HBO's 'Looking': Let's Talk About Sex

'What's really interesting about the way we tackle the sexuality on the show is it's really character-driven,' says star Frankie J. Alvarez

From the network that brought you "Sex and the City" comes a new half-hour comedy about ... well, relationships in the city. The town in question is San Francisco, and instead of sassy professional ladies, the stars of HBO's new sitcom "Looking" are three gay friends who spend a lot of time talking about sex and love and hooking up.

But if you're expecting to see a another HBO flesh parade, well, star Jonathan Groff (who plays 28-year-old video game designer Patrick), says you might be disappointed.

"I think we all had great faith in [director] Andrew Haigh that the sex scenes would be dealt with a frankness and an honesty and a tenderness," said Groff, who also praised the scripts for supporting the character drama in the scenes and not focusing just on the act. "So when we were acting them, and hopefully when you're watching them, you're watching two characters connect as opposed to two random people having a sexual moment together."

Sunday night's debut episode finds Patrick, fresh from a break up with his now-engaged ex, trying to have anonymous sex in a park. Sounds exploitative, right? He quickly bails, though, because the whole thing kind of feels silly and the guy he almost picks up is "not even hipster hairy, but gym teacher hairy."

That scene alone has led a number of critics to praise the show for not trying to be the "Gay 'Girls'," and for avoiding shock value and big message shouting in favor of serving up complex characters.

O.T. Fagbenle, who plays lead Agustin's boyfriend, Frank, said he loves that you get to see all the characters at their most vulnerable and intimate. "To that point, one of the things that made it easier for me to do the sex scenes was that they weren't about the sex," he said. "They were about what were going on with the person."

As an actor, that made it much easier for him to relate to Frank than if he was simply stripping down for the camera. His on-screen love, Frankie J. Alvarez's character artist Agustin, agreed, saying the steamier moments are about finding out what the characters really want from their relationships.

"What's really interesting about the way we tackle the sexuality on the show is it's really character-driven," he said, saying that helps you focus on what's really going on. "What does Agustin want in this moment and how does he go about it?"