THEATERMANIA: How would you describe going from understudy to taking over the lead role of Elder Cunningham on Broadway, and now on tour?
JARED GERTNER: It's been an incredible journey. I never covered a role before; I was never a standby. I just wanted to be part of this show. I did about 100 shows in the lead before I left the Broadway company. The more I went on, the more comfortable I felt.
TM: When did you first get to play the role?
JG: I first went on two weeks after we opened on Broadway and I also got to sing on the cast album. So I felt very much a part of this show. When I was offered the role of Elder Cunningham, I felt recognized and appreciated. A lot of hard work went into this role.
TM: You had the opportunity to open the Tony Awards. What was most special for you about that day? JG: I found out about a week before the Tonys that I would be performing. I got a call from our producer, Scott Rudin, asking me if I wanted to open the show. You don't say no to that! It was my favorite Tonys ever. Not because I opened the show -- you get bussed in and out so fast, that you don't even remember it -- but because so many of my friends were nominated and so many of my friends won. Being a part of this community is so special.
TM: When you came on board with the production, did you think "job security"?
JG: Once we opened and realized how successful this show was becoming, then yes, everyone got excited. But I didn't know right away if they would give me the role once Josh Gad left. I thought I would be with the show maybe a year as an understudy and then move on. I was itching to get out there; I wanted to be on stage. Once I knew I was getting the role, I knew I would be around a while.
TM: What have you learned from playing Elder Cunningham?
JG: I've learned that it's okay if you put yourself out there. Cunningham has no filter. He just goes for it and ultimately ends up winning. He becomes the hero.
TM: Josh Gad had many different names for Nabulungi. Do you have her name down correctly?
JG: No! I don't think Cunningham will ever get it right. I use some of Josh's nicknames for her, and I have some of my own. I don't want to ruin the surprise.
TM: What's different about the touring production versus the Broadway production?
JG: There are little tweaks here and there. We have some choreography changes. They have hired some fun, quirky actors and are letting everyone put their own stamp on their roles. If you try to do a mirror image of Broadway, it's not going to work. Gavin Creel and I have been finding new things to do. He is such an adventurous and fun actor. And, I got to work with Samantha Marie Ware on Broadway, when she was covering the role of Nabulungi.
TM: Are you looking forward to touring?
JG: I've never done a full production tour before, but this is exciting! I toured when I was younger. I'm trying to plan out my next year. I have friends in a lot of the cities we will be visiting, and I also want to see each city. Denver has been treating us great so far. However, the altitude is pretty crazy. It's taking some getting used to!
TM: Which city are you looking forward to visiting most?
JG: I am very excited to visit San Francisco. I lived there for seven months when I opened The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I'm also looking forward to Toronto, and three months in Los Angeles.
TM: If you were a Mormon, where would you want to do your mission?
JG: It would have to be Italy, because of the food. Food is very important to me.