September 25, 2020

Interview with Jonathan Groff (Patrick) LOOKING

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HBO_Looking_Jonathan Groff 1LOOKING Season 2 HBO (Broadcast – completed in LA, Jan 2015)

Q: The first episode of this season sees the boys go on a trip. Where is that place? It looks lovely.

JG: We were in Russian River, which is like an hour, maybe a little more, north of San Francisco. Gay people go there in the summertime and there are lots of different communities there.
But the flip side of that is that in the 1980s a lot of gay men in San Francisco went there to die, when they were dying of AIDS.
So there’s a lot of gay history and feelings up there.

Q: And it’s quite a dramatic opening episode to the season for Patrick. At the beginning, we know very little about where he’s at, and we’ve learnt quite a HBO_Looking_Jonathan Groff 2 LOOKING Season 2 Episode 02 Day 05 LOOKING Season 2 Episode 02 Day 01bit by the end of the episode.

JG: I love it. When I watched it back, I feel like it really illuminates things. It is a great summary of Patrick’s character because in the beginning he’s super chipper and wants to go hiking and it’s all a slightly grating kind of positive, not dealing with shit, a sort of outside shell.
And then you see what’s happening underneath there, which is incredibly complex and confusing and sexual and a little dark. I love it, I love that sort of trajectory, even just that little arc in the first episode.

Q: How long after the end of season one do we pick things up?

JG: It’s two or three months later.

Q: Once you know he’s been up to something with Kevin, it’s obvious, but the episode keeps you guessing all the way along.

JG: Yes, which is like an amazing testament to the editing. There were maybe four scenes that were cut, and we shot like me calling Kevin earlier on, but the way that they edited it, they made it sort of a mystery until the end, which I think is a really great choice.

Q: Especially because of the way season one ended, where we were really not sure where it’s going to go.

JG: Yes, they kept it kind of vague. In the first episode of the first season, Patrick says to Dom: ‘Why do we keep going on such bad dates? It’s like he is ready to

stop these dating patterns. And then throughout the course of the first season he has his first important romantic relationship, then starts this weird affair with his boss, and then we have some time off. And I feel like the mile marker in this episode, the sort of inciting incident for Patrick this season, in Episode One, is that he tells his friends about his affair, which, in my experience, when I tell my friends about something, that means I’m ready to process it, that means I’m ready to like start figuring it out.
I think in season one he was ready to start figuring out pulling his shit together, because he was going on all these awkward dates, and I feel like in season two,
he’s ready to start figuring out what’s happening with this relationship and what
he really wants.

Q: I love his affair with Kevin; it feels very real.

JG: Yeah, me too. And Kevin is super sexy and hot.

Q: He’s so different from Patrick. And he’s very British, never talking about his feelings, even while professing his attraction for Patrick.

JG: Totally, totally. It is really interesting, and it’s probably a cultural thing. I don’t even know if it was a conscious or subconscious thing for Andrew Haigh, who is British too, of course,
That part was written for Russell Tovey.
And there is something innate… there’s a disconnect between the American way of expressing and the British way of expressing, right?

Q: Tell me about it.

JG: And there’s less reveal with the Brits in general, which is so fascinating in the context of this show because you’ve got this boss and it’s an affair and so you never quite know if it’s real or if he’s hiding something or if he’s just being British. There are many layers, of which it could be one or the other.

I feel like in America, our cultural go-to when we’re in conversations with people is to mirror them. So it’s like, this crazy thing happened, and we go: ‘Oh my god!’ Everybody really engages with each other.
And Patrick is very much that kind of person, and I’m that kind of person as well – very expressive when communicating with someone. And it is interesting because Russell/Kevin doesn’t go there. It’s a really interesting friction that’s sexy, and that’s part of their chemistry, I think.

Q: Do you think they can have a proper relationship given their differences and given Kevin’s position of authority?

JG: I do. I do think they could. When Patrick meets him in season one it’s awkward because he tries to ask him on a date, and like, ugh. And then, once all

that’s sort of out of the way and Kevin’s his boss and they work together, and he has a boyfriend, and there’s kind of no chance in hell that they’ll ever be together
– in his mind, in both of their minds – maybe, subconsciously all that pressure of being romantic is out of the window, and I think they then start a relationship, a
real relationship as friends. And in the Folsom Street Fair episode, episode 4, I
think we see two people genuinely connecting and genuinely having a lot in common with each other and it’s a beautiful friendship.
And then the attraction then comes to the surface and it certainly catches Patrick
by surprise, because even in the eighth episode, he’s like, I don’t even want to talk about Kevin, I don’t want to go there. He kissed him at the wedding, and he doesn’t want to deal with it because it’s not supposed to be that way. The attraction is undeniable, but the physical thing, I think, is even separate from the way that they’ve connected emotionally before that happens. So I do feel like there is the possibility that they could be a great couple.

Q: The wedding episode was hugely illuminating as well, I think, on lots of levels, You’d heard so much about his family, and you could see all the tensions – but the tensions aren’t necessarily just because of his sexuality, it’s just because they’re his family.
The conversation Patrick has with his Mum, about why Richie might not be right –
I’ve had so many conversations like that with my mother at weddings.

JG: I know! And what I loved was the way it was written, to show that we don’t give our parents enough credit. I feel like this is the case with really good friends and also family members, is that as the years roll on we don’t allow them to be surprising, we always think of them in one specific way, particularly family because you lived with them every day and then you are away from them, and both of you, both of you grow.
And you grow and change, separately, so sometimes when you’re brought back together, you’re different. And certainly Patrick had all these feelings about what his Mum would think, some of which were true and some of which were really not true. And then the final cherry on top, of her doing the pot rice crispy treat at the end was just like the most genius like writing switch.
And she comes back this season.
And the great thing about her character is that she is always surprising, which I think is such a great message for anyone with parents – to allow them to surprising.

Q: We see Patrick take Molly (a form of ecstasy) for the first time in this first episode too. What else will we see him explore for the first time this season?

JG: He explores a friendship with Richie.
That relationship is really complicated, and I can totally relate to that, as many people can.
It’s a really interesting way that he’s brought back into the world because Agustín like does a bunch of drugs and is on the street like passed out by a pupusa truck

and Richie finds him and brings him home and he and Patrick see each other for the first time in months.

I love the character of Richie, I think he has such integrity and he’s so complicated and there’s a whole world that he sort of brings to the show that is really special. And the effort to be friends is obviously complicated as anyone can relate to when you’re trying to be friends with someone you dated.

Q: Especially when they’re that pretty.

JG: He’s so f***ing hot.

Q: In terms of his relationship with Kevin, he’s obviously struggling with his conscience, which is probably new for him, too – to even have an affair.

JG: Mm-hm. He is. And when it’s starting out, obviously, telling your friends is such a thing, because now your friends are going to ask you about it, they’re going to call you out on it, and it’s almost like he’s ready for that third eye.
It’s been a couple months, they’ve been having sex in the office, and nobody knows, but that can only last so long. And so Patrick – I know, because I was there – as it goes along, Patrick is going to want more. He’s not going to be happy with just having an affair. And then it becomes a question of if Kevin is ready for that or not.

Q: What have been the reactions from your friends and family about the show?

JG: My parents don’t watch it. Watching me have sex and stuff, it’s just too much for them.
But my brother and his wife watch it and love it and talk about it at the dinner table.
And they teach me things.
One of the biggest revelations about straight people…well, first of all, that straight people watch it is a revelation in and of itself, and really exciting for me.
When a guy comes up to me with his girlfriend and they’re like, we love Looking,
it’s such a wonderful reminder that it’s not just for the gay community.

And one of the crazy conversations that has happened is that a lot of straight people that I‘ve talked to didn’t know that gay people could have sex while facing each other. They thought that anal sex was like all from behind, because, I think that like when straight people have anal sex it’s usually from behind because, well, if you were doing it from the front, why wouldn’t you just do it normally?
But I feel like that revelation is really hilarious and interesting.
Beyond the physical revelation that you can have sex while facing each other, I feel like there’s a great emotional thing that happens. It’s kind of major that you wouldn’t know that that is possible, that gay people can look at each other while

they’re having sex and connect, that you would think that it’s just sort of an animalistic from behind, that gay people can’t really look in each other’s eyes.

Q: Is this why it’s called Looking, do you think?

JG: ‘Looking…at each other during anal sex’. Yeah. That’s the subtitle. Exactly.

Q: We need to talk about Frozen. Did you have any idea that it would ever become this phenomenon?

JG: It’s so weird how it built. It did well when it was released, you know, people went to go see it. And then it was sort of like this snowball – no pun intended – effect. It grew and grew and grew and grew, and no, I don’t think anyone had any idea that it was going to be that massive, and it’s been awesome. I love making voice memos for little kids from the characters; it’s been really amazing.

Q: It must be quite funny to be on such very divergent projects.

JG: I know, it’s awesome. The great fun of being an actor is that, if you’re lucky, you get to do all those very different things. My parents will watch Frozen.

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