Although Jonathan Groff was playing the radical Melchior Gabor in the Tony Award-winning, pulsating rock musical Spring Awakening — a character that marched to the beat of his own drum and fought hard for his beliefs — Groff himself was remaining closeted, a quality that, he said, left him feeling "shut down." Following a Tony nomination and rise to stardom within the theatre community, Groff found comfort and acceptance within himself.
As an openly gay actor, who has become a household name via the success of Fox's hit musical series "Glee" and the megahit, Oscar-winning film "Frozen," he acts as a role model for adolescent artists — teaching master classes and workshops and visiting elementary schools to educate and share his passion for the arts. Groff, who recently performed at this year's gala for The Public Theater — in which he sang "I Can Do That" from A Chorus Line, one of his favorite musicals — has taken a theatrical hiatus and has focused his efforts in the worlds of film and television. He stars as Patrick Murray, an openly gay video game designer getting caught up in the games of 21st-century dating on HBO's "Looking"; and Craig Donner, who dies from AIDS, in the film adaptation of Larry Kramer's groundbreaking, Tony-winning drama The Normal Heart.
In celebration of #PlaybillPride, Groff spoke with Playbill.com about his recent projects, working with Kramer, his coming-out story, Lea Michele and his favorite art form, theatre.
With "Looking" and "The Normal Heart," you seem to be passionately involved in important gay-themed works. What attracts you to these projects?
JG: Well, it's interesting because I feel like the political message [of] these projects has been a great bonus for me. With "Looking," I was a huge fan of the movie "Weekend" [written and directed by Andrew Haigh, who is a producer on "Looking"], and I felt like Andrew Haigh had captured the gay experience in that movie in a way that I'd never seen before. It felt really relatable to me, so I knew I wanted to be a part of ["Looking"] because I so admired his movie and because there hasn't been a gay television show since "Queer as Folk." And, [with] "The Normal Heart," I'd seen the play at The Public — the revival with Raúl Esparza that was great ten years ago — and then I saw the [2011 Broadway revival] with Joe Mantello that blew my mind and left me in a puddle, so I would have done anything to be a part of that story just because it's so legendary. And, to get to meet Larry Kramer — he was there on set — it was a really amazing experience, and I just feel so proud to have such a personal [connection]… It means so much more. I love acting, and I've done a variety of things, but it does mean so much more when you feel that personal connection to the work, and certainly "Looking" and "The Normal Heart" — being gay-themed projects — mean even more to me because I feel like I have a personal stake in them.
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