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‘Platonic’ Star Luke Macfarlane on Turning Down ‘Barbie,’ ‘Bros’ Disappointment and Bias Against TV Comedy


It’s been an eventful year for Luke Macfarlane, who reunites with Bros director Nick Stoller for Apple TV+’s comedy series Platonic alongside Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne.

In the show that hails from co-creators Stoller and Francesca Delbanco and is currently streaming, Macfarlane plays attorney Charlie, who is raising three children with wife Sylvia (Byrne) and has to adjust to her rekindled friendship with the unpredictable Will (Rogen).

Macfarlane has had a full plate recently, having co-starred opposite Billy Eichner in last fall’s Universal release Bros, which spurred plenty of debate when it underperformed at the box office. He is also known for his Christmas films, including starring in numerous Hallmark projects and appearing in Netflix’s 2021 feature Single All the Way, which was the streamer’s first rom-com to focus on LGBTQ lead characters.

During a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Macfarlane weighs in on why starring in Platonic meant saying goodbye to a role in Greta Gerwig’s highly anticipated summer release Barbie, the range of emotions he feels now about the Bros experience, why television comedies don’t always seem to earn the respect they deserve and what it’s like to be known as a mainstay of Hallmark’s Christmas film circuit.

Seth Rogen and Luke Macfarlane on Platonic

Courtesy of Apple

For Platonic, you reunite with your Bros director Nick Stoller. Had you already filmed Bros before doing the show?

I was cast in Bros for a very long time. There was the pandemic, and then things didn’t happen for a super long time, but we always lightly kept in touch with each other, which was just more than anything setting the groundwork for a good director-actor relationship. And then when we were filming Bros, I knew that he was pitching this show with Rose and Seth, but he never mentioned it to me really in any detail. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was really Francesca’s baby and something that felt very personal to her.

It was interesting because I had auditioned for a small part in Barbie and got it. And then I got an email from Nick that was like, “I think you’d be really great in this part.” I was like, “Great. I have this offer for Barbie, so you gotta let me know.” We tried to make it work, and I was like, “You know what? I really, really wanted to work on this show.” Careers are funny things — you never really know. When I read about the character on the page, I was like, “This is somebody I understand.”

For Barbie, it was just that the timing couldn’t work out for both?

It was one of those brutal things. Yeah, the timing couldn’t work out for both. I’m not trying to sound boastful. It was a small, little part, but I’ve never been part of some beautiful, big, cool thing like that. It would have been cool to be able to do both.

You have a great straight-man presence in this, as opposed to the chaos of Seth and Rose. What was that dynamic like to play opposite them?

Intimidating — they’re both so good. Seth is this really bright, verbal guy. Jokes just come out of him with like this incredible ease, and everything’s effortless. And the same thing for Rose’s comedy, especially when it comes to her physicality — it’s really laid-back and funny.

Charlie’s uptightness is something that comes naturally to me. Nick would often poke fun at me during the filming of Bros — he’s like, “You’re very stiff.” And that is just kind of the way I move, which seemed appropriate to Charlie. He’s really got a strong moral center, and he believes in doing things the right way, and he’s a little stiff. [With] Seth and Rose’s really easy calm, it makes for a good contrast.

(from left) Bobby (Billy Eichner) and Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) in Bros

Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane in Bros

Were there any unique challenges to the role?

I’ll tell you exactly: I am not a dancer. Really difficult time getting on that bar with Seth, and I was getting over some injuries. Oof, I was not great.

The show’s team made it clear in marketing before the launch that viewers wouldn’t have to worry about Seth and Rose’s characters potentially hooking up. Was that a nice aspect to doing the show?

Totally. It was great. It wasn’t a love triangle situation. Not to get too heavy or deep about it, I also think anybody that saw Bros last year, anybody that knows anything about me, knows I’m an openly gay guy. The fact that that can still work in spite of what we think of the performer shows that our audience is more open-minded. I recognize I’m not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, but that it doesn’t need to be alienating that I can play a straight guy that is in a healthy relationship, that shows something about where we’ve come.

Has there been talk of a second season for Platonic?

I know there’s been talk, but I’m not at those high-level ideas. There’s been definitely a conversation, but the world is a strange place right now with the strike and momentum and not knowing what’s a certain metric for success. And then truly, Rose and Seth are A-list movie stars. It depends on them and if they want to do it again too, but I know that a lot of people involved have lightly suggested that there’s a possibility for a season two.

One thing that stands out about the show is that, especially for awards consideration, there are a lot of “comedies” that aren’t comedies.

I totally agree.

Whereas Platonic seems to delight in making people laugh. Does that seem to be a tougher sell in this prestige-TV era?

Seth’s a great person to talk to about this, and he has really interesting, smart opinions, so I’m going to echo a lot of what he said. But look, being on set with Nick, something that I really learned, which had not been a big part of my experience before, is jokes are important. Landing jokes — whether that’s [because] they’re funny, the timing’s right, the performance is right, it’s not pushed — that is very hard to do. In a show like Platonic, jokes need to keep coming, and I really appreciate that.

Myself, like a lot of people in the industry, and I don’t know why this is, but do turn their nose up at that. I think it’s just because people think comedy is easier than it actually is. What is so clever about Platonic is that underneath it, there’s a real set of stakes and clarity about who all the characters are, and you understand them right off the bat.

Now that we’re a bit removed from the Bros release and the discussion of its box office, how do you feel about all that?

Disappointed that more people didn’t go out and see it, but it’s OK. I really felt super proud about the movie. I can’t think of anything that I felt was a big mistake in making it, so it’s disappointing. Billy is so, so, so talented, so funny, so creative, has such a big heart. So it’s disappointing, but this is a business. And I think people are gonna find it. A guy came up to me in the gym the other day and was like, “I came home, my 17-year-old son was watching Bros. And I was like, ‘I know that guy’” — and he knew me from the gym. He sat down and watched it. Hopefully, people will discover it that way. There’s a long tradition of films that don’t kill it in the box office but stand the test of time, and I believe Bros will be like that.

Does it seem that there are execs who still are taking the chances needed to make rom-coms like Bros that are more inclusive in their choice of leads?

I don’t know. The idea of greenlighting any extremely expensive films seems like a terribly daunting thing right now. Rom-com is a really difficult genre in general because we know what happens: They get together. That makes it increasingly hard to be fresh. So in a way, the rom-com is primed for the unexpected coupling, whether that’s a gay couple or another kind of couple that is not the majority of people. I hope that they do because that’s a great way to make it fresh.

You certainly have experience with the space as the king of Christmas movies. Does your personal experience lead you to believe that things are trending in a positive way with inclusion?

They certainly are. Hallmark is absolutely making efforts to create queer content, and I applaud them for that. They’ve been often the butt of jokes about the sort of limited nature of their cast, but they’ve really changed that, and they’re really continuing to do that. I think they’re doing that not just for the press. The Christmas movie [The Holiday Sitter, featuring an LGBTQ couple] they did last year was a big success for them, had lots of viewers. There’s an audience there, for sure.

Candace Cameron Bure, who is herself a Christmas stalwart …

Maven? Yes.

Right. She made headlines about her company Great American [not focusing on queer characters in holiday films]. So moves like Hallmark’s seem encouraging.

Exactly. It’s that whole thing that was, why does me having visibility make yourself any less different? I think that we all deserve a place in the media, in the film world.

In a perfect world, where are we seeing you in a couple years?

(Laughs.) Well, I would love to come back and do Platonic again. We are in the middle of a writers strike, and that is a bummer. But as I said, Hallmark has been very good to me, and I have agreed to do a Christmas movie for them this year. So I’m adding to the canon.

No one’s taking that crown.

That’s right. It’s getting very competitive.

Does it feel different to be on a Hallmark set now that you’ve done such a range of big Hollywood projects?

All sets are different. I’m so grateful in my career. I’ve done everything from a period drama to a sci-fi show to these Hallmark films, and they’re all different. That’s part of the fun of being an actor is like, “How does this thing work?” What’s been always fun about the Hallmark movies is how much leeway they give you and the pace. Talk about learning on the job. You gotta know what you’re doing when you show up because there is not a lot of time. We shoot them in 15 days, and they tend to overshoot so that they have their bases covered.

I was telling someone recently that I could see you in Chris Evans roles.

I appreciate it. From your lips to whoever’s ears because that really is the thing I want more than ever. I love doing action. I really do. I can’t dance, but I can learn a fight sequence really well.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

Platonic is currently streaming its first season on Apple TV+.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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