Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Murray Bartlett feel more like close friends than co-stars. Since meeting on the set of Looking in San Francisco three years ago, the actors have become real-life besties. The show debuted on HBO in 2014 and explores the options available to a new generation of gay men—from love and family to work and friendship. The three got together in New York City ahead of the July 23 movie-length finale to chat with Playbill about the series, dating and that ever-elusive notion of “growing up.”
What can we expect from the Looking finale this weekend?
Frankie J. Alvarez: These guys are in a place where they’re really starting to figure stuff out, mature and enter their adult lives. They’re starting to make some good, bold decisions, but of course, they’re still going to make mistakes. What’s so beautiful about the show is that it’s really about the intimacy between their friendships. In making these choices, they really need each other to get to that next plane of maturity and adulthood. It’s not a journey that you go on alone; you need your friends to help you out.
It feels like the three friends are finally at a stage where they’re ready for “adulthood.” How much can you relate to that need to settle down and make these bigger life decisions?
Jonathan Groff: There’s a feeling of coming to peace with ambiguity, which happens with each of the characters. I feel this way, too—and I can completely relate to my character Patrick in that sense—[when you’re younger] you want to order your life and you want to feel like you’ve got everything under control.
There’s a scene in the finale where one of the characters gets married, and he says to Patrick, “If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out, but at least we know we tried.” I feel like that’s a very adult perspective. They’re not being fearful. They’re being brave. They’re stepping forward without the expectation that they’re stepping into the answer; they’re just stepping in the right direction. Who knows where it will lead? It’s very adult to take a step and know that it may lead you in a completely unexpected direction. It’s a lesson that I’m still learning in my own life.
FA: I’m married in real life, and I definitely feel some pressure for the next step: what are we going to do financially so that we can have a baby and a family in this super expensive city—a city where we could go out every night and see plays and go clubbing.
In places like New York or San Francisco you can almost delay adulthood if you want to…
Murray Bartlett: My character Dom had been sailing along in that city mode of being cute and pursuing cute people and not really going after anything of depth. I think it’s very easy to do that, living in a big city where you get caught up in the vibe and roll along with it. You get pulled into it.
Looking does a really good job of reflecting the issues our time and what it means to be gay in this day and age. Would you agree with that?
JG: The show has always spoken to the current moment. What I love about the movie in particular is that it illuminates different perspectives without picking one as the right one. You’ve got one character who is pissed because he feels like his friends are conforming to heterosexual, straight norms and that it’s the death of what makes being gay special and unique.
You’ve got another perspective with Doris, who says, ‘Marriage is for the gays, you can have it.’ Then you’ve got a more committed relationship in the show, but it’s not necessarily monogamous. The movie does a good job of investigating all the different opportunities that are available to us now.
You seem like you have a really fun time doing the show? Is the chemistry real?
MB: We were fortunate that we all just adored each other from the beginning. The three of us were invited to San Francisco ten days before shooting the pilot and stayed in a house together. We watched Tales of the City and hung out in the backyard under the lemon tree. Remember it was my birthday!
JG & FA: We bought those little tarts!
MB: I feel like we were injected with San Francisco’s magic from the beginning and were on this ride together. We all really love the show and are committed to making it something special. It was a very harmonious and incredibly unique experience. It was just like hanging out with a bunch of friends in a beautiful city.
The Looking finale will air July 23 at 10 PM on HBO. Watch the trailer below: