“Looking” star Jonathan Groff reveals that he was deeply closeted when he was in “Spring Awakening” (2006) and hid it from his castmates, including Broadway co-star and BFF Lea Michele. According to the Tony-nominee, “The most shocking example of my determination to stay in the closet is that I made the topic so off-limits that Lea never forced me to talk about it.”
Groff, 30, recounted his secret life on Monday night, April 13, at the New York Public Library. He was receiving the Point Horizon Award for being a young trailblazer and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. It was presented by the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit.
In a room full of young Point Foundation scholars, Groff detailed publicly for the first time how he was closeted throughout the run of “Spring Awakening.” He said, “Even though I was performing eight times a week in a show about the importance of self-expression and the danger of sexual repression, I kept my relationship with my ‘roommate’ a secret. [At age 21] I was still very scared and insecure about being gay. I did the stupidest things. And I went to great lengths to keep my cast and crew from asking me about my ‘roommate.’ For example, I never had him come to the theater, and I never invited him out after the show.”
Groff added, “Opening night was tricky because he was there, but I worked it out, so all the pictures that night were group shots, and I’m not even standing next to him. When the Tony Awards came around, he attended, but I didn’t bring him as my date. He sat at the back of Radio City [Music Hall],” and Groff says he’s ashamed of how he treated his boyfriend.
In her 2014 book, “Brunette Ambition,” Michele remembered, “From the moment I met Jonathan, I knew that he was gay. I’ve always been loud and outspoken. [But] I held my tongue. He just wasn’t ready [to be out], and I needed to give him the space to do it on his own.”
Though Groff always knew he was gay, he came out at 23. For the past two years, however, he said he has had such a blast filming “Looking,” his GLAAD-nominated dramedy about three gay friends in San Francisco. Groff, whose various stage and screen credits include “Hair,” “Glee” and “Frozen,” called the HBO show “my favorite thing that I’ve ever worked on.”
With his “Looking” co-stars Frankie J. Alvarez and Murray Bartlett rooting for him in the audience, he then choked up as he pointed out that “many of the department heads, and cast and crew of ‘Looking’ are gay.” He said HBO’s cancellation of the series after two seasons was “sad,” and that everyone “put a lot of great thought and care” into telling its LGBTQ stories. Still, he is excited about shooting a two-hour “Looking” wrap-up movie in the fall. In the meantime, he is ruling the stage as the riotous King George in “Hamilton,” the Off-Broadway hip-hop hit, through May 3.
In his closing remarks at the gala, Groff recalled his “Spring Awakening” character of Melchior, a bold, free-thinking rebel who wouldn’t let the world define him: “This, to me, is a description of the Point Foundation scholars and alumni. These scholars are breaking ground and inspiring all of us with your bravery and vision, when it is perhaps the hardest to say who you are. I wish I had an ounce of their courage at that time in my life. I worship your ability to speak the truth.”
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