How I'm Living How: Josh Gad, Actor, Writer and Producer

Josh Gad - Getty - H 2019
NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP via Getty Images

The star, who is in preproduction on multiple projects and recording voice work from home, talks virtual pitch meetings, overhauling his carefully planned shooting schedule and launching web series 'Reunited Apart.'

With production grinding to a halt in the face of the novel coronavirus crisis, the entertainment industry has found itself navigating uncharted territory. To offer a better sense for how, The Hollywood Reporter is running a regular series that focuses on how Hollywood's top writers, actors, directors, executives and others are living and working in these challenging times.

With multiple projects in preproduction, recording sessions for Frozen digital shorts and a new series and film about to release, Josh Gad is busier than ever. From his home in Los Angeles, where he's waiting out the pandemic with his wife, two young daughters and their nanny, he opens up about his new normal, which entails bringing together iconic casts for his Reunited Apart series and reading Harry Potter to his daughters.

So what does your day look like now?

I wake up at around 6:45 a.m. and take a shower, take the girls on a morning walk, where occasionally we see things. Like, the other day we saw a peacock walking around the neighborhood because Mother Nature has definitely reclaimed territory. We do this fun game called I'm Going on a Bear Hunt, where you say, "I'm going on a bear hunt," and you bring a bunch of items and you have to remember what everybody else said. So we play that in the morning, and then at around 8:30 a.m. they start their Zoom sessions with school while my wife takes over with them and helps guide that process. I go back to the office — I somehow have never been busier than I am now. I usually go from morning 'til night with very little free time in between.

At around 5 p.m., I go inside, feed the dog, take her for a walk. Sometimes the girls come with me, sometimes they just want to chill and talk to their friends on the phone. At 6, we have dinner, and then we do one of two things: We either all sit down and watch some kind of TV, like Lego Masters or Chopped, or we play a game. Then I read the girls a Harry Potter book before going to bed. We just finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and we're about to get started on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Sounds like you guys have a full schedule.

We do. We finally figured it out. And my work stuff is definitely a lot. The past couple of days, I've been recording season two of the Wondery podcast called Blood Ties, and then I'm working on episodes of Reunited Apart, my new YouTube series to raise money for charities like Project Hope and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. Then I still have a day job — I'm the creator on Central Park, which is launching on Apple this month, so we're hard at work on season two and prepping to do a whole lot of press for season one. I have Artemis Fowl coming out in June that I'm prepping from a press perspective and then we have stuff in preproduction. I'm also working on a script right now for something that hasn't been formally announced but I think people are going to find very, very exciting, and then doing a lot of back and forth on the script for the new Honey, I Shrunk the Kids sequel that hopefully we'll get back to shooting shortly, which I could not be more excited about. We got to bring back Rick Moranis as my father and Joe Johnston, the director of the original. So a lot of balls being juggled.

In a post-pandemic world, how will all of these projects be prioritized?

Yeah, there's a lot of back and forth on that. Obviously, there are a lot of unknowns — prior to all of this happening, I was supposed to go straight into production on Shrunk and then follow that with a very short window into season two of Avenue 5 on HBO, which shoots in England. Obviously, there are all sorts of issues figuring out if I can even get to England at this point. There's a lot of moving parts, but the beauty is everybody's in the same boat and is working spectacularly well with each other, trying to figure out exactly when the window is to safely resume all of those projects. It's definitely going to require a lot of maneuvering, but the priority right now is on safety.

With Avenue 5, have there been discussions about what the path back would like look like?

Briefly, the sets were in the middle of being built, and the scripts were fairly far along. I think, for the most part, that process is still continuing, Armando Iannucci and his team are probably hard at work coming up with amazing storylines to match the brilliance of season one. Part of the spectacular irony of this whole thing is that season one somehow became a documentary in the past two months. I don't know that anyone could have realized how prophetic it would have been, especially with the handling or mishandling of a major crisis involving parties not necessarily adept at handling it. So, you know, trying to not only match the perfection of how we went out in the first season, but also carrying with it the weight and the burden of reality now — similarly, I'm sure, to what Veep went through when it transitioned into the Trump administration. There are a lot of parallels that can't be avoided now, so I'm sure they're digging into all of it.

As parts of Europe start to open for production, will you have any hesitation about traveling for shoots?

Oh sure. I mean, I'm only human. I think that there's definitely a lot of questions that need to be answered before any of us are cavalierly heading to an airport and getting on an airplane for an uncertain amount of time away from our families. Part of it is the selfishness of just wanting to be with my family during this to protect them. It's a lot of weighing the options and figuring out workarounds. There are people at a far higher pay grade right now who are being tasked with all of those details. And in my early discussions with some of those people, I feel pretty bullish that, sooner rather than later but at an appropriate time, there will be a return to production — with a lot of modifications.

Are you still selling projects in this market? Pitching on Zoom?

There's a project that I just pitched virtually. It's a lot less formal and a lot more engaged. Sometimes when you pitch in a room, everybody is a little bit [uptight] and sort of having to play the formal nature of a pitch. There's something actually really welcoming about doing it digitally because guards are down a little bit more, there's a more friendly and casual nature to it all that I think is more welcoming for discussion and for keen observation and just a fun back-and-forth. It also gives me a chance to really see what every executive's home looks like, or to see what each of them chooses as a Zoom background — all very fun games to play these days. (Laughs.)

What's been the easiest adjustment during this time? And the hardest?

Easiest is I kind of love being a homebody. I genuinely find something very creatively refreshing about being able to work from home. The last two years has been a lot of hotel stays and travel, and I didn't even realize how much I needed a reset, so I've really enjoyed that.

The hardest thing has been the deprivation of a familiar lifestyle for my kids and watching them adapt to that. It's one thing for me as a 39-year-old with a life full of experiences to look at this and be really concerned and affected by the ramifications of not being able to see the people I love outside of my own family. But for them, being deprived of social circles, being deprived of the simplicity of getting to play on a playground with friends — that's a lot to witness and to handle and take in, and it's been really emotionally challenging.

What have you learned about yourself during this period?

I'm more resourceful than I ever gave myself credit for. I've somehow become a sound engineer in my quarantine — I've had to record a number of things at this point. It's so funny because the first thing I had to do were the Olaf shorts that we put out on the Disney social [channels] when this whole thing started. I literally had no idea what I was doing, and they were walking me through it. Now I look back at that stuff and I'm like, "Oh God, that version of Josh Gad is such an idiot. Here's what I would do now, and I would use this." It's been a lot of learning about what capabilities we have as artists, and it takes a crisis to discover that we're capable of so much more than I think we give ourselves credit for. Having said that, I cannot wait to work with proper sound engineers again because let's just say that I'm definitely skirting by.

Your Reunited Apart series…

Just the fact that something like Reunited Apart can arise out of something like this is a testament to the power of our community and the willingness of so many to do so much to help those in need. That's been the most wonderful part of this experience: banding together, not just with people in my industry but with people everywhere to help those who need it the most.

What is the booking process like?

The booking process is getting a good old-fashioned email from me to them and their reps and a conversation that begins with, "Hey, can't imagine anybody's very busy right now, so we'd love to see what so-and-so's schedule might be on x date." The nature of this event is best summed up by the fact that with the entire cast of Goonies and Back to the Future, we pitched one date, one time, and everybody was like, "OK!" That's never happened in the history of booking anything.

What cause is most important to you right now?

The nature of Reunited Apart is helping a multitude of causes. I don't think there can be or should be one that's the most pressing right now, because for so many people right now the world is cratering. People on the front lines obviously have a desperate need for PPE and for the kind of medical equipment that should have been readily available but for whatever reason isn't. So we all have to raise our sleeves and get masks and gowns and similar items for them. Then you have the people who are listening to the doctors and staying home at a severe cost to themselves and their loved ones. They can't pay rent, they can't even afford food, so getting supplies to them to be able to have the resources to eat and to live has been beyond pressing. Then you have animals who are literally without the resources that would normally be available because everybody is having to close the pocketbooks right here. There are so many different causes that require attention, which is why I am trying to truly spread the wealth.

On the Goonies Reunited Apart, we supported the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, which is engaged in helping a lot of people who are most vulnerable to the economic ramifications of the pandemic. With Back to the Future, we supported Project HOPE, which is similarly aligned but with a greater focus on supplying medical equipment to the frontline workers.

What's atop your to-do list once this is all over?

Go to Italy. I cannot wait to travel. I can't wait to go back to places I love that have been hit so desperately by this and see those people again. My wife is half Italian, so Italy, in particular, is very significant and important to us. On a personal level, I can't wait to see my damn family. I miss my parents so much; the thought that I can't be in physical contact with so many of my loved ones during this is infuriating.