If King George from the Broadway hit Hamilton looks familiar, it's because the actor who
plays him, Jonathan Groff, has also starred in popular television shows and movies since
2007, when he landed his first role as Henry Mackler on One Life to Live, followed by The
Good Wife in 2012. He's since held major roles on hits like Glee and Netflix's Mindhunter,
and has also lent his voice to characters in Frozen and The Simpsons.
"Are you serious?" "Yes!"
Outside his string of small-screen roles, Groff's other big break came in 2007 with
his performance in the rock musical Spring Awakening.
The two-time Tony Award-nominee played a teenager in 1890s Germany who is coming to terms with
his sexuality — which mirrored Groff's own life at the time. In an interview with GQ
in 2017, he recalled,
"I got cast for Spring Awakening when I was 20. Every dream I had came true in that moment.
But I was closeted — I'd kept a journal every day for years, but I never journaled
about the real stuff, because I was always afraid someone would read it."
Groff said after the show ended, he went to Italy by himself for two weeks and decided
to come out, which he said was a truly awakening moment for him. He told GQ,
"There's kind of a gift in being gay, because if you come out, you're forced to express
yourself. All the projects that I've done since that moment have so much more meaning.
And I realized whether you're playing a gay or straight person, it's all the same. We
all have heartbreak and love."
In 2010, Groff went on to star opposite Lea Michele in Glee, portraying Jesse St. James,
a rival glee club member, and later, a love interest of Michele's character, Rachel.
Showing his incredible acting range, he's also voiced Kristoff in Disney's mega-hit
Frozen films. Groff told NPR the experience was interesting for him, because he had never
done voiceover work before. He said he explored many different voices before landing on the
perfect one for his character. We're sure kids around the world would agree.
"How's your head?" "Ah, ooh, it's fine, uh, it's good, I've got a thick skull."
More recently in 2017, Groff took on the role of Holden Ford in Mindhunter. The show is
set in the 1970s and features two FBI agents who are assigned to interview serial killers
in order to solve open cases.
To understand the character in a deeper way Groff told NPR he read the book Mindhunter,
which was written by John Douglas, who the character is modeled after. He said in the
"He really lays it all out in that book, just specifically his journey, but also emotionally
the kind of toll that talking to the serial killers — and more so, talking to the victims
— had on him and his life."
However, it was Groff's role in Broadway smash-hit Hamilton that really allowed him to learn
how to connect to a live audience in a more intimate way. He explained the unique aspects
of his role in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying,
"Playing the king, you get to speak directly to the audience, and you can do anything you
want. I didn't get to have a lot of stage time with my fellow castmates, but I got to
build a relationship with the audience every night."
Though he doesn't have tons of screen time, Groff definitely leaves a mark as King George.
"I also learned about how you can do a lot with very little — as in, it's nine minutes
of stage time, but also, it's the little eye movements, eyebrow movements, hand movements.
You could do one small thing and have a huge impact in a 1,300-seat Broadway theater, which
is such a surprise."
He explained that his now-iconic performances of the songs "You'll Be Back" and "What Comes
Next" were challenging for a couple of reasons. Not only did he find the songs themselves
difficult to sing, he also had concerns about how he would command the stage by himself
during the musical numbers.
He also admitted during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he made a late
decision to change his character's accent halfway through his time on the off-Broadway
run of the show. He said,
"I started slowly filtering it in, and it became my alter ego backstage. So right before
I went onstage, I'd read a page from a book out loud in the accent to get into the mindset."
Next up for King Groff? He'll star opposite Keanu Reeves in the fourth Matrix movie, currently
set for release in 2022.
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