Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, and Murray Bartlett talk the finale and saying goodbye
While it only lasted two short seasons, HBO’s Looking developed a small but passionate fan base. Created by Michael Lannan, the series followed three gay friends — Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), and Dom (Murray Bartlett) — all searching for love and fulfillment in San Francisco. Funny, frank, and romantic, the series didn’t attract the number of viewers the network had hoped for, and it was canceled in March 2015.
HBO didn’t give up on the guys entirely, though. Instead they let producers Lannan and Andrew Haigh (Weekend) craft a movie to wrap up the series’ story lines. In advance of Looking: The Movie‘s July 23 premiere on HBO at 10 p.m. ET, EW rounded up Groff, Alvarez, and Bartlett to talk about the show’s legacy, saying goodbye, and autographing enemas.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What an incredibly rare opportunity to have a canceled series get the chance to tie things up with a movie. Were you shocked this happened?
FRANKIE J. ALVAREZ: It was such a labor of love for all of us. We’re all good friends. We all hang out in New York. To get one more go-around, it was such a blessing. Jonathan was doing Hamilton Off Broadway [last spring], and we had just found out [the show was canceled]. Everybody met up before the show, and we just had a ton of whiskey. Maybe he had a little bit too much before he had to go on stage. [Laughs.]
JONATHAN GROFF: Correct. Correct.
ALVAREZ: So we were gutted. And we just kind of poured out liquor for our gay homies. In all our heads, we were ready to do six seasons. So to get canceled was a bummer, but to have this opportunity to come back together and have some closure and have one last party and one big cry was a tremendous blessing.
GROFF: I’m just remembering that the day we found out the show was canceled, someone brought an enema for me to sign at the stage door. And I made a video and sent it to everyone and said, “Well, the legacy lives on!” [Everyone laughs.] That was the first enema I have ever signed!
ALVAREZ: But it won’t be the last, honey!
The movie picks up about a year after the end of the second season. Where is everybody?
GROFF: Patrick is living in Denver after the drama with Kevin and the move-in debacle. At the start of the movie, Patrick comes back into town for a very good friend’s wedding and to reconnect with his friends and his life back in San Francisco. And also to sort of reevaluate the unfinished business he had leaving the city.
ALVAREZ: We find Agustín in this weekend where all the friends come together, and he’s evaluating who he thought he was and how he was very different from the guy he is right now. He’s really needing his friends to help firm him up on this path he’s chosen.
MURRAY BARTLETT: Dom is kind of a bit shut down in terms of relationships and in terms of what happened with his ex Lynn. And his relationship with Doris is mended, but you wonder whether it’s ever gonna be what it was. But his work life has really taken off. So his life is unbalanced in a way. Patrick coming back to town is a catalyst for the other things, like, checking in and realizing maybe he needs to look at those other areas in his life.
Without spoiling too much, Dom and Patrick have a very intimate scene in bed together. Jon, how is Murray as a cuddler?
GROFF: He is the f—ing best! [Laughs.]
BARTLETT: We have such a great friendship… It was fun, actually.
GROFF: I’m sorry, Murray: Are you saying you weren’t turned on?
BARTLETT: I had a raging hard-on the entire time.
GROFF: There we go!
BARTLETT: I had to take bathroom breaks.
What was the last day of shooting like? Was there a huge group hug?
ALVAREZ: We shot the last scene of the movie on the last night of shooting. It’s an emotional scene for everybody, and especially for Patrick. It was night shoots all that week. So everybody’s clock was turned around, and we’re already emotional because this thing was over. So we were just all a f—ing hot mess by, like, 8 a.m. when we wrapped.
BARTLETT: We finished at sunrise, so it was a very kind of symbolic, very emotional way to end. And kind of genius in scheduling.
GROFF: Antonio, our first AD, went, “That’s a wrap on Lauren Weedman!” Then, they went around and said everybody’s name.
BARTLETT: We all progressively melted into a big puddle of tears. And then at the end, Antonio said, “And our prince, Jonathan Groff!”
ALVAREZ: Then at the wrap party Jonathan gave a really nice speech thanking everyone, especially Sandy, our catering gal.
GROFF: Gotta love her!
ALVAREZ: She was very important to Jonathan’s process.
You guys were always eating on this show! Did you gain weight?
ALVAREZ: The first scene we shot for season 1 was when they help Agustín move in with Frank, and we were eating these cupcakes. So it was like take one, take five, take nine, and we’re going ham on these cupcakes. By take 12, we learned: Take small bites.
Would you do another Looking movie? Like the boys all head off to Abu Dhabi à la Sex and the City 2?
GROFF: Yes. Yes. Yes. I would do another. The Looking Christmas special. There are so many options. I’m in for all of it!
What do you all hope the legacy of Looking is?
GROFF: There is so much care put into every moment of every episode. I hope that when people look back on it and as the show continues to grow in people’s minds, they’ll see all the ideas and questions and thoughts that we wove into the story lines. I think that it was very unique storytelling — outside of it being a gay program — in the way it was scripted and the way it was shot. I hope it’s one of those shows you can look back and continually relate to.
BARTLETT: It allows people to see that there’s another way of being, and there’s an open way of being, and you can be comfortable with yourself and have meaningful relationships. I think that’s a really powerful thing. What I always loved about the show is it’s not banging you over the head with issues. It’s just going into the world of these characters.
ALVAREZ: You don’t really see much on TV about male intimacy, regardless of whether you’re straight or gay. What I think the show does so beautifully is to see men open up to each other — the kind of intimacy that comes with true friendship and exposing yourself, warts and all, to your best friend. That’s one of the best things about this trio of guys: You see each of them at their absolute worst and absolute best, and they’re still there for each other. And that’s what real life is.