On Sunday, June 26, Framline40, the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay film festival, wrapped with a blue carpet premiere for HBO's Looking: The Movie at The Castro Theatre. SF Weekly caught up with the cast ahead of the film finale, which closes out the two-season series about three best friends (Jonathan Groff, Frankie J. Alvarez, and Murray Bartlett) living the gay dream in San Francisco, to discuss their emotional exit from the show — and the city.
What will you miss most about working on Looking?
Jonathan Groff: Knowing that this moment that all of us here on this blue carpet are in is the last time that all of the cast members will be in San Francisco again together. It was such a bonding and important experience for all of us. We could all come back here and visit, but it won't be the same because we probably won't come back here as a group. So that makes me feel sad.
Frankie J. Alvarez: I think the people. Not only the people within the show, like Jonathan and Murray and Raúl, but the City. When we were going around shooting, people were yelling our character names, ruining takes, and it was lovely. The show was a love letter to the City, and we really felt that love letter returned to us as we were shooting. So I'll miss that sense of community. We really felt like a part of the City. We wanted to do six seasons if it were up to us.
Murray Bartlett: We've all completely fallen in love with San Francisco, so not having the excuse to come back here and work on the show is really sad for us. Also, it's been a complete lovefest on this show. I love the people I work with. So the combination of those two things made this such a lucky experience. So I'm going to dearly miss those two things.
Russell Tovey: Saying goodbye to San Francisco with this group of people is going to be the hardest thing. I think it's going to be incredibly sad. It's bittersweet to be here.
Raúl Castillo: I'm going to miss working in San Francisco and the Bay Area in general. There is nothing quite like it. The city, the surroundings, the people, the culture, the music, the food. I could go on and on. It's given us so much as a show that I am honored to have represented it on screen, and I will forever hold it close to my heart.
Lauren Weedman: It just mattered so much. I can't be glib about it. When it was first over, when the movie wrapped, we were all very emotional.
Listen, I don't like feeling stuff, and this is what's happened with this show—I got all freaking schmaltzy. After we wrapped the last scene, we came out to the Castro totally empty, because it was 6a.m. There were seagulls. I had never seen the Castro empty. I was saying shit like, “I feel like I can hear the history of this city.” The gay world is my world, and it all matters.
Daniel Franzese: I thought we were doing a really revolutionary storyline with Eddie being HIV-positive and showing a serodiscordant couple and the first mention of PREP on TV. The hardest part is not having that rich storyline there. We were erasing stigma, we were breaking down walls, and I feel like we had more things to explore in that territory that we're not able to do now.
What are you most looking forward to?
Jonathan Groff: I guess the unknown. This experience of Looking was such a surprise. Michael Lannan, who created the show, and I and some of the cast members went to Hawaii when filming was over. We were just talking about how the three years of working on the show really changed us and how there's gotta be more experiences like that ahead. But we don't know what they are.
Frankie J. Alvarez: I'm just very thankful to have a great community of people to share my future with. Good friends, good family—and this cast has become family as well. Most of us live in New York anyway, so it's nice that we'll all be supporting each other. I'm looking forward to all growing together, and maybe in another decade, we'll do Looking: Part Two – Return of the Gays. Wouldn't that be great?
Murray Bartlett: Having experiences like we had on this show really makes a benchmark for what you want to do in your career. This show was incredibly enjoyable because we were here in this beautiful city with this wonderful group of people. Also, it was a show that we really believed in strongly and were hoping to make some great ripples of social change with.
So I go forward now looking for work and experiences that have those qualities, being amongst likeminded people and having a great time, and working on things that create some sort of positive change.
Russell Tovey: I'm going back to New York in July to do a TV show called Quantico on ABC, so I'm looking forward to being back for that.
Raúl Castillo: I am thrilled at all the doors that Looking is opening up for me, both personally and professionally, and I'm looking forward to more characters and more stories with just as much depth and just as much complexity and challenge. All I ever wanted to do was to continue to work and find stories to tell that I believe in and projects that I can get behind. I look forward to collaborating with new directors and new writers — people who will continue to challenge me and make me better at what I do.
Lauren Weedman: The one thing about Looking is that it's going to ruin TV for me. I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to be a part of anything else. So I'm looking forward to returning to solo theatre shows. I'll be doing a show at Redcat, in LA, so I'm looking forward to that and performing on gay cruises. Mixed blessing.
Daniel Franzese: I'm always excited to see what the next character is going to be. I'm also working with GLAAD and the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation to ensure continued roles for HIV-positive people.
Looking: The Movie on HBO on July 23 at 10p.m.