The sad news that there will be no third season of cult HBO drama Looking
hasn't slowed down its leading man, Jonathan Groff. The 30-year-old is currently back working on his first love - theatre. We spoke to Groff, who's currently treading the boards off-Broadway in the musical Hamilton
, about his upcoming turn in the London staging of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
. Of course, we had to chat all things Looking
Jonathan, it must feel bittersweet that Looking won't be getting a third season, considering you at least get a TV movie to wrap things up?
When they announced it was finishing, I wasn’t shocked, because it had taken so long - on HBO they aired Looking
with two other shows, and they had already said weeks before that the other two were getting picked up, so I sort of knew we were on the chopping block. The fact we got a movie out of it instead of nothing is a relief. But like you said, it’s bittersweet - I would’ve loved to do more seasons of the show.
I feel like the second season of the show really grew and expanded, and in some ways it feels like the actors and writers were just getting on a roll, so it’s a bummer to have that cut short - but we’re grateful that we at least get to go back and say goodbye. So often with TV shows, it’s announced suddenly and then you don’t see anyone ever again; it’s so weird! To know that it’s the end, and to be all back in San Francisco experiencing that together, will be really fun, and meaningful, I think. I know the general overview of what’s going to happen, and this week they’re in the writer’s room breaking it all down and working it out.
Here's a tricky one - are you Team Kevin or Team Richie?
Gosh, I really, genuinely don’t know. It’s a combination of really great writing and really great actors in Russell [Tovey] and Raul [Castillo], because usually, when you see a love triangle in movies and television, you kind of know which person the character’s going to end up with. 'This person might be a crazy, exciting option, but we all know at the end of the day Carrie’s going to end up with Mr Big', or whatever it is. And what was so interesting from my perspective with this was how many people felt different things about Kevin and Richie. Strong opinions, and so, so divided. So I genuinely don’t know what the best way to end the story would be.
Your castmate Daniel Franzese recently wrote in his Attitude column that appearing in the show gave him a lot of confidence - confidence as an out actor, body confidence... Did it have a similar effect on you?
It was…liberating, it was exciting. The actors and the writers all shared stories, and those stories then made it into the show, so there was such a sense of community. So many of the cast and crew were gay, and everyone took it really seriously that we were one of the only gay shows on television and this was an opportunity to tell our stories, which was such a gift. There was a real sense of community and pride working on the show, which was really liberating and meaningful.
Along with the fierce fan base, the show attracted strong criticism at times - much of it from LGBT audiences. How did you process that?
For me, the ongoing discussion about representation and if the show is doing a good or bad job of that was further reason to keep the show going. Obviously these were issues people felt passionate about and stirred up a lot of conversation, and that was really exciting to me, and it further proved the point that having a show like this on the air is really important.
It also taught me something I didn’t know about the gay community: We’ve reached a point now where the gay community is so broad, in its ages, its feelings and its stories. It’s now a teenage boy bringing his boyfriend to the prom, as much as it is a 55-year-old man. Literally, a 55-year-old man came up to me at the stage door three weeks ago to tell me that Looking
is saving his life and he’s thinking now about coming out of the closet. There’s such a broad range of experiences, and the gay community is in such an interesting place, where we’re so multifaceted and multidimensional.
To me, the response to the show demonstrated that there’s so little gay programming and so many gay stories, so a lot of people wanted it to be THEIR story. Hopefully one thing that’ll come from the show is that more people will feel inspired to share their stories.
I know you’re a big fan of The Comeback - is it true you bought a sofa from the set of that show's fictional sitcom ‘Room & Bored’ for your apartment?
I’m obsessed with The Comeback
, OBVIOUSLY, and there’s a furniture store near me called ‘Room and Board’, which sells great pieces. I got my couch from there just so I could say ‘I got my couch from Room & Board!’ as a little Valerie Cherish inside joke with myself!
The Comeback got another season from HBO ten years after being axed, so you never know...
You never know, it’s so true. You never know.
You're in an off-Broadway musical right now and in just a few weeks, you'll be here in London playing the lead role in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Can you focus on two shows at once?
We finish on May 4, and then I come to London on May 10. I can absolutely - thank goodness - learn How to Succeed
while I’m doing Hamilton
. I’ve done a couple of these one night only things in New York over the years, and I try and come in to the rehearsal room pretty off-book.
How does a one-nighter like this compare to the mammoth musical theatre runs you're used to?
There’s something great about a one-nighter, in that everyone - the cast, the crew, the audience - know that it’s one night only. There’s kind of this electric energy that happens at these events. Magic happens, because you can’t overthink it and you just have to jump right in.
Your character in How to Succeed, Finch, is a window cleaner who manages to break his way into the corporate world. Is he a bit of a heroic outsider?
I don’t know if he’s the ultimate hero or the ultimate villain. He’s incredibly disarming in his seeming naïveté and sweetness, but he has a wicked ambition bubbling under that sweet exterior. I played this role in high school when I was 14 years old, so I’m so excited to go back and do it again. You know those shows that you do when you’re a kid, and they’re so informative for the rest of your life? It’s a show that I have a lot of warm feelings about. And I still have the pictures!
Jonathan Groff takes the role of Finch in How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying - The Musical In Concert - at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 19th May
Tickets available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk
WORDS BY NICK BOND