Mur­ray Bartlett

GT (UK) - - LOOKING - WORDS JONATHAN WALIK

After work­ing on two of the most popular soaps of all time, Home and Away and Neigh­bours, this Aussie na­tive landed a spot on a lit­tle show called Sex and the City.

His por­trayal of a con­fi­dent, well ad­justed gay man was some­thing not of­ten seen – and made a last­ing im­pres­sion on gay au­di­ences. “I was of­fered a role on Sex and the City, I just wasn’t gonna say no,” Mur­ray tells us.

But there’s some­thing else. In an age when ac­tors are of­ten told to stay clos­eted or, at least, re­main wary of gay parts, Mur­ray has made a ca­reer out of play­ing gay char­ac­ters that chal­lenge tra­di­tional as­sump­tions.

For the past year, for in­stance, he’s starred as Dom in one of the best writ­ten, emotionally en­gag­ing shows on TV, HBO’s Look­ing. Yes, it’s about a bunch of gay dudes. But it’s not quite business as usual. There are no com­ing out sto­ries, no one’s con­fused about their sex­u­al­ity, they’re just try­ing to live life while bal­anc­ing friend­ships, love and ca­reers. It’s pre­cisely this os­ten­si­bly non­cha­lant at­ti­tude that’s iron­i­cally proven quite rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

Mur­ray takes the character of Dom and trans­forms him from a fa­mil­iar stereo­type of a lothario past his prime, to a re­lat­able, emotionally com­plex man, who’s just try­ing to find his way. On his con­nec­tion with the character, he’s re­fresh­ingly hon­est. “We’re pretty much the same age, so there’s a lot of things that I re­late to in terms of where he is in his life,” he says. “Things that hap­pen when turn­ing 40 that are specif­i­cally about reeval­u­at­ing your life and ask­ing your­self whether you’ve met your own ex­pec­ta­tions.” Bat­tling with age is a topic fa­mil­iar

Tall, hand­some and he’s got the best mous­tache in telly. What’s not to love?

to many and it’s a strug­gle that’ll see Dom “mov­ing to­wards that in the sec­ond se­ries, but trip­ping a lot.” It’s been th­ese trip-ups that have made the character so empathetic and sub­se­quently so popular.

In terms of what to ex­pect in the sec­ond se­ries, “we re­ally dig deep” he says en­cour­ag­ingly. “There’s a lot of in­tro­duc­tory stuff that’s all done now, so we can go deeper with th­ese char­ac­ters.” Get­ting ex­cited, he de­scribes the ex­pe­ri­ence on set as “a to­tal love fest.” And on find­ing out they were be­ing picked up for a sec­ond sea­son he sim­ply pro­claims: “Ec­stasy! We had such a great time to­gether and came out of it feel­ing pos­i­tive, but when some­thing goes out into the world, it gets all sorts of re­ac­tions. It felt at times that it wasn’t so sure we’d get picked up.

“When you have some­thing that’s tak­ing a piece of a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity and shin­ing a light on it, there are al­ways gonna be peo­ple who feel that they’re not rep­re­sented. You can’t rep­re­sent every­body in a half hour. But the smart thing about the show is it didn’t set out to rep­re­sent every­body. Th­ese char­ac­ters hap­pen to be gay and that’s a big part of the show, but it’s not say­ing this is rep­re­sent­ing the en­tire gay com­mu­nity.”

When asked if he thinks the pres­sure of so­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tion stems from the star­va­tion of pos­i­tive images for gay peo­ple to iden­tify with, he’s diplo­matic. “Ex­actly,” he says, “and it’s com­pletely un­der­stand­able.”

Fans of the first sea­son will re­mem­ber the ut­terly charm­ing Lynn [played by Scott Bakula], Dom’s po­ten­tial love in­ter­est. On this he re­veals, “It does de­velop and there are some un­ex­pected sur­prises.” Another high­light is Dom’s friend­ship with Doris [played by Lau­ren Weed­man], the most prom­i­nent fe­male character on the show, whose quick wit and tough love quickly made her a firm fan favourite. “It’s one of the things I

most love about the sec­ond se­ries,” he says ex­cit­edly. “Doris fea­tures more in the show. When you’re in a scene with her, you just get on the ride and move out of the way. She’s a comic ge­nius.”

High praise in­deed. In fact, Mur­ray is full of praise when it comes to Look­ing. Avoid­ing much of the empty sen­ti­men­tal­ity of­ten heard in Hol­ly­wood, he seems to gen­uinely adore the project. On the show’s unique aes­thetic, he ex­claims, “That’s the magic of An­drew Haigh!”

The show em­ploys a nat­u­ral­is­tic style and an em­pha­sis on re­al­ism, which he de­scribes as “one of An­drew’s great strengths, he knows how to fo­cus on char­ac­ters and re­la­tion­ships in a way that’s very real and re­lat­able.”

Apart from his strik­ingly hand­some face and a body not too dis­sim­i­lar to that of a Greek god, there was some­thing else that caught our eye. Dom sports per­haps the most iconic mous­tache since Tom Sel­leck. After we tell him, he laughs heartily. “There’s been quite a re­ac­tion to it! I was in Egypt when I au­di­tioned for the show, so I grew a mous­tache to try and look less like a a tourist, which didn’t re­ally work. It makes sense for the show in terms of this iconic SanFrancisco, Castro-type look.” Fans will be sad to know that it doesn’t re­main a per­ma­nent fea­ture out­side of the show. Shav­ing it off is de­scribed as ”sort of like los­ing a limb.” And it hurts us too.

After we re­cover from the mous­tache blow, Mur­ray leaves us with some fi­nal thoughts about Look­ing.

“We’re all ex­cited about the show and play­ing real char­ac­ters that, as much as pos­si­ble, don’t play up to stereo­types. Hope­fully, they cre­ate some pos­i­tive rip­ples in the world.” If you ask us, that’s ex­actly the kind of ac­tor we want to see on our screens ev­ery week.

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