Broadway’s Rory O’Malley Loves Playing Gay Characters & Advocating For Gay Marriage

RoryOMalleyRory O’Malley (The Book of Mormon), who is currently starring in the off-Broadway run of William Finn and James Lapine’s Little Miss Sunshine musical (buy discount tickets here), is not your typical Catholic schoolboy. Sure, he knew he wanted to be an actor after playing St. Joseph in his second-grade Christmas pageant. But since then, O’Malley’s career has been anything but orthodox. Following his Tony-nominated role as Elder McKinley in The Book of Mormon — in which he sang the closet-case anthem “Turn It Off” — O’Malley, 32, has carved a niche for himself as musical theater’s go-to supporting gay. In Sunshine, he plays the Steve Carrell role from the movie, a morose Proust scholar who tries to kill himself after his boyfriend leaves him for an academic rival. “I definitely don’t get leery about being typecast,” O’Malley told Queerty in a phone interview. “I just love being cast… I love playing gay characters. I think it’s fantastic that there have been these rich gay characters for me to do… They’re fully-formed people, with points of view, and something different to bring to the story.” O’Malley stayed with Mormon for two years on Broadway. He’s only seen the show once since he left, when he went to cheer on his friend Gavin Creel at the opening of Mormon in London this past March. In addition to being industry buddies, Creel and O’Malley — along with Jenny Kanelos — founded the marriage equality non-profit Broadway Impact together in 2009. Broadway Impact was born after Election Night 2008. O’Malley and Kanelos had been volunteering for the Obama campaign in O’Malley’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. Their excitement over the new president was quickly deflated, however, when they heard about the passing of Proposition 8 in California. “The outrage that was felt all across the country was felt very strongly in the Broadway community,” O’Malley said. “We went to the protest at City Hall [in New York]… and Gavin was there. And Jenny and I started talking to Gavin and saying, ‘You know, we should see what the organizations that are out there want the Broadway community to do.’”
The founders of Broadway Impact
The trio found that there was little room for their ideas within existing organizations advocating for marriage equality. So they started their own group and began organizing rallies, phone banks and trips to national events, such as the National Equality March in Washington, D.C. In addition to helping secure marriage equality in New York state, Broadway Impact focused its efforts on the national fight. O’Malley, in particular, was fixated on the Prop. 8 court case unfolding in California. “That was happening at the same time that I was obsessed with Ted Talks,” he said. “And I was watching the one about The Vagina Monologues, and how [Eve Ensler] wrote The Vagina Monologues just as a night to do something in New York City. And then all of a sudden, it was being done on college campuses all across the country, raising awareness and money for domestic violence. And I thought, well that’s what we need.” Because of that Ted Talk, Broadway Impact began talking to the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), which arranged the legal team that fought Prop. 8 in California. O’Malley proposed to AFER his idea to theatricalize the court case. As a result, he received a call from out Oscar-winning filmmaker/Tom Daley paramour Dustin Lance Black, an AFER board member, who said he’d love to write the script. The result of O’Malley and Black’s efforts was 8 the Play, which employed verbatim chunks of trial transcripts to make an argument for marriage equality. received star-studded productions in New York and Los Angeles in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Among those who participated in the stagings: out actors Cheyenne Jackson, Matt Bomer, Chris Colfer, Jane Lynch, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and George Takei. Iconic queer activist Larry Kramer also took part in the New York production. Today, has been performed in all 50 states and seven countries. Kanelos, who now serves as the executive director of Broadway Impact, continues to find homes for the play with theater companies in states where marriage equality is still at stake. O’Malley explained that “giving a theater organization a packet of paper saying, ‘This is what you should do and this is how you can do something about marriage equality,’ that’s great. But handing them a script? They know exactly what to do with a script.” Today, having made a name for himself in the worlds of theater and politics, O’Malley is looking forward to reaping the benefits of his hard work. This past summer, he got engaged to his longtime boyfriend, Gerold Schroeder. The couple is planning a New York City wedding in the fall of 2014. As for the future, O’Malley hopes to be part of “a healthy family that has all the protections of state and country, and living just a simple married life.” Not a bad goal, and thanks to the efforts of people like O’Malley, it’s one to which we all can aspire.

Stage Notes


  • The Sound of Music Live! airs this Thursday night at 8/7c on NBC. Carrie Underwood mutilates stars as Maria von Trapp. Kudos to the network for filling out the rest of the cast with a bunch of theater names (including Tony-winners Audra McDonaldLaura Benanti and Christian Borle).
  • This week, Bette Midler begins the Los Angeles run of her hit Broadway play I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers. Tickets are fetching upwards of $400 for the nearly sold-out run, so unless you’re a power gay, you’re probably missing out on this one.
  • Speaking of Midler, the Divine one recently spoke to the LA Times about doing either Mame or Hello, Dolly! on Broadway. “These shows are great big bears,” she said. “It’s a lot of new people, and I’m not good anymore at remembering who is who. So I would be nervous about that and I would also be nervous about the social media part of it. I don’t like to put myself in harm’s way.”
  • The Boston Pops announced its spring season. Among those scheduled to perform, out Tony-winner Billy Porter and original Effie White Jennifer Holliday.
  • Tyne Daly is returning to Broadway this spring. She’s starring in out Tony-winner Terrence McNally’s new play, Mothers and Sons, which focuses on “a mother who pays a surprise visit to the New York apartment of her late son’s ex-partner, who is now married to another man and has a young son.” Shades of Philomena, but why not?
  • Out Tony-nominee Victor Garber has joined the cast of Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. He’ll be playing Ichabod Crane’s daddy father.
  • Powerhouse Broadway PR firm The Hartman Group will close its doors for good in January 2014. Founder Michael Hartman has accepted a position as CEO of Amy’s Ice Cream in Austin, TX. Hartman, who married actor and fellow Texan Nick Mayo in September, told The New York Times, “We both want to have a child, and we started to think about making our way down there one day, to raise a family and be around our families, and then it got fast-tracked because a great job became available.”

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  • Geoff B

    Good for him. He has a career he loves, uses his fame to do good, he’s young and handsome, and has a happy relationship. Granted, I’ve never heard of him until now, but we should all be so lucky in our lives. Glad he’s on our team.

  • MK Ultra

    @Geoff B: I agree. An all around great story.

Comments are closed.