LUKE MACFARLANE IS no stranger to playing historic roles onscreen. His first one was in 2008 on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, where he participated in one of network TV’s first same-sex civil-union ceremonies. Now he’s the leading man opposite Billy Eichner in Bros, the first gay romantic comedy made by a major studio. “[Universal Pictures] is sticking its neck out,” Macfarlane says of the film, which features a mostly LGBTQ+ cast. “It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of the stuff we get up to in the movie was against the law in many states.”
And while Bros’ depiction of gay sex scenes (which are plentiful) is groundbreaking for a studio movie, its central love story is universal. Macfarlane plays Aaron, an emotionally unavailable lawyer who lives in quiet desperation until he falls for Eichner’s neurotic yet lovable podcaster, Bobby. “Both [characters] are in this act of discovering change that finally brings us together,” Macfarlane says. “It’s an ode to the classic [rom-com].”
Just before Bros, Macfarlane was a Hallmark movie Channel staple, starring in more than a dozen earnest, heterosexual romance flicks. Was it a big jump to work on an R-rated film? “The kisses are a little bit longer, but it’s the same idea: Two people that we wanna see together get together,” he says. “R-rated just means you gotta do a few extra pushups before the scene.”
We talked to Macfarlane in a bit more depth about Bros, his personal style, and what he’d be doing if he wasn’t an actor.
MH: How did this role for you come about?
The old fashioned way. My agent sent me a script, I read it, and I immediately connected with it. I really understood Aaron, and the story about two people of a certain stage in their lives who are unsure if they’re ever gonna be able to find love.
That audition was right out of a movie. I stepped into a tiny room, and it was filled with all of the most powerful people that make big decisions in Hollywood, including Judd Apatow, Nicholas Stoller, and Billy Eichner, who also wrote the screenplay. I connected with Billy pretty quickly. I find him really funny, and that’s always a really effective way to fall for somebody.
How would you describe Aaron?
I think Aaron, in a lot of ways, is probably somebody that carefully follows some of the style suggestions from Men’s Health. He cares about his appearance, he cares about his nutrition, and working out.
But I think the more we get to know Aaron, the more we reveal there’s this whole other side of him that he’s been afraid to show to the world. I feel like as Luke, I can say that it’s through his vulnerabilities that he’s finally able to express himself, which makes him a really interesting guy. That was a fun journey to go on as an actor.
I mean truly: the fact that Billy co-wrote a lead as complicated as Aaron is such a gift. I don’t know if everybody gets that kind of complicated co-lead journey. I think in some other rom-coms, the co-lead is only sort of fully formed. It’s often on the lead to change in order to recognize what was in front of him was perfect. What’s so neat about our movie is that we both are in this act of discovering change that finally brings us together.
What parts of Aaron’s journey did you relate to the most? What parts of it were different?
Sadly I’m not a chocolatier. I don’t know a lot about chocolate making, so that was new to me. I am a hockey fan though, and it was a thing that Aaron was into hockey. So that part came before I got the role.
My interest in Garth Brooks was something that was added to the script. I think Billy found that so incredibly amusing that I think Garth Brooks is the greatest. I just think he is amazing, and Billy was like, “Garth Brooks?!”
Billy is always talking about Mariah Carey. She’s somebody who’s very important to him, and he was surprised I didn’t know much about Mariah Carey, but that I knew so much about Garth Brooks.
Besides Mariah Carey, what else did you learn from Billy?
Billy’s comedy is centered around observing popular culture in a really smart way, which I’ve never been a particularly astute observer of. I think he’s given me an appreciation for all of that, and the fun of it, and I don’t mean that in any sort of sideways way.
But he’s definitely opened me up and to be a little more aware of it. It’s actually not this noble thing to not know about pop culture. Billy would say, “It’s your world, Luke. You should know a little bit more about it.”
You’ve done plenty of rom-coms already. Is there another genre that you really want to do next?
Well another genre that I have participated in has been sci-fi adventure. I did 50 episodes of a TV show in Canada called Killjoys, and I loved it. I played this ace bounty hunter with a wonderful cast, and wonderful writers. I would love to go back to that sort of action-adventure genre.
If you weren’t an actor, what would you be doing instead?
That’s such a good question. I am endlessly curious. Ask me any week and I’m always gonna be into something else. I do have a hobby in woodworking, and I get great satisfaction and calm from that. So I would likely be building furniture for a living.
I made this crib for a friend’s baby. And that was a really special thing because there is inevitably the point in every woodworking project where you don’t want to sand it as much as you should. But a child’s hands will be touching this. You really have to make sure that you’re sanding it all the way.
Get the look: Polo shirt by Vince; pants by Bonobos.
How would you describe your style?
I’ve been hearing this term Classic American Heritage Workwear, which is something that pops up a lot with me. Durability over style. Form-fitting when possible. I have to be careful sometimes. Whenever I buy a pair of sneakers, people say to me that they look like trail running shoes. You can’t only have trail running shoes.
Bros is such a career highlight for you. Do you have any other goals that you want to achieve this year?
Well, I’ve actually booked a trip to climb Argentina’s Mount Aconcagua this Christmas. It’s the highest mountain in the Americas. I’ve climbed mountains before, but this is about a thousand meters higher than any mountain I’ve climbed.
Amazing. You’re climbing mountains, building baby cribs, and starring in movies. What can’t you do?
I know it sounds a little American Psycho, doesn’t it? I promise it’s coming from an authentic place.
Read more: Best LGBTQ Movies
Photography by Aaron Richter. Fashion direction by Ted Stafford.
As Men’s Health’s Deputy Editor, Commerce, Christian Gollayan oversees all shopping content on menshealth.com. He relocated back to New York by way of Portland, where he was the Associate Managing Editor at TheManual.com. Christian’s work has also been featured in InStyle, Food & Wine, the New York Post, and Tatler Asia.