Jonathan Groff Q&A: ‘Looking’ and ‘The Normal Heart’
In "Looking," which aired its eight-episode first season in winter 2014, Jonathan Groff plays Patrick, a gay video game designer in San Francisco ambivalent about his love life. The series is produced and directed by Andrew Haigh, whose 2011 film "Weekend" was equally frank about gay relationships and sex. "In some ways [the sex scenes are] the most difficult and in some ways the easiest," Groff told us in our recent video chat (watch below).
He added, "The storytelling within the sex is very specific, so the way that it's written you can really hook into why the camera is following us into the bedroom … it always has to do with the character development and in our show specifically, people leave the intimate experience different than the way they went into it … So that's personally why it was so satisfying to do it on 'Looking' — to do it on 'Looking.'"
The series also sparked passionate debate, including comparisons to "Girls" and "Sex and the City" and discussions of its representation of gay life. Said Groff, "Something we're all really proud of is that it became this big conversation … about what it means to be gay and how this show does or doesn't represent the gay community. I think it started a lot of conversations."
But there was at least one part of the conversation he wasn't expecting: "I had some very straight, very liberal friends who told me that until they had seen 'Looking,' they did not know that two men could have sex while facing each other."
It has been a busy year for Groff, who also appeared in "The Normal Heart" as an early victim of the AIDS epidemic. He recalled an early celebratory scene set on Fire Island and the unexpected effect it had on Larry Kramer, who wrote the original stage play and the screenplay adaptation. "He had to leave," Groff remembered. "They had to help him away because he started getting really emotional, because he was reminded of this party and his life and how most of those people we were all playing died … It was a revelation for me and I think all of the twentysomethings that were on that beach — just the realization of what it must have been like."
Far removed from his roles in "Looking" and "The Normal Heart," Groff also voiced Kristoff in Disney's "Frozen," which went on to win two Oscars and earn more than $1 billion worldwide. A longtime Disney fan, it was especially meaningful for Groff to be cast in the role: "I was Mary Poppins for Halloween when I was three. I was Peter Pan the year after that. I cried when I went to see 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' … Disney was a huge part of me growing up, and definitely was a huge part of me getting into singing and getting into theater and all of that … My mom was the first person I called when I found out I got that job, and she was like, oh my god, if we could tell the five-year-old you that you're going to be the voice of a Disney character!"
Idina Menzel voiced Elsa in "Frozen" and sang the Oscar-winning song "Let It Go," and at this year's Tony Awards Groff had the opportunity to introduce Menzel, who performed a song from "If/Then," for which she was nominated for Best Musical Actress. "I feel so personally connected to Idina," said Groff, and referring to John Travolta's infamous Oscar gaffe he added, "I felt excited to say her name correctly."