Frankie J. Alvarez reflects on series end of ‘Looking’

On July 23 HBO will premiere “Looking: The Movie,” a feature-length finale to its short-lived comedy-drama about a close-knit group of 30-ish gay men in San Francisco. Eighteen episodes were produced over two seasons.

Since its January 2014 premiere, “Looking” kept looking for its audience — though generally well-received by the press, the ratings were low. The target gay-male community for whom the show was made largely shunned the series; many in the LGBT community felt that the series was dull and that the cast lacked diversity.

“This is the best show you’re not watching,” wrote The Wall Street Journal, while BBC’s Keith Uhlich opined that “Looking” “is one of the most revolutionary depictions of gay life ever on TV – and that’s because it makes it totally ordinary.”

“I know the numbers were not there,” Frankie J. Alvarez, who played the bumbling but lovable artist Augustin in both seasons, told PGN. “We were telling stories about male intimacy. ‘Looking’ was about forwarding the medium.”

Alvarez said the cast and crew was “shocked and dismayed” when HBO decided to pull the plug, but the network’s agreement to produced a feature-length film in order to give the storylines a proper finale helped to soften the blow.

“We got together, got drunk and mourned,” Alvarez recalled. “Then we rallied and came back together for the movie — everyone came back.”

Alvarez pointed out that the primary goal of “Looking” was to show positive images of gay men who were fully integrated into their communities.

“We didn’t want to show any gay men who were victimized or marginalized,” he said. “We were dismayed that a lot of our detractors were from within the LGBT community; to have the biggest rocks come from the community was hurtful.”

Alvarez noted that this may have been because LGBT people still aren’t used to seeing realistic images of themselves in mainstream entertainment, in spite of recent strides.

“For so long, gay men turned to ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Sex and the City,’” he said. “Those women were conduits because there wasn’t a history of gays on screen. ‘Looking’ was a first step. Hopefully doors will continue to open.”

Alvarez said he couldn’t reveal too much about the film.

“I’m sworn to secrecy,” he told PGN. “The film is set 10 months after the series’ end. Patrick [Jonathan Groff] comes back to town for a life-changing event. Augustine is in a crisis; he understands the repercussions of his past behavior and is now becoming the thing he fears most.”

A screener of the film was made available to PGN. We’re happy to report that there were no loose ends at the final fade-out. Both Patrick and Augustine do a great deal of self-reflection as the film unfolds and beautifully resolve their inner turmoils. That final scene might be the ending that “Looking” devotees had hoped for.

As he prepares for his appearance in “Bathing in the Moonlight,” a new play about a Cuban-American family, Alvarez said he hopes “Looking: The Movie” pulls in bigger numbers than the series and leads to more reunion films. He noted that “life-changing friendships” happened both on and off the screen.

“I see the love we have for each other burning on the screen,” he said.