Pedro Pascal auditioned for ‘Looking’ & more surprising revelations from the HBO dramas’s 10-year anniversary

Pedro Pascal auditioned for ‘Looking’ & more surprising revelations from the HBO dramas’s 10-year anniversary

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Image Credit: ‘Looking, HBO’

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Looking, HBO’s seminal dramedy that dared to put gay men front-and-center, giving us a modern, queer-focused answer to Sex And The City.

Though initially met with a lukewarm reception when it premiered on January 19, 2014—and even given the dreaded “boring” label by some hyper-critical viewers—Looking gradually found a small but loyal following. Unfortunately, it was canceled after its second season finale received low ratings, but had the opportunity to wrap up its story with the one-off Looking: The Movie in 2016.

Over time (and thanks to the power of streaming) Looking has won over more fans and received a bit of a cultural reevaluation for being the groundbreaking television that it was. Of course that’s helped by the fact that many of its stars’ careers have only skyrocketed since, including Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, and even series producer/frequent director Andrew Haigh, who recently helmed the critically acclaimed All Of Us Strangers.

In celebration of the series’ 10-year anniversary, GQ spoke with many of its cast members and key creatives to assemble the definitive oral history of Looking, which is filled with surprising stories about major stars who tested for roles, famous scenes that were highly debated on set, and whether or not the show might still have more in store.

The entire piece is well worth a read, but we’ve gone ahead and highlighted some of its most notable revelations below:

Looking started out as a film set in Brooklyn

As the saying goes, San Francisco is as much a character as Patrick (Groff), Dom (Bartlett), or Augustín (Frankie J. Alvarez). But the project that would eventually become Looking was originally a story about a group of gay friends living and loving in Williamsburgh, just across the bridge from New York City.

Screenwriter Michael Lannan (whose previous credits included Damages and Nurse Jackie) wrote a slice-of-life film script titled Lorimer, which in turn was adapted from his 2010 short of the same name—which happened to star future Looking actor Raúl Castillo as well as filmmaker Sebastián Silva.

When the Lorimer script made into the hands of HBO exec Sarah Condon, she was excited for the network to have its more intimate, personal version of a show like Queer As Folk, eventually moving the story from one coast to another.

Pedro Pascal auditioned for a role

Pedro Pascal, circe 2014 | Photo Credit: Getty Images

When it came time to cast, the creative team maintains there was no “mandate,” though they were conscious of casting gay men for the parts. “We didn’t need all of the cast to be queer in real life, but we certainly wanted some of them to be,” says Andrew Haigh.

Among those to read for a part? None other than Pedro Pascal, who has since appeared in his fair share of HBO projects, from Game Of Thrones to The Last Of Us. According to casting director Carmen Cuba, it was ultimately a matter of scheduling that he didn’t get a part—but his audition is what later opened the door for him to cast him in Narcos.

Murray Bartlett nearly quit acting before he was cast

Image Credit: ‘Looking’ HBO

The White Lotus breakout admits he was feeling frustrated with his career around the time the casting call went out for Looking. Living in New York but feeling dismayed by his acting prospects, he ended up moving with his then partner to Egypt, who was making a film there during the time of the Arab Spring.

Interestingly, Bartlett says he grew out his facial hair at the time in order to look a little bit less like a typical white tourist, so he already had Dom’s signature mustache when the audition came his way: “I did my first taped audition from Cairo with a mustache, which I’m pretty sure had a big role in me getting the role of Dom,” he admits. And the rest is history!

By the way, Murray Bartlett is one of this year’s Queerties nominees in the TV Performance category for his turn in The Last Of Us—you can vote for him below, then keeping voting every day through February 22 for all your favorite people and moments form the last year of LGBTQ+ pop culture.

Jonathan Groff’s chemistry with Raúl Castillo was so hot, they expanded his role

Throughout the series, Groff’s Patrick finds himself torn between two romantic prospects: Richie (Castillo), a handsome barber he has a chance encounter with on the train, and Kevin (Russell Tovey), his alluring boss at a video game design company.

But it wasn’t always going to be that way. Richie was only planned to be a minor character, tough the creative team decided to make him a bigger part of the story after watching sparks fly between Groff and Castillo during their earliest scenes together.

Castillo recalls telling Groff about the first time he met his then girlfriend (now wife), but was nervous to reveal to his co-star that he was straight (“It was almost like coming out.”). Of course, Groff didn’t mind at all, and recalls asking the crew about Catillo already because he thought he was cute.

About that infamous enema scene…

Image Credit: ‘Looking’ HBO

To this day, one of Looking‘s most talked about scenes is the one where Groff is seen giving himself an enema in preparation for a big date night.

That moment speaks to the show’s approach to sex and sexuality: “I definitely wanted intimacy rather than explicit sex for the sake of explicit sex. Watch porn if you want to watch explicit sex,” says Haigh.

But Lannan knows such vulnerability is what made the series hard for some to watch. He remembers writer John Hoffman being a big proponent of the scene, arguing that it’s just part of gay life.

“Especially in the time it came out, I think it was maybe just a little much for people to see,” Lannan reflects. “Even gay people—it maybe cut a little too close to home in some ways. Even me sometimes, I watch it now and I’m like, “Ooh—we really spent a lot of time on that very intimate thing.”

Yes, the Looking team still stays in touch

It sounds like a lot of strong bonds were built while the cast and crew were filming in San Francisco those couple of years, with most of the team calling the experience “life-changing,” especially in terms of friendships.

Condon says they’ve done “about a yearly reunion,” while Alvarez references a Looking text chain which “blew up” with excitement when Bartlett won his Emmy for The White Lotus.

And, last year, they all got together for Castillo’s wedding—which, coincidentally, was around the ten-year anniversary of filming season one. Better still, Castillo got married to that woman he was telling Groff about all those years ago during their first scenes together… and Groff officiated! That is just way too cute.

And they all want an on-screen reunion, just like you!

Image Credit: ‘Looking: The Movie,’ HBO

Inevitably, the oral history conversation turns to: What’s next? Given the strengthening appreciation for the series, is there a chance for the Looking gang to get back together?

“Since day one, I’ve been like, ‘Can we get together for a Christmas movie or something?’ I’m ready for it,” says Daniel Franzese, who joined the cast in season two as Augustín’s love interest who is living with AIDS.

Alvarez chimes in, remarking how the show pushed the envelope forward for LGBTQ+ storytelling on TV, and suggests it could be fun seeing everyone reunite in Dolores Park for Augustín’s 40th birthday.

“I do think there’s something interesting about these characters getting older and where are they now?,” adds Condon. “We’ll see if we can convince Andrew and Casey [Bloys, CEO of HBO]. I’m going to try to make it happen.

So, there you have it! Now we know that someone’s at least trying make Looking happen again in some form. We’ll be—pardon the pun—looking out for it, that’s for sure.

For so much more, you can read the full piece—“The Oral History of Looking, HBO’s Short-Lived, Groundbreaking Gay Series”—on GQ. Both seasons of the series and Looking: The Movie are now streaming on Max.


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