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Looking’s Frankie J. Alvarez talks to Live for Films

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frankie-j-alvarezOffering an unfiltered look at three friendships in one of America’s most iconic cities, LOOKING: SEASON ONE introduces us to Patrick (Jonathan Groff – The Normal Heart, Glee), a 29-year old video game designer getting back into the dating world in the wake of his ex’s engagement; aspiring artist Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez – Smash), who is questioning the idea of monogamy as he transitions into domesticity with his boyfriend; and career waiter Dom (Murray Bartlett – White Collar), the oldest member of the group who, at 39, is facing middle age with his romantic and professional dreams still unfulfilled… The trio’s stories intertwine and unspool dramatically as they search for happiness and intimacy in an age of unparalleled choices – and rights – for gay men.

Rounding out the world of LOOKING: SEASON ONE are the UK’s own Russell Tovey (Being Human, The History Boys), starring as Kevin, Patrick’s boss and love interest; Agustín’s boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), as well as the legendary Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap, Star Trek: Enterprise) who stars as Lynn. The final character is San Francisco itself, with its progressive, unpredictable and sexually open culture serving as a backdrop for the group’s lives.

The complicated, funny and romantically charged lives of three friends living in San Francisco takes centre stage in the sexy and lyrical LOOKING: SEASON ONE which comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 12th January 2015 courtesy of HBO Home Entertainment. The whole season and individual episodes are also available to own and watch instantly on Amazon Instant Video, blinkbox, Google Play and iTunes.

To celebrate the imminent release of the first series of Looking, I sat down with Frankie J. Alvarez, who plays Agustin. Looking is like Girls with gay guys and, as I loved it and Agustin, I was looking forward to meeting Frankie. Disarmingly charming with a quiet and low voice I had a great time with him talking about everything from the leather clad street orgy that is Folsom Street Fair to Michael J. Fox homages and getting killed by an Alien.

Hiya Frankie. I’m Alan from Live for Films, it’s nice to meet you.

I’m good, thank you. Nice jumper! Look at us both with our big jumpers and spiky haircuts!

Oh, yeah. Weird. This is clearly going to go just fine. So, I got sent the first series of Looking to watch before talking to you. I was only going to watch an episode to get a feel for the show, but I loved it – and marathoned the whole series.

Hooked! I’m so glad!


looking-posterYeah. I love your character Agustin, but what drew you to him initially? He’s so self-destructive!

I’m so glad you love him. I actually auditioned first for Ritchie (Patrick’s new boyfriend). They liked my tape, but I didn’t have the right energy, so they shifted me over to the Agustin part. That actually ended up being a great marriage, but as an actor, you don’t get to make those choices – it just sort of stumbled that way.

When they moved me over to this part they sent me a character break down. I looked it over and thought, “Oh, even though he’s nothing like me, he’s in there.” Y’know? I’m married now, and much more self-assured, but I remember these self-destructive times, the moments where I got in my own way. Fear of failure, when you’re an actor, or an artist like Agustin, it can… It can either motivate you or destroy you and I think that Frankie’s path has gone a little differently than Agustin’s.

The ending of the series is very sad for your character and Patrick, but it still felt like they were both back where they wanted to be – back together in their flat.

I think there’s a good amount of audience members, and press too, who are kind of cheering for Agustin and Patrick to get together…

No!

I’m with you, I’m with you one hundred percent. I think the show would jump the shark if that were to occur. I think that’s what’s beautiful, that it’s about these two gay men who have this challenging, curious friendship, that is independent of their romantic lives.

Was it exciting to be a part of an HBO show too? What do you think makes them all so consistently special and good?

I think that they’re not chasing numbers. They’re not trying to people please. They’re searching for quality, and searching for stories that haven’t been told yet. I mean… there’s an old quote out there that we’re all just telling the same stories over and over again. I guess I’m a believer in that. I’ve been in the business since I was eight and have read enough plays and seen enough plays and films to know that, but it’s about finding new and challenging ways to tell them.

Queer As Folk kind of paved the way for Looking, but, even the tone of that show is world’s apart from us. This show is much more naturalistic, and certainly on HBO we can get away with a little more skin and language. Because of that we can really get real.

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How exciting is it to have such a great new HBO show as your first TV show?

I mean, like you said, the quality is so great so… as an actor… I’ve been bouncing around doing plays for years and this is sorta my big break. So ask me again in five or ten years when I’m doing Law and Order or something and wishing… wishing that I had scripts like these to dive into. It’s a blessing, every day, and because I stumbled into it I’m very cognizant of not taking it for granted and hope it never ends.

What was it like working with the other Brit in the show, Russell Tovey?

Is that you’re first time seeing Russell Tovey’s butt?!

No! I watched Being Human, so I’ve seen it loads of times!

[both laugh]

It’s a national treasure! With O.T. You never heard his English accent – he was always in his American dialect – but because we were so intimate with each other I was able to push him every once in a while and hear his real voice! Russell and I have a few scenes together and I’m always very dismissive of him, but we were much better friends.

After spending time shooting scenes that are just you and Agustin’s boyfriend Frank (O.T. Fagbenle), is it fun to then later do scenes with all the boys: Agustin and Patrick and Dom together?

We always talk about how if you put Agustin, Patrick and Dom together you would have the perfect gay man – if they were wrapped up into one human being. But, of course, that’s not the case, their friendship together helps them get through stuff, but when they’re split off into their own story lines they need each other to function!

But with the rest of the boys – we’re actually really good friends off camera as well – so that has it’s advantages. Plus, it’s better to go back to the friends because O.T. is a diva!

[both laughing]

No, I’m just teasing! Actually, he just sent me the trailer for The Interceptor. It’s his new show for BBC One and ohmygod it looks awesome! It’s a procedural and he’s like The Guy – he’s got this big black jacket and he looks like a rugged handsome leading man. It’s so great. I’m so proud of him.

(The Interceptor trailer isn’t available to us yet, but you can see an extended clip by skipping to 00:58 here.)

But, to answer your question instead of making jokes…

We can make all the jokes you want.

[laughs] OK, good! The tough thing with the guest parts when they come in is, for budget reasons, they don’t stay around for very long. So when O.T. And I would be together we would do all of our scenes for one or two episodes in a day or two. So with O.T. It was very much like actor boot camp. He’d show up, we’d talked about the circumstances, and we’d make it happen, and then he was gone.

Is it ever awkward filming sex scenes?

It never feels natural!

[the PR pops in to indicate that we don’t have much time left]

OK, let’s skip to some better stuff then!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll skip, we’ll skip – the nudity question comes up all the time!

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Had you ever been to the Folsom Street Fair before, and is it really that crazy?

It is, it is. When we filmed, we filmed during the actual festival from 7am to 7pm, and we go back again this season.

Oh, so is it going to be every series, like a Halloween episode?

[laughs] No, no, no, no! They went for series two, but I didn’t go because I was there for twelve hours last year and I saw like a life times worth! I got home to my wife and she was making dinner in her underwear and I was like, “Baby, put some clothes on”, I had seen enough skin for a lifetime that day!

It’s common for shows and movies to say that whatever city it’s set in “is a character in it”, but I think that’s genuinely true of San Francisco in Looking. Why do you think San Francisco is so integral to the show?

What I love about San Francisco culture is that people are embraced for who they are, regardless of any judgements – it’s beautiful. If the rest of our culture could be the same it would go a long way.

Surprisingly, the short that Looking is based on is set in New York! They actually developed it to be in New York, but when Girls was such a big hit they thought they couldn’t have another show there. Andrew (Haigh – writer-director) said, “Well, actually a lot of the people the characters are based on are friends of mine from San Francisco”, so it was a naturalistic move and ended up being fine.

What can you tell me about series 2? Where can Agustin go from here?

Well, yeah, he’s completely destroyed his relationship, he challenged his friends, he lost his job… What’s funny is… you think he’s hit rock bottom, but there’s actually more bottom to hit! In season two he keeps tunnelling a little bit, but he starts to come back up again, and I have a new love interest in the second season. So, as an actor, it’s brilliant.

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If you could star in the remake of any movie, which one would it be and who would you play?

[instantly] Back to the Future. And Marty. There’s actually a scene in the second season where I’m waking up and, as a nod, I was sleeping in that weird position he sleeps in [bends arm behind back]. I’m obsessed with the trilogy – I love it, I love it. Michael J. Fox is one of my heroes. The “J” in my name stands for “Javier”, but “Frankie J. Alvarez” is because of “Michael J. Fox”.

Hah! Cool. Wow.

[the PR lady calls time on our chat] [to her] One last…

[to me] We’ve got one last question, right?

If that’s cool… If you could be killed by any movie monster [Frankie and the PR lady both crack up], which one would it be and why?

It would have to be an Alien – I’m such a big sci-fi guy… The original Alien, 1977, that whole [does a roar and mimes a mouth shooting out of his mouth with his hand]. My last words..? “Et tu, Alien?”

Cool! Thanks!

Yeah, thanks man! I hope you enjoy series 2 now we’ve got you hooked.

I’m sure I will. Thanks! Nice to meet you!


 

Looking is available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray or VOD on the 12th of January.

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