‘Frozen’ star Jonathan Groff hot property in new HBO series ‘Looking’

Out actor Jonathan Groff is on the kind of roll these days that happen rarely, but he’s not complaining. A hot property — including this month’s “Out” magazine cover boy — he stars in the new gay-themed HBO series “Looking,” debuting Jan. 19.

“Looking” follows three men in San Francisco. Groff plays Patrick, a 28-year-old video game designer. His circle of friends include Dom (Murray Bartlett), a waiter about to turn 40; and Agustín (Frankie Alvarez), Patrick’s artist roommate who is moving in with his boyfriend Frank. The show is written by Michael Lannan, who has based many of the characters on his friends and people he’s met.

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Groff feels Patrick is at a time in his life where he’s looking for more and trying to test the relationship waters.

“Patrick is a point in his life that some people get to in their teenage years, and others experience at 30 or 40, of wanting to go deeper in his life, to step outside their comfort zone and try new things,” he says.

“The show is called ‘Looking’ and Patrick is looking at himself. He is ready to start moving forward with life. In the first scene Patrick is trying to get a handjob in Golden Gate Park. Watching it you see he’s like a fish out of water; he is trying to find his gay identity and his identity in the world as a whole.”

Patrick’s dating life is bumpy. He goes on a date at a restaurant that ends abruptly when a potential suitor sizes him up and spits him out within minutes. In the next episode, he scares off another potential beau with an unintentional, inappropriate comment.

The actor was drawn to the project by the thought of working with director Andrew Haigh, who made the acclaimed “Weekend” a few years back.

“I read the script in December (2012) and what drew it to me was Andrew Haigh,” he says. “I had seen ‘Weekend’ in New York a few years ago. I was blown away by it. I saw that with a straight friend and both of us were very moved by the end. It was very specifically a gay movie, but in theme it obtained a universal quality. It was accessible in a large way. I thought if he could bring the same sensibility to the TV show it could be a special experience.”

Groff did not know the other two main actors beforehand. They all met at the audition and bonded, which Groff credits for their chemistry. After reading the script, he really responded to the fact that the characters were complex and not dealing with stereotypical issues.

“In a broader sense, all the characters are gay, but none are having a coming out story, none are struggling with the fact that they are gay,” he says. “It’s more dealing with problems in their everyday life with friendships or dating or work lives. All of them are gay but it’s not the main issue in their life, just part of who they are.”

“Looking” was shot entirely in San Francisco last fall. “Every bar, every restaurant, every street corner – you can see it,” Groff says. “San Francisco is like another character. It’s  such a special city. It’s special that we got to capture it.”

2013 was the biggest year of Groff’s life. Besides filming “Looking,” he starred in the gay-themed “C.O.G.,” which debuted at Sundance and co-starred Denis O’Hare and Corey Stoll. It was the first time that a work of writer David Sedaris had been adapted for film.

As well, Groff’s current “Frozen” – where he voices the character of Kristoff – is a huge hit and a likely Oscar nominee. He had no idea it would catch on so well.

“I had a feeling people would like it,” he says. “It’s like a classic Disney movie with a very progressive message at the end. But I had no idea it would do the kind of business it’s doing. It’s a Disney movie with princesses where the final message isn’t ‘one day my prince will come’ but love between family members conquers all. I’m proud to be part of that.”

He first got noticed on “Glee,” which he was part of for two years as Jesse St. James.  “I feel lucky to be a part of it,” he says. “It was such a fun experience and a cultural phenomenon. I loved working with the people there and still stay in touch with them.”

The performer is planning a concert at Lincoln Center in February, which will mark his debut there. After that he will be waiting to see the reaction of “Looking” and whether it will get a second season. “We have to wait and find out if people respond to it,” he says. “We’ll see how many people turn in and we’ll go from there.”

He’ll also be seen in Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.”

Being an out actor hasn’t had any negative effect on his career, he feels. “I came out years ago and thankfully and luckily have worked in straight and gay roles,” he says. “So far so good.  I’ve not come across any resistance (being) out, which is great.”

“Looking” debuts Sunday, Jan. 19, at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.