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Interview: Josh Gad on 'Wish I Was Here' and getting recognized for 'Frozen'

"Wish I Was Here" star Josh Gad talks about "Garden State," the pain of playing mean and how kids today know that he's the voice of "Frozen"'s snowman.

Josh Gad was thrilled to be in Zach Braff's follow-up to "Garden State." Credit: Getty Images Josh Gad was thrilled to be in Zach Braff's follow-up to "Garden State."
Credit: Getty Images

Josh Gad found it pretty surreal to be starring in Zach Braff’s “Wish I Was Here.” “I grew up loving and revering ‘Garden State,” the actor says. “The soundtrack was the soundtrack to my college years.” Ten years later he found himself playing Noah, Braff’s social outcast brother in the actor-writer-director’s belated follow-up. It’s another personal milestone for someone who was already in “The Book of Mormon”’s original cast and voiced the snowman in the unstoppable juggernaut “Frozen.”

What he loves about his unlikeable character: “His entire personality is a front and there’s a disconnection about what he’s feeling and how he’s exhibiting his behavior. There’s something that always fascinates me about characters who are pretty unlikeable at first and have this arc where the audience has to fall in love with them by the end. That’s a hard task for an actor. And Noah is beautiful to me.”

On playing jerks: “A character never knows he’s being a d—. In the case of Noah, I think he doesn’t realize how much he’s shutting people out. You have to approach it with a level of vulnerability and sympathy that is inherent in the character. What was tough was playing that interior sadness despite the exterior front of confidence. Because it is a facade.”

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Josh Gad plays Zach Braff's unpleasant slacker brother in "Wish I Was Here." Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features Josh Gad plays Zach Braff's unpleasant slacker brother in "Wish I Was Here."
Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features

The film’s exploration of spirituality hit close to home: “I’ve definitely gone through the peaks and valleys of questioning my faith. This movie touches upon that in a really profound way. Like many other people I’ve had my questions, whether it’s through the ribald, satirical nature of ‘The Book of Mormon’ or a movie where it comes down to whether or not you send your children to a Yeshiva. Both projects tackle the same issue from different perspectives.”

On releasing a smaller, smarter film in the dog days of summer: “People say they don’t want to think during the summer, but I think they do want to think. … After you’ve been drinking the same things over and over again, your palette becomes numb. Occasionally you have to change it up and try something completely unexpected, so you can appreciate the same sensations. If you’re going to see ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Godzilla’ and ‘X-Men’ — great movies that I personally love — seeing something like ‘Wish I Was Here’ pushes a reset button. It allows you to appreciate those films in a new way.”

On gaining new fans from “Frozen”: “It’s crazy. It’s changed my entire life. What’s funny is I didn’t expect that. Growing up I couldn’t point to the person who voiced Baloo the Bear. I think in the age of social media and easily accessible information, kids now know exactly who voices these characters. So when I walk down the wrong street, it becomes Beatlemania. It’s weird in a way, because you don’t want the kids to know that Olaf [the snowman] is played by some weird, schlubby guy in his 30s. You want them to have this purity.”

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
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