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Jonathan Groff ditches 'Hamilton' for a serial killer series

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The Broadway actor stars in the Netflix show "Mindhunter" — when he's not busy with his podcast musical series.

Jonathan Groff stars in the new Netflix serial killer series, "Mindhunter." But long before diving into criminal minds, Groff got his start in a different medium — musical theater.

Groff had the lead role of Melchior Gabor in the original Broadway production of "Spring Awakening," a musical about troubled adolescence, and he played King George III in the Broadway smash, "Hamilton." Groff received Tony nominations for both performances and also appeared in the Grammy Award-winning "Hamilton" cast recording.

Groff's latest musical performance isn't on a stage. It's actually a podcast musical series called "36 Questions," about a married couple trying to mend their broken relationship by asking each other questions designed to get strangers to fall in love.

In "Mindhunter," Groff doesn't sing at all. The drama is set in the late 1970s in the wake of the Charles Manson and Son of Sam murders. He plays agent Holden Ford, who's part of a two-man behavioral sciences team  investigating the psychology of criminals and, specifically, serial killers. 

When Jonathan Groff spoke with The Frame's John Horn, he talked about moving from musical theater to television in "Mindhunter."


Can you talk about your transition from acting onstage to acting for the screen where there's no live audience?

Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff in "Mindhunter."
Patrick Harbron/Netflix
Holt McCallany and Jonathan Groff in "Mindhunter."
What is the decision-making process for you in being part of a series like "Mindhunter"? Is it, If I'm going to do this I have to be ready to do it for "x" number of years? Or is it, I want to work with David Fincher on the story and the years will kind of take care of themselves?
There are different ways of looking at the production schedule for a series. You could say it's almost like a year-long movie shoot. How did you approach it? Because it's a very long time to be working on a project.
Cameron Britton and Jonathan Groff in "Mindhunter."
Merrick Morton/Netflix
Cameron Britton and Jonathan Groff in "Mindhunter."
The thing that really strikes me about this series is its calmness. 
A lot of it is based on real cases and real people. So how do you step back from what historically has happened and what the record has shown to create a character that is your own?
Can you talk about your experience in the podcast musical, "36 Questions?"
And you don't have to spend months and months rehearsing. You can just put on a show.

"Spring Awakening" was, to me, one of the great shows I've ever seen. I wonder if when you're an actor and you're early in your career, do you recognize while you're doing a show that it means something?

So at what point do you say to yourself, I'm going to turn that down ... because it doesn't fit where I need to go and need to be? Because that's a very hard decision for a young actor to make.
And then another musical comes along, "Hamilton." How did you get into that show? Was it immediately clear that even if you didn't want to continue with "Hair" on Broadway that this absolutely had to be a part of your life?
Jonathan Groff and Anna Torv in "Mindhunter."
Patrick Harbron/Netflix
Jonathan Groff and Anna Torv in "Mindhunter."
Would people see you?
What was that like?

I thought it was interesting too that your character in "Mindhunter" is a straight man who has a really passionate sex life with his girlfriend. And I think it represents a time in Hollywood where it doesn't matter what the actor's orientation is, that anybody straight or gay can play anybody straight or gay. Was that important to you?

To listen to John Horn's interview with Jonathan Groff, click on the player above.
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