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BWW Exclusive: Jonathan Groff Gets Frank & Funny at LOOKING Movie World Premiere!

By Wayman Wong

Jonathan Groff and his cast ran the rainbow of emotions at the world premiere of their "Looking" movie Sunday night (June 26) at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Their picture, which will air July 23 on HBO, capped the 40th anniversary of the acclaimed Frameline LGBT film festival on Pride Weekend. And Groff said he could not have been prouder than to have 1,400 fans cheer the sold-out, crowd-pleasing finale to his two-year-old cable series about gay friends seeking sex and love.

In "Looking," the movie, Patrick (Groff) returns to San Francisco for the wedding of Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) and Eddie (David Franzese). He also reunites with Doris (Lauren Weedman), now a mom-to-be, and revisits intimate moments in bed with Dom (Murray Bartlett). But at the heart of "Looking" is Patrick's romantic dilemma: He still feels torn between two ex-lovers: Richie (Raul Castillo) and Kevin (Russell Tovey). How does Patrick move forward or is he destined to be "Looking" backward?

Joined by director Andrew Haigh and co-creator Michael Lannan, all of these actors did a frank and funny Q&A about filming, friendship and sex. The celebratory, post-screening talk was moderated by Peter L. Stein, Frameline's senior programmer.

Among the highlights:

Haigh, on creating a followup movie: "It was a challenge. We knew we had about 90 minutes to finish off everyone's stories, without it being closed or too neatly tied. In the last season, Patrick made a lotta mistakes; we needed to get to a point where he was feeling good about himself and everyone else, as well. [As for the ending,] we knew from the pilot, but we didn't tell the cast. What I like about the story is that everyone is moving on, but to move on, sometimes to be happy, you have to say goodbye to things you love."

Groff, on wrapping things up: "It was very meta for all of us. Coming back to shoot the movie was like coming back to say goodbye to our characters and San Francisco. But when I read the script, I thought: 'Omigod, that's the perfect ending!' "

Alvarez, on playing a "lovable jerk": "I molded it on Jonathan, personally. In real life, he's kind of a dick. (Audience laughs.) That's not true at all. We all love this guy. It was a tremendous blessing to enact [Agustin's] arc and see him evolve and meet Eddie, who brings out the best in him. I felt so joyous to do 'Looking' with this beautiful, amazing cast and incredible crew."

Franzese, on coming out professionally: "This was the most LGBT-friendly cast. One of the things that I loved about Eddie is he's unapologetically queer and HIV-positive. I'm so grateful I got to represent Eddie and the other bears out there."

Bartlett, on making out with Groff: "This chapter really showcased the rich friendship between Dom and Patrick, and how it started. It was an incredibly intimate scene between friends that can exist in the gay community. It was a beautiful celebration of that."

Haigh (quipping): "Plus, [Bartlett and Groff] were very excited to make out with each other." (Audience laughs.)

Groff (joining in): "When they were writing the movie, I said, 'I want to make to make out with Murray, Russell and Raul.' The rest of the movie was filled in from there. It was fun [making out with Murray]. He's a great kisser!"

Weedman, on the cast's camaraderie: "Gay friends are my family. And Murray and I became close. I didn't have to put my best gay friends' attributes on him. I could just look at Murray and think, 'Damn, too bad I can't have a baby with you.' " As for being the only female member of the cast, Weedman joked that she didn't need to worry "about other actresses f-ing up my vibe."

Tovey, on shuttling between Broadway and the Bay Area to film: "I was doing ['A View From the Bridge'] and terrified that I wouldn't get to be a part of the movie. But we shot [my scenes] all in one day. It was like 12 pages. When I read them, I thought, 'Gold!' "

Castillo, on expecting the ax: "After we shot the pilot, Michael [Lannan] texted me and wanted to get together for a drink. I thought he was going to tell me I was being cut. I had no idea where my character [Richie] was going. I'm just happy to be here."

Groff, on why he loved his sex scenes: "It's hard to lie in a sex scene because you're so vulnerable and literally naked. Also, I had friends who didn't know gay people could have sex while facing one another. When Russell f-ed me at the end of the first season, face to face, they thought [gay sex] was always from behind. I laughed but while driving home, I thought: 'That's so sad.' That they think gay people can't relate to one another while we're having sex. That it's just some animal act from behind. That's why I feel so proud of the sex scenes in 'Looking.' Because they were written and directed so beautifully."

Haigh, on the prospects of a "Looking" sequel: "I love these characters. We've always said it would be lovely to come back in 20 or 30 years. They could be all at a gay old persons' home and drink beer. It could be like 'The Golden Girls,' basically."

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