O-T Fagbenle (from left), Frankie J. Alvarez, Jonathan Groff and Raul Castillo… (John P. Johnson/HBO )
HBO's "Looking" might follow the lives of gay friends in San Franscico, but one thing that drew star O-T Fagbenle to the show was the way the stories resonate with people of any sexuality. Many people have had restless partners, for example.
Fagbenle stars as Frank, the longtime boyfriend of artist Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez). As the series began, Agustin moved to Oakland to live in domestic bliss with Frank. That lasted about 10 minutes. Agustin since has initiated a threesome and, after meeting hunky man-hooker CJ (TJ Linnard), is currently flirting with the idea of becoming a sex worker himself—or at least doing something "artistic" with CJ.
The British actor says it may look like Frank is OK with Agustin's adventurous side—he did participate in that threesome—but he's really feeling a lot of anxiety and just wants to keep his man happy. Like many people in relationships do, Fagbenle said, Frank is making compromises.
"Then if you give them an inch, they'll want another seven," he joked, adding this little tease about Frank's patience: "He has a lot of tolerance. But everything can snap."
In other words, Frank could be looking for a new boyfriend soon.
Fagbenle talked more about what's coming for the couple, how he prepared for the role, and what he thinks of the negative reactions about the show.
"Looking" airs at 9:30 p.m. Sundays on HBO.
Tell me a little bit about Frank and how you approached playing him.
I guess I just spent a lot of time with the script. Michael Lannan has written this lovely, sweet kind of character who wanted to domesticate his wild man. I spent a lot of time just reading the script and then also thinking about where he came from because there are little clues all about in it. Like Frank has a tattoo of Ohio on his bicep. I'm a big researcher, so I researched Ohio. I came to San Francisco early and went to some of the bars that Michael told me that Frank might have gone to and listened to the music that Michael told me Frank might listen to. Yeah, just stuff like that to try and get myself into a certain mindset.
You like to do the research of that sort?
It can get me into trouble sometimes. But yeah, I'm a big researcher. I believe in practical research as well. You know, like going to places and experiencing things first hand as much as possible.
You filmed in San Francisco. Did you sort of explore the city before you started too?
Yes sir I did, and how. [Laughs.] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I had to. I did lots of things. I walked around a lot. I went partying a couple of times ... like clubbing or whatever you call it. That was interesting. Yeah, a fair amount of drinking involved, and talking to people. I take my work seriously. [Laughs]
Did you spend any time in Oakland since Frank lives in Oakland?
Yes I did. In fact that's the only place I get my hair cut is Oakland. ... Oakland was great. Oakland's got a lot of character. ... Maybe I didn't see the worst parts of it, but the bits I did were lovely.
I feel that Frank is the most centered and the calmest member of the group. Would you agree with that?
You know what's funny? A lot of people have said that to me, but I never really thought of him as being like that. I feel like Frank has got lots of anxiety to do with his love and Agustín and how the relationship is going to go. I think he's quite good at hiding it and dealing with it. Ultimately Agustín and Frank have been in a relationship for a long time and he's had to find ways of not freaking Agustín out because you put too much pressure on him and then he'll go away. You have to kind of look quite chill. But I think you're right, though, he has a lot of tolerance. But everything can snap.
Do you think Frank is going along with Agustín with the sexual adventurousness just to make him happy, or is he OK with it?
I think that the reason that people open up relationships are kind of varied. And I think for Frank, it's not his first choice but he's open to it. He wasn't bullied into the situation, but there is a sense that I think he's trying to appease Agustín. He wants to make him happy. And I think most people kind of do things out of their affection for their partners. But ... how far do you go?
Right, to make your partner feel comfortable, you mean?
Yeah, what can you do so that your partner stays. And then if you give them an inch, they'll want another seven.
I kind of feel for Frank actually because I fear that something bad is going to happen coming up. When you were seeing the scripts did you feel that he was going to be very disappointed at some point?
I'm aware that all drama is conflict. And even so we didn't know when we started the series how exactly everything would turn out, I think I went into it knowing that there's no drama without conflict. There's no TV show sex without fire.