Jonathan Drew Groff (born March 26, 1985) is an American stage actor, film actor, tv actor, singer, songwriter, and musician best known for his roles as Broadway’s original Melchior Gabor in the hit musical Spring Awakening and Jesse St. James in Glee.
Before getting his big break in Spring Awakening, Jonathan also starred in In My Life, the US National Tour of The Sound of Music. He also worked as a waiter, ride operator, and a camp counselor to 12 year olds.
Jonathan has no formal training – all of his experience has come from being on stage and learning “on the job”. His first on-stage role was in his seventh grade’s performance of Hercules, where he played Horse Head #4 and Hydra Head #9.
Jonathan moved from his native Lancaster, Pennsylvania to New York at age 20, to pursue his dream of appearing on Broadway. He was cast in Spring Awakening the same year – on gaining that role, he said “All I really wanted was to be a working actor. I had thought that some day maybe I would be in the ensemble of a Broadway show. It was sort of like every wildest dream I ever had coming true.“. For his portrayal of Melchior Gabor, Jonathan was nominated for several awards, including the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (2007), the Drama League Award for Distinguised Performance in a Musical (2007), and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (2007). Jonathan describes Spring Awakening as “the show that really changed my life”. Also during Spring Awakening, he met the person he describes as his best friend, co-star Lea Michele.
After Spring Awakening, Jonathan appeared as Claude Hooper Bukowski in the Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park production of Hair. Despite receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews, Jonathan decided against joining the cast in the Broadway revival.
Jonathan then appeared in acclaimed playwright Craig Lucas’s off-Broadway production of Prayer For My Enemy, where he played a returned Iraq veteran in a play about the effects of the Iraq war on the average American family. Jonathan received an Obie Award for this role.
In August 2009, Jonathan returned to Shakespeare in the Park, to portray Dionysus in Shakespeare’s The Bacchae.
Also in 2009, Jonathan’s first movie was released – Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, where he portrayed Woodstock organiser, Michael Lang. In order to play Michael accurately, he spent several days with him, as well as his family. Jonathan also had a “four inch thick binder” full of information, given to him by Ang Lee.
Jonathan’s next big role was as Jesse St. James on Glee. Jonathan had previously worked with Glee creator/producer/writer Ryan Murphy on the show Pretty/Handsome, which was unfortunately never picked up. However, Ryan had promised Jonathan that if Glee was successful, he would write him a role on the show. As Jesse St. James, Jonathan appeared in seven episodes of the first season, with rumours that he’ll be back from the last several episodes of season two. Songs featuring Jonathan reached as high as #16 on the US charts, and #2 on the Irish charts.
While filming Glee, Jonathan’s agent informed him of the West End production of Deathtrap, the Tony-nominated play-within-a-play by Ira Levin. When Jonathan found out that he’d have the chance to work with Simon Russell Beale (called “The greatest stage actor of his generation”), Jonathan agreed to audition without even reading the script – he read it on the flight from New York to London for the audition. For his audition, he went to the lengths of doing the entire audition dressed as Clifford, the character he hoped to portray. Deathtrap marks Jonathan’s West End debut.
In 2011, Jonathan had two movies released – Jeff Lipsky’s Twelve Thirty, about a dysfunctional American family, and Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, about Mary Surratt, the only female conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. 2011 was also the year where Jonathan returned to the broadway stage to play Danny, a playwright with a problem in Jeff Talbot’s The Submission.
In 2012, it was announced that Jonathan would be a regular cast member in the Starz hit, Boss. Focusing on the inner workings of Chicago politics, Jonathan played Ian Todd, a political upstart willing to do whatever possible to make connections.
2013 may be Jonathan’s biggest year yet, with two major movies up for release – C.O.G. (Children of God), based on the David Sedaris short story, and Disney’s Frozen, where Jonathan will voice the “Disney Prince”.