Rogue is the latest charming, well, rogue to cross the Doctor path. But just who is the actor who brings the devilishly handsome time traveller to life? Meet Jonathan Groff. You definitely know his voice…

 

Doctor Who fans are about to meet Jonathan Groff’s Rogue for the first time. Groff himself is a newcomer to the Whoniverse. But he has an astonishing body of world behind him in other genres, which make him a perfect addition.

For many, Jonathan Groff first came to their attention as Jesse St. James, a recurring character across the first six seasons of musical sitcom TV show Glee, at the point when it seemed like the biggest show in the world. His status as leader of the Gleeks’ biggest rival club, Vocal Adrenaline, meant he could both come and go. It enabled him to work on other things but still get huge show-stopping numbers whenever he appeared. But, in fact, theatre audiences already knew the young Groff well. After a couple of false starts, he made his breakthrough as the lead actor of new musical Spring Awakening, which was successful enough to transfer to Broadway while retaining him as the lead. He followed it up with more plumb roles. Audiences and critics quickly identifying him as an upcoming musical theatre star of his generation.

 

Jonathan Groff as George III in the original Broadway production of Hamilton . King George stands in full coronation regalia, a faraway gleam in his eye, his crown titled at a slight angle
Jonathan Groff as the delightfully demented and dangerous George III in the original Broadway production of Hamilton

Groff has shown a talent for stealing scenes in global phenomena like Hamilton and Frozen

His fame went global, though, in the first huge crossover hit of the 21st century. Hamilton was the Broadway show everyone wanted to see. More than that, it was the show that even as people bought tickets months or years in advance, millions outside the usual audience for musicals snapped up the album and learned ever song word for word. Jonathan Groff’s popularity defied his actual time on stage. His portrayal of King George III as a narcissistic, spurned lover singing the magnificent You’ll Be Back in full royal regalia quickly became iconic. The singer perfectly captured a monarch teetering on the edge of insanity. He surgically pulled laughs and applause from audiences as he channeled the song’s dark humour. (So don’t throw away this thing we had/’Cause when push comes to shove/I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love)

Hamilton meant many times more people had heard Groff’s voice than seen his face. But it was nothing next to this next iconic role. Even compared to Hamilton, the songs of Frozen exist on constant repeat, surely always playing in a thousand different homes at any given moment around the world. The animated film itself isn’t far behind. Groff voices Kristoff, the rugged ice mover who teams up with Princess Anna. Together they track down her runaway sister Queen Elsa, with the help of Kristoff’s reindeer Sven. So popular is Frozen that it’s not only gotten a sequel and two short film spin-offs, but will be the first Disney movie to get a third theatrically released feature. And Groff has been a constant presence throughout all of them, even taking over voicing Sven in later installments too.

 

Jonathan Groff as the increasingly troubled FBI Agent Holden Ford in Mindhunter. Ford stands in front of a barred gate inside a prison (c) Netflix
Jonathan Groff as the increasingly troubled FBI Agent Holden Ford in Mindhunter (c) Netflix

There have been heavier dramatic roles too, in fare like serial killer drama Mindhunter and as the resurrected Agent Smith in The Matrix

It’s not all musicals, animated or otherwise, for Jonathan Groff though. From 2017 to 2019 he was also the star of David Fincher’s hard hitting crime drama Mindhunter. The Netflix series was set during the early days of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, with Groff’s Special Agent Holden Ford leading a team interviewing imprisoned serial killers. Ford and his colleagues were only loosely based on members of the real team. However, the serial killers they meet were real, and the scenes based on transcripts of actual interviews with them.

Mindhunter explored not just the inner workings of the serial killers involved, and the hunt for more killers on the loose, but the effects on the FBI agents themselves. Groff’s depiction of Ford, as his own health suffers from the stress and dangers of the job, was masterful. It was a crucial part of the show’s appeal and the critical acclaim it received.

The actor also played an Agent of an entirely different kind in his first real foray into science fiction. 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections co-starred Jonathan Groff as Smith, an upgraded version of the sadistic AI enforcer originally played by Hugo Weaving. His dedicated to his fight training regime earned him the nickname ‘the Savage’ by the stunt team. Meanwhile his uncanny ability to portray a mix of steel and brittleness was again put to good use. His Smith is like an unbending object about to snap at any moment.

 

,The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) meets Rogue (JONATHAN GROFF), ,BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon. The Doctor grins at Rogue, who seems charmed. Both are in regency era finery in a ballroom surrounded by other party goers.
,The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) meets Rogue (JONATHAN GROFF), ,BBC STUDIOS 2023,James Pardon

Having never seen Doctor Who before, Jonathan Groff is already well on the way becoming a fan

In this month’s Doctor Who Magazine, Groff explains how he’s taken a crash course on Doctor Who to prepare for his role as Rogue. with An Unearthly Child and Blink among his favourites. In factor, the actor claims you can draw “a direct line from that very first episode all the way through to the first gay black man playing the Doctor.” He identifies an alternative spirit, a link to people trying to expand their minds and embrace new concepts, that’s as relevant today as in 1963.

It sounds like Jonathan Groff is going to fit right in, here in the Whoniverse. Maybe, with any luck, we won’t have seen the last of Rogue either.

 

Doctor Who,Jonathan Groff with Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON), The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) BBC Studios Photo by James Pardon
Doctor Who,Jonathan Groff with Ruby Sunday (MILLIE GIBSON), The Doctor (NCUTI GATWA) BBC Studios Photo by James Pardon

Doctor Who continues at midnight tonight BST with Rogue on iPlayer in the UK, and on Disney+ everywhere else except Ireland

 

 

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