Jonathan Groff on HBO’s Looking

We’ve loved Jonathan Groff since he was one of the originals in Broadway’s Spring Awakening (we are true theater geeks at heart). Now the actor’s been starring on HBO’s Looking, a show that follows a group of gay friends in San Francisco. With the recent news that he’s also set to star in theater’s newest phenomenon – Hamilton – and the fact that the Looking Season 2 finale hits screens Sunday, we couldn’t help but sit down to chat with Groff about Looking, his message to the young LGBT community, personal grooming essentials and why his perfect first date is walking around Manhattan…

From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day? 

My “last meal” food day would definitely consist of pancakes, cheeseburgers, and Penne alla vodka with chicken.

How do you practice ‘beauty’ from the inside out?

I’m attracted to people who are comfortable in their own skin more than people who uphold some standard of outward “beauty.” For me, feeling beautiful means just feeling good. I try to stop eating when I’m full, not eat a lot of carbs, load up on protein and vegetables, and I try to work out every day. Estelle Parsons, who at eighty-seven-years-old can run circles around me, told me that you have to exercise like it’s brushing your teeth – just something you do every day. I’ve really tried to apply that advice. I do a lot of running, yoga, and am really into Barry’s Bootcamp. Boxing is next on my list. And a hip hop dance class. Constantly switching up workouts is important for me so that I don’t get bored.

Your idea of the perfect first date…

A spontaneous night in New York in the summer. No set plans, just walking around.

Why is Looking such an important show to be on television in this day and age?

We are trying to show gay men as human beings. Not sexually sensationalized, or as comedic reliefs or tragic figures, but as complicated, multi-dimensional people.


What’s been your biggest surprise in playing Patrick [on Looking] thus far?

The biggest surprise about Patrick is how much I relate to him, for better or worse. I will be in a situation in my real life and think “Don’t Patrick this…” I’m growing up with him.

What was it like working on a project like American Sniper? Were you surprised at the response it got?

My work on that film was wonderful and short. I was there for three hours; Clint Eastwood was super chill and really fast. I love that the film sparked debate and discussion. Those are my favorite kinds of projects – the ones that hit a nerve.

We’re going to be honest, we may have seen you in Spring Awakening about ten times (including when it first started at The Atlantic). Would you do a revival of the show if it came back? Do you hope it does?

Ha! I guess I could play the adults?! I would definitely support a revival. I wish that it was still running on Broadway; I think it’s such an important show.

How has that show shaped your career up to now?

It completely changed my life. I guess in regards to it shaping my career up to now, it taught me the value of believing in the message of what you’re working on. Until Spring Awakening, I would say yes to any job that came my way, but because of that show I was given the opportunity and desire to really think about who I wanted to be as an artist and how that was reflected in the projects I pursued.

Has that been your favorite part in theater thus far? What part would you want to play that you haven’t gotten to yet?

Yes, Spring Awakening is still my favorite theater experience. I don’t have a dream role, because, truthfully, all my dream roles are the women in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals…!

What do you think of movies as musicals? 

I love them! I saw Into The Woods twice in the movie theater.

What music can’t you stop listening to right now? 

Jessie Ware’s Tough Love album, and the album CLPPNG by the band Clipping, which features Daveed Diggs, one of the insanely gifted members of the Hamilton cast.

What are the best and worst foods and drinks for your singing voice?

I’ve never been good with that stuff, I still eat anything and everything before I sing.

What are some personal go-to weeknight recipes for you?

I don’t cook! I need to work on that.


What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you go to in each?

In New York, I can’t stop going to Westville. That is my go-to restaurant. I’ve also fallen in love with The Smile on Bond street. San Francisco is also one of my favorite food cities. Kitchen Story, The Slanted Door, and anything from Bi-Rite.

Advice you’d give to your younger self…

Don’t let them steal your joy.

Off of themes from shows like Looking and projects like The Normal Heart that you’ve been part of, what message would you personally want to give the young LGBT community?

The things that make you different can be your greatest assets.

Any personal grooming essentials you can’t live without?

Crew forming cream for my hair, Old Spice Swagger deodorant, and Irish Spring soap.

In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ what’s ‘the new potato’ right now?

Hamilton is the new potato! Any musical theater piece that can bring Busta Rhymes, Bill Clinton, and Bernadette Peters into the same theater is hitting a serious cultural nerve. The show is truly exceptional and the company is one of the most talented and truly kind group of people that I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

*Jonathan Groff, photographed at Charlie Bird in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann.