Jonathan Groff Reflects on ‘Looking’ & Its Lasting Impact

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Jonathan Groff, the radiant star of HBO’s groundbreaking dramedy Looking, recently took a moment to reflect on the series that not only influenced his career but also left an indelible mark on his life. Celebrating a decade since the show’s debut and a Tony nomination for Merrily We Roll Along, Groff graced the cover of Out magazine to discuss the serendipitous journey of his career as an openly gay actor.

Looking, which premiered in 2014, was lauded for its authentic portrayal of gay men navigating life and love in San Francisco. The series, albeit brief, became iconic for its realistic depiction of queer friendship and the evolving landscape of dating in a world transforming through technology and HIV prevention. Groff starred as Patrick, a video game designer searching for love and finding himself in the process. The show was a critical platform for Groff, not only professionally but personally, as it paralleled his own journey of self-acceptance and visibility in the gay community.

As Groff reminisced, he highlighted the emotional resonance of the show, noting, “I didn’t truly accept myself until I had the opportunity to do that show, and play that character, and be with those guys, and every day be talking about what it meant for us to be gay, and what we were scared of, and what we were excited about. That was such a life-altering experience in so many ways.”

This year also marks a significant milestone for Groff as he is nominated for a Tony for his role in Merrily We Roll Along. The play, a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s classic, explores the complexities of friendship and the high price of fame, themes that Groff finds personally poignant. The musical unfolds in reverse, a storytelling technique that resonates deeply with Groff, especially as it prompts the audience to introspect on their own paths along with the characters.

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Groff’s portrayal of Frank Shepard, a successful film producer grappling with his life choices, is particularly noteworthy as he navigates a script steeped in regret and realization—emotions Groff has encountered in his own life. “It feels very gay,” Groff said about his connection to Frank’s struggles and the larger narrative of hiding one’s true self. He described this connection as an essential part of why the role was so significant to him.

Offstage, Groff remains a beacon of authenticity in an industry where gay actors historically navigated by different rules. Since coming out in 2009, he has seen his career flourish unexpectedly, with roles ranging from King George III in Hamilton to his voice work in Disney’s Frozen films. Groff appreciates the changing landscape of acceptance and representation, stating, “I’m so grateful to be living in this time.”

Looking may have concluded its on-screen journey with a film in 2016, but its legacy endures through the continued successes of its cast and the impact it has had on viewers like Roshan Sethi, the director of Groff’s new film A Nice Indian Boy, who credits the show for helping him come out.

As Groff reflects on his past and looks to the future, he remains grounded and ready for whatever comes next. Whether discussing his early relationships, his unexpected path in Hollywood, or his dreams for the future, Jonathan Groff continues to inspire and engage both on and off the stage, proving that authenticity can indeed lead to a fulfilling and celebrated career.

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