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Scott Bakula on Weed, Cartoons, and Wanting to Sing ‘Defying Gravity’ on Looking

Scott Bakula Photo: Michael Buckner/Getty

On HBO’s Looking, Scott Bakula plays Lynn, the older, wiser, super-handsome guy Dom should be with for no other reason than that mustache would look great on the arm of Mr. Quantum Leap. There’s only one episode left this season, and we really need for Dom to get it together, stop being a selfish jerk, and give us the happy ending we deserve before the year-long hiatus. Fingers crossed. Vulture spoke with Bakula, whom Margaret Lyons early on declared the best part of the budding comedy, about what’s going on in Lynn’s head (nothing says I love you like pot and cartoons!) and why next season, he’s hoping to do some singing and dancing.

Lynn is making Dom’s peri peri chicken dreams come true, and he’s behaving like a brat.
Well, those are the great characters, right? If we were falling all over each other at the bathhouse in that first scene … you want Dom to be hesitant. You want people to wish he made a different choice.

What do you think Lynn sees in Dom?
I think Dom reminds him of an ex, the love of his life. There’s a certain whimsy he has. He’s a dreamer with big plans, and so was his last partner — actually, I’m not sure all that background made it into a script. But it was stuff that we put underneath it. That’s the initial curiosity. But I don’t think Lynn ever thinks seriously about Dom in the beginning. Ultimately, whether or not they get together will be a matter of Dom being at a point in his life where he might want to make some different kinds of choices about who he wants to be and how he wants to live.

Do you think Dom is just sore that Lynn didn’t kiss him back on his birthday? Also: Lynn, what the hell?
Well, I think that was surprising to Dom; I don’t think he’s used to having that happen. The pace in his life is 0 or 60 — there hasn’t been any taking it slow. But more than that, it’s that classic thing of taking a big swing and missing. You react and you hurt the people closest to you. Lynn, he’s not immune to it, but it’s also like, “Uh, I think I’m too old for this. I don’t think I can play this little game right now.” [Laughs.] And I wouldn’t say Lynn behaves in a perfectly balanced way, either. He’s not just a businessman helping Dom out. He’s invested emotionally.

True. Once you get high and watch cartoons together …
That’s right! We talked a lot about that. How do you have a moment like that and then stop it, like “Oh, sorry if I’m leading you on,” without being shitty? Lynn invited Dom over. They got high, they’re sitting on the couch together watching cartoons and then he goes, “Well, let’s hold off.” That was hard for me to get my head around. That’s not something I would have been particularly good at in my single days.

And he sent Dom flowers, too.
Yeah, our emotions can cloud the issues. He probably shouldn’t have if he didn’t want to send a certain message. Lynn’s totally throwing out little possibilities, little hints, seeing how Dom responds to them. Dom could have run. He could have thought, Oh my God. This old guy just sent me flowers. How corny!

Between Men of a Certain Age, the Emmy nomination for Candelabra, and now this show, you’re on a roll. Does it feel that way?
It’s hard to explain. Certainly Men of a Certain Age was different for me and allowed people to see me in a different light. Maybe that opened up minds a little bit. We as actors always kind of joke, “I guess the two years before that I was a shitty actor — then all of a sudden I got interesting!” Men got me attention in a nice way, Candelabra was the direct result of doing The Informant!, and so yeah, there’s been this bit of momentum happening. I’m grateful. I’m not a prize. I’m not a discovery. So I just feel lucky I get something out of the ordinary that gives me a chance to do things that are meaningful.

You also just wrapped a movie musical starring Brie Larson called Basmati Blues, which I think comes out this year.
Yeah, I play her father. We were just rerecording some of the music over the weekend, so I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of India, which is bringing back all kinds of memories. I saw her a bunch during the awards season. I just adore her. Her work is so, so good. I’ll work with her any time.

Do you guys sing together at all?
A very short bit. They wrote a song for me at the end of the movie. I auditioned for this movie musical and in the beginning they said, “At this point, we don’t really have anything for you to sing,” and I went, “Well, that’s too bad.” I’m a musical theater guy. That’s where I came from. That’s where I go whenever I have the chance. It’s my first love. So they wrote this big wrap-up song for the movie and I got to do it.

What’s the music like?
It’s everything. It’s all over the map. My piece was written by an Indian pop composer, huge touring star over there.

I think you and Jonathan Groff should definitely do a duet in season two.
Absolutely. We should be singing. The scene where Dom picks up that boy who ends up singing Wicked in the shower? When I read that I was like, “I wanna be singing Wicked on the show, dammit! I wanna sing ‘Defying Gravity.’ C’mon now.”

In addition to all that, you’re in the middle of shooting a spinoff of NCIS set in New Orleans. But you’ll be able to come back to Looking, right?
Yes, I can.

Wonderful. Wanted to make sure.
I hope that’s not the last we see of Lynn! Part of negotiating [the role on NCIS] was me going, “Look, I have this other show … ” I’m not a regular, so they’re not contractually bound to bring me back, but I dearly love this show and I love what it’s about and I love this character. I was hoping to have this problem. I sent an email to Andrew and I said, “I don’t know if you guys want me back but if you do want me back, I want to come back,” and he quickly sent me a text back, “We would love to have you back, Scott!” Okay, good!

Looking’s Bakula on Weed and Loving to Sing