Russell Tovey’s “Looking” Audition Almost Put Jonathan Groff Out Of A Job

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So much of HBO’s ill-fated series Looking centered on protagonist Patrick’s inability to choose which path his heart wants to take, and some viewers grew weary of the character’s naivité playing out like a lost puppy each week by star Jonathan Groff.

But would the show have been any different if Russell Tovey, who plays Patrick’s boss turned love interest in the series and upcoming finale special, had been cast in the lead role?

In a recent interview with Backstage‘s Mark Peikert, Tovey sheds some light on the role he almost nabbed from Groff:

“[Creator] Andrew Haigh came to see a play I did called ‘Miracle’ about four years ago and he messaged me afterward to say, ‘Let’s do something some day,’ ” Tovey recalls. “Then ‘Looking’ came up and I said, ‘Great, he knows me,’ and did an iPhone tape, which was a big mistake. They said, ‘Really nice but terrible quality. Can you do it again?’ So I did it again.”

HBO was impressed enough that it flew Tovey out to L.A. and provided him with a hotel in West Hollywood and a car to drive him to the screen test, “which was the most nerve-racking thing ever. I was being put in different groups with different Doms, different Augies. And then eventually it was just me and Jonathan [Groff] going in. He was just so kind and sweet to me when I turned up. He was, like, ‘I loved “The History Boys” ’! And I flew back and I was convinced that he’d gotten it. So I got home and in the middle of the night, checking Twitter, I found out that Jonathan Groff got ‘Looking.’ I was totally gutted. They said, ‘We love you and we’ll write you a part.’ You hear that a lot—and then you never hear anything.”

This time, however, Tovey did hear. He was sent the role of Kevin, who comes into the series as Patrick’s partnered boss who embarks on an affair with him. Not that he was their only choice; Tovey still had to put himself on tape. “I did 10 versions, all American accents, and then as I was leaving, I said, ‘Let’s do one British quickly because I’m going to leave and they’re going to want me to do one with a British accent.’ So I did it and they said, ‘We love the Brit! The Brit is what we want! You got it!’ ”

It also begs the question — if Tovey had been cast as Patrick, what sort of role might Haigh have created for Groff?

Tovey is currently starring on Broadway in the West End import revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from a Bridge, which you can read more about in the Backstage profile.

He, along with the familiar Looking faces, will appear in a two-hour send-off during the early months of next year, where we hope to finally see Patrick make up his damn mind.