Gay Iconography | Jonathan Groff

Gay Iconography: Jonathan Groff's Star Continues To Rise


He’s portrayed a repressed German teen, a Disney hero and more than one neurotic gay man. It's too early to bestow the “icon” title on Jonathan Groff, but over the last few years, he has emerged as one of the most prominent out actors in Hollywood.

“I guess I think of myself as an actor before I think of myself as a gay actor,” he told BuzzFeed last year. “So when I take work or when I look for work, it’s really based on the projects.”

The Pennsylvania native began his career on the stage, but several high-profile TV gigs (and one of the most successful films of all time) have made him one of the most recognizable faces (and voices) in Hollywood. While he’s found mainstream success, he’s also starred in several gay-themed projects. Most recently, he appeared alongside stars Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts in director Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart.

He described the challenge of working on the gay dramedy Looking to OUT magazine last year: “Trying to humanize the gay experience and make it universal while also trying to tell specifically gay stories is an interesting Catch-22, because there is something unique and special about being gay—and, there’s something completely normal and just like everybody else about being gay.”

In June, he will be one of the three Grand Marshals of the New York City Pride March (alongside Laverne Cox and Rea Carey).

See some of our favorite Groff clips, and share your thoughts in the comments, AFTER THE JUMP ...


Groff’s first major role was in the Broadway hit Spring Awakening. After originating the role of Melchior in 2006, Groff earned a Tony Award nomination. (This is also where he first worked with B.F.F. -- and future Glee co-star -- Lea Michele.) You can see Groff (and Michele) perform at the Tony Awards, above.


Back when Glee was still relevant, Groff landed a recurring guest role as Jesse St. James. He received criticism for not playing a convincing heterosexual love interest for Lea Michele’s Rachel Berry from a critic for Newsweek. “All I can do is laugh and keep moving forward,” he said to The Los Angeles Times in 2012. “Sexuality is such an interesting thing. Unless you're playing a very effeminate person, a stereotypical queen, it's hard to say what it means to play gay.”


In 2013, Groff starred in C.O.G. The film is based on a short story from gay writer David Sedaris’ collection of essays, Naked.


We’ve written extensively about Groff’s new HBO series, Looking. The show garnered heaps and heaps of buzz before its debut for realistically portraying gay men in contemporary San Francisco. Although the show got off to a slow start, the last few episodes of the first season were much better. It was announced in February that the show will return for a second season.


You may also recognize Groff’s voice from the wildly successful, Academy Award-winning film Frozen. (It is currently the fifth-highest grossing film globally.) In it, he portrays Kristoff, the leading love interest for Princess Anna (Kristen Bell). His duet (with himself!) is no “Let It Go,” but we were more charmed by his work in the quirky featurette above.

Are you a fan of Groff’s work? 

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  1. Who? Icon? Feh!

    Posted by: Uncle Arthur | May 31, 2014 1:40:32 PM

  2. Icon? Are you serious?

    Frankly, there are plenty of issues of relevance you could be writing about, and yet you choose to waste time and blog space with these inane articles.

    Posted by: truth | May 31, 2014 1:57:06 PM

  3. Great story! Totally love Jonathan Groff. Ever since I first saw him in Spring Awakening on Broadway and now on Looking on HBO. He is fantastic.

    Posted by: Tim Miller | May 31, 2014 2:05:13 PM

  4. icon? are people that desperate for actual gay "icons" that they are trying to make this mediocre actor one? And yes, Newsweek was right. I didn't for one second buy him as a legit love interest in Glee. My friends who watch that silly show kept saying they expected his character to come out at some point that is how unrealistic his acting as a straight guy was.

    Posted by: Perry | May 31, 2014 2:08:33 PM

  5. Perry - nice to know you're in the process of impersonating me. Nice slip up.

    Groff is wonderful. Saw Spring Awakening six times when it opened on BWay. LOOOOVED it. and he was stellar.

    Of course, though, this site's resident troll, currently using the name Perry (even though if you click it, it'll take you to my blog, because he's forgotten to switch his aliases around) is upset. Because Groff is successful and openly gay and "Troll" is a cowardly hack with no spine and no balls.

    ROCK ON GROFF. you sexy sexy man.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 31, 2014 2:13:28 PM

  6. Absolutely adore him. Hope to see him in more projects.

    Have loved everything except C.O.G.(Horrible film all around)

    Posted by: Cory | May 31, 2014 2:33:56 PM

  7. Wow, an actual gay man suggested as a possible gay icon. Not a heterosexual female. Not a fake trans female. But an actual bona fide gay dude. Progress!

    Posted by: Tyler | May 31, 2014 2:35:42 PM

  8. Why hasn't Towleroad suggested Larry Kramer or Freddie Mercury as gay icons -- and before Jonathon Groff? Jonathan's not even 30.

    Posted by: will | May 31, 2014 2:48:44 PM

  9. Poor Little Kiwi repeating the same tired thing that I am not out. I'll buy you a hamburger so you don't look so anorexic.

    Posted by: Perry | May 31, 2014 2:54:24 PM

  10. Perry, sit down.

    Posted by: Mikey | May 31, 2014 3:05:22 PM

  11. Perry, Troll Of Many Names, your first post on this thread links to my blog. Because the last time "you" posted it was using my name, with my URL, to post your usual racism. you're not Out, you're not a person of worth, you're a textbook troll for whom internet anonymity is all you have to live for. it's the last refuge for cowards.

    here's a great article about a terrific, talented, respect openly-gay actor - and you use it to complain. and troll.

    i'd ask what i always ask, which is for you to provide the URL so we can see who you are - but we all know that you, under your various screen names, are just an anonymous conservative coward and troll.


    Posted by: Little Kiwi | May 31, 2014 3:09:39 PM

  12. Poor Little Kiwi. Still desperate in his attempts to say I am not out. Make sure to kiss my ass on your way out.

    Posted by: Perry | May 31, 2014 3:20:08 PM

  13. There's something about Jonathan Groff that just pulls me in. He's kind of the man that I want my boyfriend to be like - handsome, talented, and seemingly down to earth.
    Anyway, I haven't seen Frozen but for me that's more of an aversion to animated films than anything else. Does the drawn character at least resemble JG? If so, that may give me a bit more incentive to see it.

    Posted by: scudpipe | May 31, 2014 3:47:16 PM

  14. You forgot to mention his very cool role in "Taking Woodstock".

    Posted by: Craig in Portland | May 31, 2014 4:57:11 PM

  15. The criticism that he wasn't convincing as a heterosexual love interest for Lea Michele in "Glee" kind of misses the point: he wasn't *supposed* to be convincing, because Jesse had an ulterior motive for romancing Rachel which *didn't* have much to do with any genuine feelings for her.

    That said, he's a talented out actor and I respect him for that -- but I do think it's premature to actually label him an "icon" (a word which has become almost as overused for people it doesn't really apply to as "diva".)

    Posted by: Craig S | May 31, 2014 5:28:37 PM

  16. A reasonably good young actor and musical theater performer? Yes. A gay icon? No.

    Posted by: D.B. | May 31, 2014 7:16:50 PM


    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | May 31, 2014 7:35:19 PM

  18. David, am I crazy or did that video use to be online in black and white?

    Posted by: Distingue Traces | May 31, 2014 8:05:43 PM

  19. I saw Spring Awakening on Broadway. Groff was great, as was pretty much everyone else. Except Lea Michele, who was just a huge black hole in the middle of the play. Extremely technically proficient singer, shockingly bad actor. But the kind of acting that can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time because of being also technically proficient.

    Posted by: emjayay | May 31, 2014 9:42:16 PM

  20. I saw Spring Awakening on Broadway. Groff was great, as was pretty much everyone else. Except Lea Michele, who was just a huge black hole in the middle of the play. Extremely technically proficient singer, shockingly bad actor. But the kind of acting that can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time because of being also technically proficient.

    Posted by: emjayay | May 31, 2014 9:42:18 PM

  21. I think I like him more than his work. He's so sexy. But I thought he was over hyped on glee, didn't like frozen at all, and Looking was so short I feel like I barely got to know his character. Cog just wasn't my bag. Most of his films are kinda Indy drama stuff that I really don't go for.

    Posted by: Brandon h | May 31, 2014 10:32:33 PM

  22. They like him because he is not camp gay.

    Posted by: Steve | Jun 1, 2014 12:28:24 AM

  23. Ummm...icon? When are you hiring new writers again?

    Posted by: Kissyfur | Jun 1, 2014 2:04:00 AM

  24. Never really liked him on Glee -- but did a complete 180 when I saw him on Looking. If you watch closely, there are so many subtleties in his acting, you forget he is acting. He portrays his (neurotic) character flawlessly.

    Posted by: randy | Jun 1, 2014 2:37:52 AM

  25. saw J G in the West End a few years ago in Deathtrap
    played with the big leagues and was just as big league
    icon...well, another stupid buzz word for the social media creeps but fine is better and rising!

    Posted by: L G. | Jun 1, 2014 3:31:06 AM

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