The upcoming HBO series Looking has already been compared to two post-feminist dramedies that firmly planted their flags in the sexual landscape of the 21st century, Sex and the City and Girls. But like those groundbreaking shows, your ability to find the sexual candor of Looking authentic might depend entirely on regionalisms or a generational divide.
Although that might be moot when it comes to O-T Fagbenle. While the other characters can hide behind a scrim of sexual choices, his rendering of Frank makes him the most easily visible character on the show. He seems oddly unconflicted, exactly the kind of queer everyman a show like Looking needs.
Even if Frank doesn't feel completely recognizable to you, you will likely wish he were, which is why we wanted to sit down with O-T Fagbenle. What better place to turn for insights into Looking than the actor playing the most centered character on the show?
So, O-T, we might as well start at the deep end of the pool. Looking calls some of the contemporary orthodoxies of gay life into question while it reinforces other ones. Are there aspects of the show that seem particularly true to you? Are there any you struggled with?
My experiences with people who are gay are so eclectic and diverse (as are my experiences with people who are straight), that having lived in the 'straight world' my whole life I recognize more similarities than differences. On the series, our gay characters are in long term relationships, short term relationships, online dating, struggling with the facts of being older and single - all things that straight, bisexual, and almost every other shade of the sexual spectrum deal with. Sure they have gay friends and go to gay bars but I think it's true to say the most interesting things about these characters isn't their sexual orientation, It's their individual perspectives on life and how they deal with looking for love, sex and friendships.
Gay characters have become fairly familiar on the small screen. Would you say Looking is breaking new turf in terms of representation, and did you feel some responsibility to "get it right?"
When representation of the LBGT community was much more scarce in the media, I think there was some kind of pressure to encapsulate an entire community in a single character - this can often be a fast track to generalization and stereotypes. Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh are so talented at bringing subtle and defined characters to the fore that the gay characters are real and identifiable without being these stock characters out of gay folklore. It's refreshing!
The pressure to "get it right" was definitely there for me, I didn't want to mess this bad boy up so I asked if HBO would fly me to San Francisco before the shoot, so I could spend more time researching and getting a feel for that amazing city and the places were Frank might hang out. I also pretty much tried to stay in character during the entire shoot, which was interesting.
Perfect segue. Because of its significance in American gay history, San Francisco is practically the show's main character. As a Londoner, can you give us some insights into your process for unveiling the soul of the city?
I cycled and walked around San Francisco a lot, made local friends, partied in The Mission, The Castro, the Folsom Fair, spoke to the homeless a lot. I also visited the nude beaches and the redwood forests - there is a lot to do in San Fran. I definitely think I scratched the surface but it's an evolving city so it would take time to get your whole finger in. Shout out to Oakland - that place is cool as #%!*.
There is something off-the-cuff about your reading of your character, Frank. Is he someone you were already familiar with, or was he something of a surprise to you?
Thank you ... I think! Walt Whitman said of himself 'I am large, I contain multitudes,' and I definitely recognize Frank very within my multitudes! Playing him was mostly a matter of allowing myself to reveal some inner shades of me.
When we meet Frank, he is the boyfriend of the only coupled character in the show, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez). It's clear from the start that Frank has his hands full, but he seems unfazed by Agustin. Is he simply uncomplicated, or is something else going on there?
Frank is a healer, he desperately wants that independent and troubled lover that he can soothe and tame. He knows if he plays the 'Mom' and tries to control Augustin too hard and too quick it will push his love away. He's playing the long game.
If you were having coffee with Frank, what advice would you have for him about his new boyfriend?
Haha! Umm. Maya Angelou once said 'When someone shows you who they are ... believe them.’ It's good advice for Frank but hell, I'd give that advice to anybody.
If your favorite part of Girls was Andrew Rannells' bitingly humorous Elijah, Hannah's gay ex-boyfriend slash roommate, then your life is about to get a whole lot better. HBO just gave the go-ahead to a project that sounds just like Girls except all of the characters are guys...and gay...and live in San Francisco.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network ordered eight episodes of an untitled show from producer Sarah Condon (Bored to Death), David Marshall Grant (Brothers & Sisters) and writer/producer Michael Lannan. The show stars Glee's Jonathan Groff as one of a trio of gay dudes who live in San Fran and get up to wacky antics and explore the world of the modern gay man. That sounds like there is going to be a Grindr subplot! The pilot, which HBO obviously loved, was directed by Andrew Haigh who made critically-loved gay indie Weekend, so I have high hopes.
The show doesn't have a name, but I don't think I'll be the first to suggest Boys. Or Gays. Gay Boys? Gurls?
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Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.