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Jonathan Groff on ‘extreme’ Looking backlash: ‘The negative feedback was so negative, so harsh’

Groff played Patrick on the HBO show, which has grown in admiration since it came off air eight years ago

By Jamie Tabberer

Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett in Looking (Image: HBO)
Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett in Looking (Image: HBO)

Jonathan Groff has revisited the fierce response to Looking when it debuted on HBO over 10 years ago.

The show, which co-starred Frankie J. Alvarez, Russell Tovey and Murray Bartlett, followed the lives and loves of a group of gay men living in San Francisco. Groff, 39, played the privileged, drama-addicted Patrick, who was unpopular with some viewers.

The show, which ran for two seasons from 2014 to 2016 and ended with a TV movie, was criticised by some at the time for its lack of representation, basic storylines and stereotypical characters. However, it has hugely grown in esteem as the years go by.

“Like a splash of cold water” – Jonathan Groff on the response to Looking

Speaking to Interview last week, The Matrix Resurrections star Groff said of the show: “It takes an armour to protect your sensitivity in this business. Looking was part of that learning experience because of the way that it was received.

“When we were shooting the first season, it felt like a journal. All of us were just doing journal entries in front of the camera. It was incredibly therapeutic and really life-changing. … It was pretty much a fairytale that first year we were working, without any eyes or expectation on us. How the community was going to react honestly did not even occur to me at all.

“Then the response from the community was so extreme and the negative feedback was so loud and so harsh that it was like a splash of cold water. I remember the first teaser came out and there were all these articles about how terrible the show was going to be before an episode had even aired. And I was like, ‘Whoa.’ That was when I started to learn the art of walking with an open heart and also protecting myself.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Frozen star said Groff said of that chapter of his life: “Very shortly after it first aired, I had a crush on my boss at the time, who was British, like Russell [Tovey’s] character. And I was like, ‘This is so hot and romantic and I’m living in Looking.’”

The actor has since gone on to appear in movies like Knock at the Cabin and stage shows like Merrily We Roll Along.