Actor Andrew Rannells talks about his roots in Warsaw

My mother’s family is Polish, but neither she nor my grandmother had ever been to Poland. I felt like if I ever got the chance to see where we came from, I should take it. So one summer, when I was 24, I forced my friend Zuzanna, a Warsaw girl then attending high school in Moscow, to take me home with her.

We stayed with his grandparents, who lived in this very dark Soviet-style building, in what turned out to be a nice apartment. I was struck by their hospitality – they gave a warm welcome to someone they had never met before. When we arrived they served us a tomato based soup with meat in it, and I was so jet lagged that I ate it without hesitation. It tasted a bit ferrous, so I asked what it was, and it turned out to be chicken hearts. By then the ship had sailed – I was already halfway into the bowl. I thought my grandmother would be proud. We also had so many pierogi, the best I’ve ever eaten – no offense to my grandmother, who made them all the time. I wish I could tell her that she was truly upholding Polish traditions in Nebraska, but she had passed away a few years earlier.

After all this meal, I put my running shoes, and Zuzanna and I went for a jog in this nearby park called Pole Mokotowskie. It was very crowded, with people sitting around and having picnics. As I ran, people started giving me a thumbs up and shouting, “Bill Clinton!” I was like, “What’s going on right now?” Zuzanna said to me, “Well, when Bill Clinton came over, he also jogged.” It was such a peculiar thing to do—running around in that park for no reason—that they were all like, He must be American. I felt a bit embarrassed, but then I just accepted it. As said to Meredith Carey

Andrew Rannells stars in Prom, premieres December 11 on Netflix. This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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