grandeur that you seem
to emanate in your speeches and on stage to his students?
1) Wow. That's a very amazingly detailed question. I'm honored that people still look at my work from high school as a source of inspiration. Forensics left an indelible mark on my life. I continue to think that Speech & debate is one of the most important educational tools that any school has to offer, when it comes to after-school curricula. And forensics helped shape me as a performer, and helped define me as an artist. So I'm forever grateful for having it as a way to set a foundation for the rest of my life.
2) Write from the heart. Write what you know. And don't set out to do something grand, but to do something that you would want to sit through for 10 minutes. That's always how I began all of my oratory processes. I would think "What would I want to sit through? What would entertain me, make me think, and generate debate?" And when you come from that place, you can do anything.
What has been your oddest fan encounter?
My oddest fan encounter?
I had a fan stalk me at Disneyland. That was a little creepy. Like, literally, he would pop up like Waldo in a nightmare version of "Where's Waldo". It was a 40 year old man. I'm always creeped out if they are 40 year old grownups who are as obsessed as a 4 year old girl would be, and that was one of those weird sorts of things. I just think he genuinely wanted a warm hug.
Unfortunately, it was the creepy kind.
Hey Josh, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of The Wedding Ringer back in Nov and I had a few questions.
Is that your natural pitch when you sing or did they tell you to sound like that for the movie?
How awesome is Olivia Thirlby? She's great in all of her films and I still feel she's underrated.
The Bachelor party scene was hilarious, can't wait to see it again.
That is most certainly not my natural pitch. It was something I improv'd on the day. I wanted the character to sound absolutely insane. And now that you're asking me that question, I'm regretting that decision.
Olivia Thirlby is one of the most underrated actresses out there. She is incredible in the movie, incredible to work with, and she actually played my love interest on a short-lived animated show i did called "Good Vibes."
Thank you! We had a lot of fun filming that over the course of 2 long but amazingly hilarious nights.
Like your Frozen counterpart, do you prefer Summer over Winter?
No, I'm actually the complete opposite of Olaf.
I LOVE winter. I grew up in South Florida, so I don't need more heat in my life. I love the holidays, I love the winter months, and I just love the feeling of going outside and seeing your breath and you know, doing all that - slipping on black ice is not something I enjoy, but otherwise I love the winter months.
In your later years would you consider taking over for one of the late night talk shows?
Never say never! I think that... I love the adversity that i get to experience as a performer on a day to day basis. I love being able to do a lot of things at once, and that would be a pretty big commitment. Having said that, the opportunity to do a talk show is something that appeals to me in many ways.
1. How's your script coming along for "Twins 2: Triplets" (Arnold and Devito)? Does Universal Pictures still want to do this film right after Conan?
2. How has the lives changed for the Twins brothers (Julius & Vincent) 20 something years later?
3. Would you like to give yourself a role in Twins 2: Triplets? Perhaps as Arnold or Devito's son?
1) Uh, you know... the script is actually done. Everybody agrees that it's great. We wound up doing 2 drafts. Universal, I think, hit the pause button temporarily for whatever reason - internally I think they are trying to figure out if they want to do a sequel or not. I would say if there's an outpouring of affection, that may move the needle, but I think it's on hold right now. But everybody read the script and loved it, so I hope it sees the light of day at some point. It's there and in great shape.
2) Well, the lives have changed in that the two of them find themselves at a major crossroads where they've sort of grown apart over the years and what winds up bringing them together is a 3rd brother they never knew they had who could potentially be played by Eddie Murphy...
3) The answer to that is: most likely not, just because I wrote the film as a fan of the original movie TWINS. It was never written for me to be in it. Having said that, there is currently a role in the movie where Arnold has a son that looks like Danny, and Danny has a son that looks like Arnold. That could be fun, but as of right now, I have no intention of being a part of it.
Josh! What was your favorite memory at University School?!
Fellow Uschool Alumnus
p.s. Go Suns?
My favorite memory of U-School - I really had a lot of fond memories. That's not me trying to avoid an answer, I really loved the experience. It gave me an opportunity to really develop my skills as an actor through its incredible theater & forensics program. So all my memories hold a fond place in my heart.
Hey, chief! :) How is Bill Pullman? Thanks!
Well, uh... thanks Chief. Bill Pullman is the President. You know. He's the coolest.
He gave one of cinema's greatest speeches of all time. It was unbelievable to work with him. And also one of the most genuinely good people I've ever had the opportunity to know.
What's the craziest experience you've had during your work?
The craziest experience I've ever had during my work... that's a really good question, let me think about that for a second. I'd have to say when I was doing BOM, there'd be nights when I'd be thinking about everything OTHER than the next line of dialogue i had, and when the second act began, I had a line to cue it - and I literally not only froze because I couldn't remember the line, I couldn't remember the english language.
I couldn't remember what words were.
I was onstage for what seemed like an eternity of silence. And the conductor started screaming the line at me, but i couldn't hear him, because i was in the bubble of hell. So my costars started screaming the line at me... I couldn't hear anybody, so the way I broke the ice was saying "What the fuck is my next line?"
That was probably the craziest thing that's ever happened to me.
What was the best part of working with Kevin Hart?
Side note: You’re one of my favorite actors and I have followed you ever since the BoM. You're hilarious.
Well, first of all, thank you!
Second of all: coming to work every day, and laughing until my sides hurt, was definitely the best parts of working with Kevin. He's one of the most genuinely funny people I've ever met, as well as one of the most genuine.
Hey Josh what is your favourite type of cereal?
My favorite type of cereal has gotta be Life. I LOVE that cereal. And Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But there's something about LIFE that's so addictive. Especially when it goes from crunchy to mushy phase - the in-between of it all - that's when it's at its best.
Do you get recognized more for your voice on Frozen or your role in The Rocker (which I loved)?
I pretty much get recognized every day for my role in Frozen, which shocks me, because i'm a VOICE. But people somehow, in the age of social media, have an awareness about who's doing what that never existed before. When I was growing up, I would've never had the wherewithall to go to the woman who played Ursula and say "Hey, I know you!"
But i do get recognized quite often from the Rocker as well.
Hi, Josh! What made you want to become an actor? Also, do you find acting in an animated movie to be more difficult than acting in other movies? Thanks!
It's sort of a bug that hit me when I was a young kid. It was the thing I gravitated to. I went to the Catskill Mountains and saw a comedian when I was 4 years old and I was laughing harder than anyone else even though I didn't understand any of the jokes, because I felt the energy of live entertainment, so I knew that was what I wanted to do.
I just think it's a different muscle. They both have their challenges and they both have their rewards.
Would you ever go back to Broadway to do another musical? Possibly Frozen?
I am very interested in going back to Broadway. You know, I've had the opportunity to have a couple of great projects brought my way since Book of Mormon, unfortunately the timing hasn't been entirely right. My dream role and the one I hope to play is Pseudolus. Maybe someday!
Do you ever lift? Pump iron? Or do your muscles melt away in the summer time?
Do i look like I lift? Summer or winter? Take a look at my pictures online...
What advice would you give to students who don't believe vocal training is that important?
I would say that if you want to have a serious career, that involves musical theater or singing in any capacity, then it's imperative to do vocal training.
I didn't have the luxury of being trained at Carnegie-Mellon for musical theater, because i was strictly in the acting program. SO I went out of my way to pay for music lessons, to work with a vocal coach, to constantly train my voice to do the things I wanted to be able to do. And as a result, I've been able to do 2 Broadway shows, as well as a hit animated musical. So you need to nurture your voice the way you'd nurture any tool, as a craftsman.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I hope in the next 5 years to have the opportunity to sort of be the guide of my own content - to write, to produce, to potentially direct, and to oversee the projects that I choose to do. I really love all aspects of this industry, and having an opportunity to dabble in all of those, that's what primarily interests me from a business perspective. I hope i can say I've been able to go back to Broadway in that time, I hope I've been able to accomplish things on the big and small screen. So that's where I hope to see myself in 5 years.
What is Bill Paxton like?
I wouldn't know. I've never worked with Bill Paxton.
Meeting you (also known as acting like crazy people and following you down the street) in New York was the highlight of my friends and I's trip. How often do people recognize you in the street?
You know, it's actually fairly often. I get stopped on a daily basis and again it's primarily for a voice in an animated film that people know my work. Which is always shocking.
Are you currently working on Pixels or did that finish shooting already? I'm going to see it on opening day which also is my 18th birthday.
PIXELS finished shooting this past summer, and it is going to be OUT OF THIS WORLD figuratively and literally. It's an absolute romp in the vein of GHOSTBUSTERS and I am so excited to share it with the world.
Hey Josh, I thoroughly enjoy the articles you contribute to USA Today! My question is: If you weren't acting, what would you be doing instead?
I would probably be... an environmental activist of some sort? Or I would go into politics, if it weren't so violent? Such a violent bloodsport. I think we could use some good politicians right now. There's a dearth of people who care about what really matter. So therein abide my passions. And I hope I can do both one day.
What did you have for breakfast yesterday?
An egg white omelette with cheddar cheese, avocado and mushrooms and a side of mixed berries and a coffee with almond milk.
Have you ever met Kristen Wiig? Is she as nice as she seems?
Yes I have had the good fortune of meeting her on numerous occasions and she is nicer than she seems. She is completely down to earth, which I imagine would be difficult being one of the funniest human beings on earth.
Is there a certain historical or fictional character you'd love to play?
James K. Polk.
I'm just messing around. That's not true.
I think Sam Kinison would be the one.
I'm guessing you schedule is pretty crazy at the moment, but when you aren't working what tv, theatre, films or books have you enjoyed recently?
I've enjoyed seeing screenings during the last week of THE WEDDING RINGER over and over again with audiences all over the country. In all honesty, I haven't had any time to do anything other than that. The beauty of the film - and I say this objectively - when I sit with an audience and hear the laughter from start to finish, I'm shocked by how funny this film is. and the joy of seeing audiences embrace it on a daily basis is more than enough to compensate for the fact that I'm turning into an idiot from not reading any books for the last couple of months.
What's your favorite ride in Disney?
My favorite ride at DisneyLand is probably Indiana Jones. And I think it's just the amount of detail on that ride is so incredibly brilliant. And it just... takes you, it immerses you, whatever age you are, you get lost and you think you're on this amazing adventure through these treacherous rooms, and now that i get to experience these rides through my daughter's eyes, it's so fun.
And my other favorite ride is Peter Pan's Flight. I love that ride so much.
You've played some fabulous characters - which one was the most like you, and which did you wish you were more like?
The most like me... is Josh Gad from the upcoming show "The Comedians" where I literally play myself. And then the least like me that i wish I could be like is Olaf, actually, because I love this idea of having no cares in the world, of having this perspective where you look at the world through a prism of innocence, where you don't have any sort of cynicism.
I wish that I could be more like Olaf in my daily life.
Hi Josh! Which of your former co-stars would you most like to work with again?
That's a tough question. Just because I'm in the midst of it right now, I would say Kevin is somebody who I feel like I have incredible chemistry with onscreen, somebody I've got an incredible bond with, and somebody where there's a lot out there we could do that would be fun and funny.
I would also love to team up again down the road with my Mormon Missionary, Andrew Reynolds.
Josh, what ever happened to the Sam Kinison biopic?
The Sam Kinison biopic is still moving along. We want the script to be ENTIRELY right. Larry Charles (who's directing it) and myself - we're not going to do the movie to do the movie, we want to make sure it's the best possible script to honor this incredible man's legacy. So Rich Wilkes is getting back into it and from what I hear, the re-writes have been really incredible, so I'm looking forward to reading the new draft.
Have you had any encounters with Harrison Ford lately? Ever get that picture with him?
I have a picture with Harrison, when we were shooting a little movie called CROSSING OVER together. No I have not had an opportunity to get another photo with him since he infamously turned me down at a party after taking a picture with Hallie Steinfeld. So no.
But I am so unbelievably giddy to see that man put back on the black vest and go back to his roots as one Han Solo. I am geeking out. I've probably seen that trailer no less than 150 times. It never gets old. And I am waiting for the first glimpse of Harrison as one of my favorite characters of all time.
are you a Star Wars fan? Are you happy Star Wars is now in the Disney universe and what do you think of Star Tours?
I'm a HUGE HUGE HUGE Star Wars fan.
I'm waiting for my daughter to get a little older, because i want to revisit the originals with her. I"m beyond impressed with what Disney has already done with Star Wars, and I continue to be impressed with all the rumors that I'm hearing of what they want to do with the Star Wars property. Star Tours has always been one of my favorite rides - from the original, I love the new one even MORE, and I absolutely cannot wait - like the rest of the universe - for what J.J. Abrams has in store for us.