Josh Groban has a beautiful new album, Harmony, out Friday, Nov. 20. It’s a superb collection that finds him bringing his powerful vocals and emotions to songs like Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” performed with Sara Bareilles.I spoke with Groban recently over a Zoom call, and I could not pass up the opportunity to ask him about working with comedy legend Robin Williams on the CBS series The Crazy Ones (which I had recently binged on Amazon during a huge Williams kick). Turns out that Groban, who started in musical theater and TV before becoming a pop superstar, was happy to talk about acting and the shows and movies he is a huge fan of.His list features stuff he’s been watching and perpetual favorites. It’s as inspired and eclectic as you can imagine. Oh, and if anyone from Hulu sees this, yes, Groban as a teacher on PEN15 would be amazing!
Baltin: What is going on with your acting? And how much fun is that for you to do something totally different?
Josh Groban: It’s so fun, it’s the best kind of fear because I’ve been so lucky in my music world. The fear of the music thing was just getting thrown into such a big world very, very quickly. I had to be on a pedestal from kind of moment one.
In the acting and comedy realm I feel like I’ve been able to work my way up slowly a little bit and obviously culminating in being able to share a couple of days on set with someone like Robin Williams. You just try to be a sponge, you just try to sit back and observe and watch the process and learn as much as you can from somebody that you’ve admired your whole life and see how they approach a line or a scene or how they improvise, when they improvise. Robin was, I don’t need to tell you, just the quickest gun in the west. There was nobody who could match him and so you don’t try. Whatever way his boat is going you just drift in his wake and catch on. And moments like those have been so rewarding, so challenging, so fun.
You actually got started on TV.
Groban: I’ve been on a lot of TV shows that I love, which has been a really unexpected twist to this already hard to define career that I’ve had. And I’d love to do more. Comedy is rhythm, just like music. And before music, I was doing musical theater. My connection with David E. Kelley, who created The Crazy Ones, goes back to Ally McBeal, when he hired me to play an agoraphobic young kid. And all those years later to work with him and Robin was a blast.
What TV shows would you love to guest on?
Groban: I would love to play a teacher on Pen15. I think it’s one of the funniest shows out there. I would love to just be a waiter on Chef’s Table, that’s not really a role [laughs].
I’ve been starting to watch The West Wing for the first time from season one. And I’ve been so blown away with how that holds up. If there was ever another reunion, I know they just did one, love to be in that. I know Lin-Manuel [Miranda] and I share that. I’ve probably watched everything there is now on every streaming service and it’s all become a bit of a blur to be honest.
And what movie or movies would you want to be in a remake of?
Groban: The Jerk. I love Terry Gilliam, I love Monty Python. I love those old films. Amadeus is one of my favorites. I feel like I could do a great Scottish accent. Maybe Braveheart. Every guy wants to be in Braveheart.
That was a big leap from Monty Python to Amadeus and Braveheart.
Groban: [Laughs] I’m just listing my favorite movies now. I don’t actually see a place for me in them. I don’t know, Servant Number 3?
When you say Terry Gilliam, I immediately go to The Fisher King and back to Robin Williams.
Groban: There you go, perfect.
Steve Baltin has written for Rolling Stone, Forbes, Billboard, Los Angeles Times, MOJO and more, as well as hosted the Amazon Prime series ‘Riffing With’ and the podcast ‘My Turning Point.’ He is a Southern California-based writer who loves a great sitcom.