GA Voice - - Outspoken -

sea­son, up 50 per­cent from the pre­miere episode, ac­cord­ing to Va­ri­ety). “Look­ing” was di­vi­sive from the get-go, with view­ers ei­ther drawn to its lan­guid style of sto­ry­telling or ve­he­mently against it. Was it too gay? Not gay enough? You know, ev­ery­one’s a critic.

Still, there’s no ar­gu­ing “Look­ing” broke ground merely by ex­ist­ing. Out ac­tor Jonathan Groff, who por­trayed neu­rotic boynext-door video game de­signer Pa­trick, shared that sen­ti­ment even be­fore Sea­son 1 pre­miered, telling me, “I feel so ex­cited to be a part of a show that could po­ten­tially be a great mo­ment for the gay com­mu­nity, be­cause it’s crazy how few shows there are where there are a lot of cen­tral gay char­ac­ters. I feel re­ally lucky to be a part of this spe­cific show be­cause I be­lieve in it so much as a tele­vi­sion show.”

So did se­ries cre­ator Michael Lan­nan. The screen­writer never be­lieved his idea for “Look­ing” could be more than the im­ages swirling around in his mind, and even when they did land on the screen, and Sea­son 1 aired, and then the show got HBO’s go for a se­cond sea­son, “I don’t think I ever thought it was re­ally hap­pen­ing.”

“Look­ing: The Movie” is a thought­ful and heart­felt send-off, as Pa­trick, cur­rently liv­ing in Den­ver, re­turns to San Fran­cisco for a wed­ding and thereby meets up with his clos­est friends: BFFs Agustin (Frankie J. Al­varez) and Dom (Mur­ray Bartlett), Doris (Lauren Weed­man), Franzese’s Ed­die, as well as Pa­trick’s two for­mer flames, Kevin (Rus­sell Tovey) and Richie (Raúl Castillo).

“We wanted to find some mid­point be­tween re­solv­ing their sto­ries and send­ing them off on their way for new ad­ven­tures and leav­ing that door open,” Lan­nan ex­plains. “It’s tricky to do both of those things.”

Lan­nan con­firms that they’d al­ready been plot­ting a third sea­son just as HBO an­nounced the show’s can­cel­la­tion, op­tion­ing, in­stead to tie up loose ends with a feature film (and to fi­nally of­fer clo­sure to Pa­trick’s on­go­ing ro­man­tic drama). And so, though “we were heart­bro­ken,” Lan­nan and the writ­ers were forced to con­dense “stock­piled” sto­ry­lines into an 86-minute movie.

Ed­die, one of the show’s pop­u­lar pe­riph­ery char­ac­ters, plays a piv­otal role in Pa­trick’s life in the film. He was the first char­ac­ter with HIV in six years to be on scripted tele­vi­sion, since a story arc on “ER,” ac­cord­ing to GLAAD. Fur­ther­more, his char­ac­ter rep­re­sented what it means to be HIV-pos­i­tive in 2016 and in­tro­duced PrEP to the TV land­scape as he pur­sued a re­la­tion­ship with Agustin, who’s HIV-neg­a­tive.

“An­drew told me, ‘Ed­die will never get sick, that’s not what this is about,’” Franzese re­calls. “Know­ing that, I just kind of put it to the side and didn’t re­ally think about the im­pact it might have. I was more happy and ex­cited to be a larger guy, a man of stature, on a tele­vi­sion show and shown in a sex­ual light and not as cas­trated comic re­lief.”

Franzese was only re­cently out when the show pre­miered. Now newly en­gaged, the 38-year-old ac­knowl­edges that “Look­ing” was “pro­found for me in a lot of ways.”

“I had just come out and this was my first job af­ter that,” he re­calls. “To not only be ac­cepted for be­ing gay but to be cel­e­brated and to have it not be a big deal – like, it was cooler to be gay on that set – was so free­ing and reaf­firm­ing.”

As ad­vances for the queer com­mu­nity con­tinue to progress, could “Look­ing” be­come an on­go­ing TV nar­ra­tive where we check in with these char­ac­ters ev­ery now and again? What will Pa­trick be like in 2026? What will we all be like then? The thought has crossed Lan­nan’s mind. “We’ve def­i­nitely talked about it,” he re­veals, “and I think if the stars aligned we’d all love to do it again in the fu­ture. I think it de­pends on a lot of things, but I would say, none of us would count it out.”

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