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Jonathan Groff Defends Patrick’s AIDS Panic

Jonathan Groff Defends Patrick’s AIDS Panic

Three episodes into the second season of Looking, and the HBO show continues to provoke as Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez), Dom (Murray Bartlett), and Patrick (Jonathan Groff) attempt to re-bond as friends while navigating their personal dramas.

The relationship between Agustín and Patrick has been particularly tricky as Agustín continues to lash out at his roommate over his affair with Kevin (Russell Tovey) and obsessively checking up on Richie (Raul Castillo). While many viewers may be turned off by Agustín’s bad attitude, Groff reminds us that their relationship goes much deeper than what’s seen on the show. "I think they’re friends to the end," he explains by phone. "When I watched the show, I personally didn’t find Agustín that much of an asshole. And there’s little that could ruin the bond they share."

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Agustín isn’t the only flawed character, however. In the second episode, viewers witnessed Patrick have a near-meltdown at the thought of rash turning out to be an STI, or worse, AIDS. This irrational behavior is not new—we witnessed a similar reaction in the first season—and when asked about it, Groff explains that it is meant to be a familiar, if not, funny experience.

In an interview with ETOnline, Groff defends Patrick and Agustín and teases what’s still to come for his character as he continues to explore his relationship with Kevin.

One of the maybe more controversial aspects about Patrick is his constant AIDS panic. Do you worry at all how that is portrayed on the show?

Jonathan Groff: I’ve had AIDS panic. I’ve had that, I guess you say is, unnecessary AIDS panic. We were hoping that people would find it humorous because they could relate to Patrick. At least for me, and with my friends — gay and straight — I’ve had that moment where you think you might have AIDS or an STD, and you get nervous and you go to the doctor and get checked and hopefully everything is fine and it was unnecessary panic. But I’ve been there, and my friends have been there, so I was excited to illuminate that because it’s a conversation that I’ve had.

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I love the conversation with Dom and Patrick, when he’s looking at his rash and he’s like, “Do you think I have AIDS?” and Dom’s like, “Oh that—not again.” I feel like I’ve had that conversation. The first time we showed that episode to an audience we were a little nervous because we didn’t want people to think we weren’t taking AIDS seriously, but we were relieved when we heard people laughing and nodding in acknowledgement. It was a big relief.

Turning our attention to Agustín, who is very aggressive and antagonistic, and someone I’ve dubbed an “asshole” in all my recaps. How much will Patrick and Dom put up with before they’ve finally had enough of his antics?

I think they’re friends to the end. I personally didn’t find—in watching the show—Agustín that much of an asshole. I feel like I know so many people that are having a really rough time in life like he is and act out that way. I feel like I’ve also been there so I have a lot of compassion for Agustín. I hear and connect to where he’s coming from. He makes a lot of mistakes but I never really got the vehement hatred for that character. I understand he’s unlikeable in moments but I never quite understood the super aggressive hatred toward him.

One of the things I really relate to in the relationship between Agustín and Patrick is that they’re friends from when they were in college. Those are the ones you always stick by and defend. And it’s one of those things—which I think a lot of people can relate to—when you’re friends with someone quite young, you don’t know who you are yet. When you’re older and out in the world, and you’re growing and changing, you stay friends because you have this history together.

That’s a good reminder because it’s easy for audiences to forget that aspect of their relationship that goes beyond what we see on the show. We, as viewers, are just getting to know them and only have the limited capacity of what we’ve seen on screen.

That’s a good point. The show does not do you any favors—I think we’ve mentioned it once or twice that they went to college together. That history is there, and I think that is the big part of what keeps them together. That’s tricky. I think as audience member, you would watch it and be like, “Why are they still hanging out when that guy is being a dick to that one?” And I think about all my friends that I’ve been a dick to and vice versa and that’s why I can be a dick sometimes. [Laughs]

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Watching you douche in the latest episode was not something I expected to see on TV. Has there been a scene that has shocked you or made you think, I can’t believe I’m doing this?

[Laughs] Totally. There has been at least one moment in every script where I go, “Oh my god, I’m going to do that.” There’s a huge moment for my character at the end of episode 6—and probably the biggest one of the season—where Patrick has an epic meltdown. It is interesting because it has nothing to do with sex or anything salacious or nudity but it’s more of an insane Patrick moment.  I read that and thought, OK. I’m going to do that. We’re going there. Let’s do it! Let’s do it! That was the biggest sort of, “Gulp, here we go” moment for me.

Read the rest of the interview and Groff’s thoughts on gay sex on TV, the Newsweek article that slammed him and other gay actors for playing straight, and reactions to Looking’s second season.

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