On the new series Looking, Jonathan Groff takes the lead as Patrick, an awkward gay videogame programmer in San Francisco who’s on the hunt for real romance — online, at parties, on public transportation — with the help (and hindrance) of his friends. “He’s so approachable and watchable, and you feel safe with him,” says executive producer Andrew Haigh, who directed the acclaimed 2011 indie gay romance Weekend. EW talked to the actor about sex scenes, leather vests, and whether we’ll see him take another turn on the Glee stage.
What made you want to be a part of Looking?
The first thing that drew me to it was Andrew Haigh. I had seen Weekend a couple years before and was blown away by it. There was such specificity in Weekend, and in my mind [he] created such a universal element, so I felt like if he could do that with a television show, that was really exciting to me.
Looking is very frank in terms of sexual content. Do you get nervous doing sex scenes?
It’s a case-by-case basis. This one in particular I had no problem signing the nudity waiver because I knew it was Andrew, and I loved the way that he dealt with sex in Weekend, like a very real, naturalistic kind of way. And the actors who I was getting naked with were all laid-back and supportive.
Speaking of daunting scenes, how did you feel about having to wear a leather vest without a shirt in one episode?
[Laughs] Thankfully, my mom is a gym teacher, so I’ve been exercising since I was 10 years old — so it was not as huge of a deal as it might have been to wear that.
You and your costars — Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett — all moved to San Francisco before shooting started?
When we went to shoot the pilot, HBO brought us up a week and a half early for rehearsal and some costume fittings. So we had a lot of free time just to hang out in San Francisco. Murray had rented an apartment in the Mission District, and the three of us just spent time at his house and opened up a bottle of wine in the back-garden area. We had sleepovers. We watched Tales of the City together. Murray was in an episode of Sex and the City. So we pulled it up on HBO Go and made fun of him for his [facial hair].
Looking could be described as ”Girls for gays” — how do you feel about that comparison?
I’m a huge fan of Girls or even Sex and the City. I’ve seen every episode of both those shows, and I love them. I think if there’s anything potentially good to come from that comparison, it’s maybe if you like Sex and the City and Girls, chances are you’ll like Looking because it’s about relationships and finding love and figuring out who you are. That being said, obviously the writing and the style and the tone are really different.
Do you worry at all about it being pigeonholed as just a gay show?
There was never talk about making it more universal or making the characters more or less gay. All we ever talked about was character and story. The characters are mostly in their 30s and 40s, and nobody is grappling with the fact that they’re gay. It’s not people trying to figure out their sexuality — it’s about people trying to figure out their lives.
What can you tease about Patrick’s search for love this season?
Patrick is going to get what he’s been asking for: He’s going to find a person or maybe more than one person who’s interested in him romantically. And he’s going to find that he’s not as ready as he thought he was.
You and Glee star Lea Michele are great friends, and she’s obviously had an incredibly challenging year with the death of Cory Monteith.
I’m so proud of her, and we’ve all seen her exhibit such class and grace and strength. I’m blown away by her.
Glee will likely end next season — do you think you’ll make a farewell appearance?
I don’t know. I’d love to go back. I’m tied to Looking now. If there was ever an opportunity or chance to go back to Glee, I’d go back running because I love that experience so much.