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Frankie J. Alvarez Talks Looking: The Movie 

Frankie J. Alvarez Talks Looking: The Movie
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

WARNING: Mild Spoilers for Looking: The Movie

For fans of HBO’s Looking, there’s one more opportunity to celebrate the series on the premium channel.

When the show about the friendship of three gay men living in San Francisco was cancelled back in 2015, it was also announced there’d be a final movie that would serve to wrap up the story of Patrick, Dom, and Augustin.

This weekend, the film finally makes its debut.

Synopsis for Looking: The Movie

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

After living in Denver for nearly a year, Patrick returns to San Francisco for the first time to celebrate the wedding of old friends. In the process, he must face the unresolved relationships he left behind and make difficult choices about what’s truly important to him.

We recently hopped on the phone with Frankie J. Alvarez, who plays Augustin, a character who was wild and lost…until he was found. His friendship with Patrick and Dom was fun, supportive and turbulent — like any deep connection. The artist’s relationship with Eddie was one of the unexpected joys of the entire series.

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

In our TV Goodness Q&A, Alvarez talks about his character getting a satisfying ending, his off-screen friendship with Jonathan Groff (Patrick), Murray Bartlett (Dom), and Raul Castillo (Richie), and how the movie was a lifesaver, but shooting it was “a bit bittersweet.” Yes, words like “weeping” and “hugging” may have come up. Plus, for those of you who were wondering, he does admit to seeing Groff in Hamiltonthree times.

TV GOODNESS: Why is the Looking movie the perfect way to end the story for these characters we got to know for two seasons?

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

FRANKIE J. ALVAREZ: I think what’s so beautiful about it is they’ve really grown and evolved so much in these two plus seasons. And the movie, I think, is really a great opportunity for them — in the middle of this event that happens to one of our friends — they get to examine the changes that they’ve made in the past couple of years and sort of figure out where they’re headed. We find them in a more thoughtful, mature place. But still just as reliant on each other for each other’s advice. At the end of the day, what’s so beautiful about the show and, in particular, about the movie, is even though we’re invested in the romantic relationships, you find that they can’t really succeed in those relationships without the help of their friends. Thank god that Patrick and Dom and Augustin…that they have each other to weather the storms whenever they come.

TV GOODNESS: What do you love most about Augustin’s friendship with Patrick and Dom?

ALVAREZ: Augustin has always been a no-bulls–t kind of guy except when he’s bullsh–ting himself, right? I think in the first season, we found that Augustin was very, had a lot of self-loathing and was filled with a fear of failure. And that manifested himself in lashing out to his friends. As hurtful as that was, his friends still stuck by him and he learned some valuable lessons in the process.

Now the love that he finds with Eddie (Daniel Franzese), he starts to function in a different way and I think that’s the beautiful thing about his friendship with those two guys. He says what he means all the time, he sort of speaks off the cuff. It’s actually Augustin that gives Patrick a very important piece of advice that helps him get what he wants in the movie.

TV GOODNESS: I do feel like even though we’ve been without these characters for over a year, things have happened in everybody’s life…the friendship. Even though they’ve been separate, it seems even richer than ever before.

ALVAREZ: Thank you for saying that. Part of it is the writing, of course, but I think part of it is with us. It’s been another year where Murray and Jonathan and Raul and I, that’s another year we’ve been in New York together, championing each other for auditions, seeing each other for dinner, and going to see movies and hanging out with each other’s partners.

I think that friendship off-screen is continuously bearing fruit on-screen. It’s a testimony to how much love we have, not only within the cast but also within the crew that made it a team. I mean, there really wasn’t a diva in the bunch and with Andrew [Haigh, EP] and Michael [Lannon, EP] setting the tone, we all just were really excited to come together and tell these stories.

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

So the film was kind of like a lifesaver that was tossed at us. Yeah, we were cancelled, but we get this one last opportunity to come back together and, like I said, we love these characters so much and we love each other, it was a blast to come together and tell this story. And I think that’s what you’re seeing in the film. A lot of us are bringing our A-game because we were so passionate and so excited to be back in San Francisco and to be playing these guys one last time.

TV GOODNESS: The experience of shooting this film — was it a celebration for you guys, was it bittersweet at all, how different was it from when you were shooting the series?

ALVAREZ: It’s a bit bittersweet. It certainly was when we were shooting and it definitely was when I was in San Francisco for the premiere. Amazing that we got this opportunity to come back together. Not many series, some series get cancelled and that’s it. They don’t really get much closure, you know a series like Togetherness.

I feel really blessed that we were able to come back together. And things aren’t really tied neatly with a bow, but it certainly does give each of these characters a bit of closure. I was grateful for the opportunity for three weeks in San Francisco, everybody together. That last week, it was all night shoots. We shot the last scene of the film on the last day of shooting. And that was an overnight shoot. So we were all just between takes, we were weeping, hugging each other, talking about how much we would miss each other. Yeah, in that respect, it was really bittersweet.

Also, I’m tremendously grateful that that was the experience. That it wasn’t one of those things where I couldn’t wait to get out of there, you know? So I feel so blessed that it was actors that I admire. Like a stellar creative team that I truly have tons of respect for.

TV GOODNESS: How satisfied are you with the way Augustin’s story ends?

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

ALVAREZ: It’s pretty incredible, right? Where we first meet him in the pilot to see where he ends up on the film, it’s pretty jaw-dropping. I think that’s a testament to the writers, certainly, for crafting that arc for me and it was a tremendous opportunity that I’ll forever be grateful for. I loved every second of it. This guy is very different from who I am in real life. It was something that I dove in head first to find the nuances and his specific darkness. And to see where he ends up in the film is beautiful. I feel really lucky to have played the part.

TV GOODNESS: Talk about Augustin and Eddie. What did you enjoy most about being part of this relationship?

ALAVAREZ: I really liked how much [Augustin] trumps expectations. Eddie is certainly not the kind of guy that Augustin had been with prior. Certainly prior to how the series begins. But, in the first season, you would never guess that that would be the kind of guy he would be with. But he’s the right tonic for Augustin’s neuroses. He’s just what the doctor ordered. Danny, who’s so playful and sweet and present, I think for me, was another part of the joy of navigating that relationship. We were able to find some genuine, just some loving moments that I probably wouldn’t have been able to have found with an actor who wasn’t as open and playful as Danny.

TV GOODNESS: Like you talked about earlier, the film premiered in San Francisco — what was that experience like and what kind of feedback did you get?

ALVAREZ: Well, the feedback was mostly joyous and enthusiastic and people were really crying towards those last couple of minutes. There are a lot of moments where the tears kind of sneak up on you and I think that’s just cause we’re so invested in these characters and their growth.

The thing that made the premiere in San Francisco so special is because it was on the night of Pride. My wife and I were out and about the whole day seeing this show of love and enthusiasm and support for the LGBT community especially in light of what happened at Pulse almost a month ago now. It was just beautiful to see this show of love.

This manifestation of love in the midst of all this hatred that’s happening in this world. All these bombings that are occurring. It’s a scary time that we’re living in right now. And I think the film is a salve for that in a lot of ways. It really celebrates love and friendship as a way forward.

And I think that watching it the night of Pride with mostly 1400 gay men in the Castro Theatre, I think, reinforced that message. It was bittersweet for me to come up on stage at the end and the whole cast, we’re up there, and we’re looking at this packed house and they’re giving us this incredible ovation and it was just impossible for me not to tear up. It was an incredible experience and to see the tangible effect that we’ve had on that community was striking.

TV GOODNESS: I did read something — I don’t know if it was you or someone else in the cast — that said that this movie was a love letter to San Francisco. Can you talk about how important the city was to this show?

ALVAREZ: Yeah, that sounds like me. It really was. And similar to how Sex and the City is a love letter to New York, I think we were of that same vain. There have been shows that have depicted San Francisco in the past and it’s mostly been an upper class version of San Francisco. And though that still exists with the tech level happening right now, there is a whole part of San Francisco that’s navigated by middle to lower class artists and young men and women just trying to survive and make it.

Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley
Photo Credit: HBO/Melissa Moseley

And I think that’s the beautiful thing about this series and is a testament to our locations people — they really found some great spots that are true blue, really known to SF residents and aren’t like your typical…this isn’t the San Francisco from Mrs. Doubtfire. This is San Francisco from today. And everybody was so kind and so sweet to open up their doors. We’d shoot at a bunch of different places in The Mission and people were just so excited to have us. It felt really nice to be embraced by a city like that.

TV GOODNESS: And without giving away who she plays, Tyne Daly does make a guest star appearance. What did it mean to have her in the movie?

ALVAREZ: She has such an illustrious history with San Francisco and with the LGBT community, of course. But I think for us, as mostly New York theater actors, to have someone like that on set all day, we were just picking her brain about different experiences she’s had on stage and different experiences with costars and she has such a warmth and generosity about her. And also a tremendous sense of humor. I mean, we were in stitches all day with her. She was a blast and she’s great in the film. Really excited that we had her.

TV GOODNESS: What’s next for you? You’re doing theater, right?

ALVAREZ: I’m doing my first play in three years. I’m going out to the McCarter [Theatre] in Princeton, N.J., to do a new Nilo Cruz play called Bathing in Moonlight, which I’m really excited about. And, yeah, I’m still auditioning for TV and film stuff and if something were to come about, I definitely would do that. But I haven’t been on stage in three years and I’m hungry for that immediate connection between the audience and the actors.

TV GOODNESS: Speaking of theater, I just have to ask, did you see Jonathan when he was in Hamilton?

ALVAREZ: Yes, I’ve seen it three times, Off-Broadway at the Public [Theater], at their opening night, and then I took a friend at the end of December. He was amazing and really put his stamp on that role (King George). I know two guys have done it — Andrew Rannells and the other guy from Book of Mormon‘s doing it now. And I’m sure they’re doing a great job, but I just can’t imagine anyone else playing it. He really just stole the show. I thought he was exceptional.

Looking: The Movie premieres Saturday, July 23 at 10/9c on HBO.

About Augustin

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  1. Denise Robinson

    Such a wonderful and insightful interview with Alverez. It’s very evident that throughout the years of developing, creating and filming this series and wrap-up film, great and strong bonds of friendships were also cultivated with everyone who was blessed to be apart of this amazing production.

    I’m so thrilled that we’re able to return to SF and see these group of characters again, even with it being the last round.

    1. Tina Charles

      Thanks for the kind words. And thanks for reading. I loved talking to Alvarez. It was clear it was a special project for him and the rest of the cast. And I think you’ll LOVE the movie, too.

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