Jonathan Groff is one of the stars of The Matrix Resurrections. Some of us have long been obsessed with Groff’s theatrical career. He originated the role of Melchior in Spring Awakening on Broadway and was nominated for his first Tony in 2007. Recently he has starred as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and he was also King George III in a little show known as Hamilton. He was nominated for a second Tony for Hamilton, as well as a Primetime Emmy. He also has a Grammy Award for the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton.
But Groff is a man of many talents that extend far beyond the lighted stage. Here is a list of his best roles in TV and film over the past 15 years.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re aware of the Disney film Frozen, its sequel, Frozen II, as well as the two shorts Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. In this successful franchise, Groff voices the character of Kristoff. The beloved ice-man and his reindeer, Sven (also voiced by Groff), ingratiate themselves into our hearts instantly. Kristoff doesn’t immediately win the heart of Anna (Kristen Bell), but he does win it after we see the true colors of Hans (Santino Fontana). This was Groff’s first voiceover role, but not his last. He later voiced roles in The Simpsons, Invincible, and the titular character in the forthcoming Lost Ollie.
Groff stars as Jesse St. James, who is the on-again/off-again love interest Rachel (Lea Michele). Jesse is the lead vocalist in Vocal Adrenaline, the biggest rival for McKinley High’s New Directions. Jesse and Rachel’s romance is in constant competition with Rachel’s connection to Finn (Cory Monteith). Ultimately Finn is victorious in the love triangle, but Jesse winds up with Rachel in the end, appearing as her husband in the finale. Due to the untimely death of Finn (and Monteith in real life), who knows what would have happened, but Jesse seems to have been there for Rachel during her grief. Jesse could easily be an unlikable character in lesser hands, but with Groff’s soft eyes and warmth, it’s difficult not to empathize with his plight for Rachel’s heart.
In Taking Woodstock, Groff plays Michael Lang in an underrated behind-the-scenes story of how the 1969 music festival actually happened. When the town of Woodstock, NY decides to ban the music festival at the last moment, Lang has to find a new location and accommodations for what’s turning out to be way bigger than he could have imagined. Based on true events, Groff embodies the soft-spoken, but ambitious Lang easily. Groff conveys the stress in pulling such a magnanimous feat altogether and yet remains calm and collected to keep everyone reassured along the way. In nearby Bethel, NY, local resident Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), and a gracious local farmer named Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy) collaborate with Lang and, well, we all know what happened next.
Based on a short story by acclaimed author David Sedaris, C.O.G. is a hidden gem of a movie. Largely autobiographical, the story finds David (Groff) in Oregon finding work as an apple picker. It consists of all the strange characters he meets along the way from insanely religious Jon (Denis O’Hare) to an old farmer named Hobbs (Dean Stockwell). If you’re familiar with Sedaris, it’s easy to see why Groff is the perfect casting for an autobiographical story. He’s a little too trusting and learns the hard way that people aren’t always great. And yet, he is able to find humor in every experience he comes across. Groff’s innocence is only outmatched by his charm and portraying a young-Sedaris type makes for an incredibly enjoyable watch.
The Normal Heart
If you need your heart broken into pieces, this is the movie for you. Based on Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play of the same name, this film is based on actual events during the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 80s. Groff plays Craig, one of the first in his group of friends to come down with an unidentifiable new virus. Craig’s stay in this world (and this film) is short-lived, but he is a catalyst for the rest of the story to unfold. The main character, Ned (Mark Ruffalo) uses Craig’s journey to begin his activism fighting for funding and basic acknowledgment of the crisis as he grows tired of watching his friends die all around him. This movie is a hard watch, but it is necessary viewing. Groff has the ability to make you care so much for his character in such a short amount of time that his loss is felt so much harder. The Normal Heart took home the Emmy for Outstanding Television movie in 2014.
Looking only ran for 2 seasons on HBO, which was not nearly enough. Thankfully, they gave us Looking: The Movie to wrap up all the storylines. Groff plays Patrick, who lives amongst his friends in modern-day San Francisco. He is a video game designer who moved to California from Colorado where he lived a pretty sheltered life. He is shy, naive, and new to the gay scene in the big city. He finds himself in a love triangle with sweet and unassuming Ritchie (Raúl Castillo) and his boss Kevin (Russell Tovey). It’s with the help of his newfound family that he is able to navigate this tricky situation and finally figure out what is best for his future. Being from a small Amish community in Pennsylvania, one can’t help but wonder if Groff had a lot of personal experience to draw from as he fits this role perfectly.
And now for something completely different. In the mid-1970s, two FBI Agents, Holden Ford (Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), begin interviewing infamous serial killers in prison. They begin a process we currently know as psychological profiling to discover patterns for killers at large. Ford is unlike any of Groff’s other characters. He is extremely book smart and tends to be able to compartmentalize his emotions. However, even the strongest of minds can be messed with by infamous murderers such as Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton), David Berkowitz (Oliver Cooper), and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman). The Season 1 finale encapsulates Groff’s acting range when his character suffers a severe panic attack after a moment of looking death straight in the eyes. This David Fincher series is mesmerizing and there are only two seasons available. They have not committed to a third season at this time, but everyone involved is open to it should the opportunity present itself.