'Mormon' propels old college roomies to stardom

By Jake Coyle

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Rory is Oscar and Josh is Felix," says composer Lopez. "They're kind of like Ernie and Bert. One time, Rory was walking with a cookie and glass of water down a long hallway at some event, and he said, 'Josh made me get it for him.'"

During college, Gad wrote a musical called "Axis of Evil, or al-Qaida: the Musical," in which O'Malley played former Vice President Dick Cheney. Gad acknowledges it was "a little Trey Parker-Matt Stonian."

"They're opposites in a sense," says Anthony McKay, associate professor of acting at Carnegie Mellon, who auditioned Gad. "Rory is kind of steady and solid and very talented, but is willing to stand his turn and wait. He doesn't push himself forward — his talent speaks for itself. Whereas Josh was ever-present, doing all sorts of projects and always approached the work with fun. Josh was kind of a zeitgeist."

After graduating in 2003, O'Malley moved to Los Angeles, falling in with the Troubadour Theater Co., and Gad, intent on making it onto "Saturday Night Live," came to New York. But the two remained good friends and found themselves together again on "Spelling Bee." As struggling actors, they often leaned on each other — O'Malley the calm, rational one, and Gad the one who wears his neuroses on his sleeve.

An epiphany hits Gad: "I just realized: I've been whining to you about productions my entire life. I apologize."

O'Malley responds: "Twelve years I've been listening to this hypochondriac complain about everything."

When Gad insists O'Malley plays too much of the devil's advocate when dishing advice, O'Malley defends himself:

"I try to see the bright side," he says. "Whenever he comes to me with total devastation, I go, 'Well, you know. ...' We just had the Tony luncheon, one of the biggest moments of our lives. What is the first thing Josh has to say when we get together? 'Did you see it? CNN breaking news: Cell phones do cause cancer! I told you!'"

"Innocent people need to know," Gad insists.

O'Malley was a groomsman at Gad's wedding. And despite seeing each other constantly for "Mormon," they will still hang out on days off, as they did recently to shop and see the action movie "Thor."

"You have to explain it to people a couple times that we really are this close," says O'Malley. "When things like this happen to you, no matter what they are, they're not worth anything if you can't share them with someone — your family or your loved ones. I can't share this with my mom the same way I can with Josh."

They say, though, that their mothers might be enjoying the ride the most. They'll be sitting together Sunday night at the Tonys.

Says O'Malley: "Everyone should have one of their best friends nominated for a Tony with them."

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