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Jonathan Groff may very well be a national treasure. He has the singing voice of an angel—as evidenced by his 2007 Tony Award nomination for his breakout role as Melchior in Spring Awakening as well as his turn as Kristoff (and Sven!) in last year’s megamonster Frozen—but he’s also a fun, sweet, self-deprecating, playful guy who does this awesome single clap when he thinks something you’ve said is majorly on point. (One such endorsement came after I told him that I pictured Lea Michele drinking a goblet-size glass of red wine à la Olivia Pope.)
But as Patrick Murray on HBO’s Looking (season two premieres on Sunday), Groff showcases his acute understanding of the torture that is looking for love. His Patrick, a gay (but not especially proud) video game programmer, rarely says what’s on his mind, but his physical tells—tugging at a too-snug shirt; clenching and unclenching his fists; craning his neck to see what everyone else is doing—give us insight into what he’s thinking. And it’s pretty much what we’re all thinking: Are other people happier than me? How does this look on the outside? When, oh when, will I get some?
On a recent Sunday night, we sat down with the very adorable actor for two top-shelf Rob Roys at Leave Rochelle Out of It on New York’s Lower East Side to talk body image, gay friend dynamics, and getting lit with Lea Michele:
Your character, Patrick, is the most awkward human being alive. Are you ever just like, Dude!
Yeah. I feel like I’ve been in enough social situations to know pretty much how to behave. But Patrick, in some ways, is actually what I’m feeling on the inside. When you meet him in the pilot he’s getting a hand job in the woods, and it’s clearly something that he’s really uncomfortable with. He says to Dom in that episode, ‘Why do I keep going on bad dates?’ and then, predictably, he has another horrible date. But by the end of the season, he finds himself in this sort of love triangle and he’s opened himself up to Richie and he’s sort of, indirectly, opened himself up to his boss. Patrick has a lot of growth throughout eight half-hour episodes. What I love most about him is, it feels as if he’s ready to wake up and deal with his shit. And that’s the process of what you’re seeing. We all, hopefully, have that moment where we’re like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna stop these patterns in my life and try to pull my shit together.’
Well, you’re about to turn 30. And, trust me when I tell you that things change for the better.
Yeah, you become a little less Patrick, a little more Richie.
And he’s our age too! Patrick will always be Patrick, but in the second season, all of the characters, Patrick included, have a great evolution.
[Laughs] He’s got a big journey in the second season.
I think he likes Patrick.
You think so?
Well, I don’t know. It just seems that their dynamic is a very accurate depiction of the competitive nature that can exist within a group of gay men.
It’s so funny that you say that because, for me, the relationship that Patrick has with Augustín reminds me of a specific relationship that I have in my life with a straight man. I think their dynamic, in my mind at least, is someone you went to college with—that thing of connecting when you’re young before you know who you are.
Something I love is how Patrick isn’t entirely comfortable with his body, which mirrors an interview I read in which you lament your dairy farmer build. Do we need to talk about this?
[Laughs] Here’s the thing: Often times when I’m sent clothes to try on, they’re like skiiinny little, hipstery tiny things and I have more of a—I don’t think that I’m fat—but I have bigger, like, genes. I don’t look at pictures of myself anymore. Patrick was a fat kid, and he thinks former fatties are nicer people.
Do we think Patrick’s all that nice, though?
I think he has that, sort of, quintessential Midwestern-y, WASP-y politeness about him that is in his DNA. I think there’s definitely a lot happening under the surface of that. You know, you got to meet his family in episode seven, and that really put into perspective a lot of who Patrick is and how he greets the world. I don’t think Patrick’s a bad person, though.
I really like that moment when he and Augustín admit that they both need to try harder at life. Your career is pretty boss at the moment. How hard are you trying over there?
When I watch Looking, I see how hard Patrick is trying. I feel like Patrick needs to just shut up and let things happen. He wants a boyfriend; he wants a good career. I think he overthinks things. And I fall into that sometimes about relationships, friendships, where I am in my life, thinking, ‘Maybe if I have something, things will be better,’ but when I see the show, I think, ‘Okay, I can just breathe and take it one step at a time and not stress out about what’s happening or isn’t happening.’
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