Jonathan Groff came out to brother after seeing nude statue of David: ‘I started crying’

A composite image of Jonathan Groff and the statue of David

Screen and stage star Jonathan Groff has recalled how a fateful glimpse of Michelangelo’s statue of David while travelling Italy inspired him to come out to his brother.

Jonathan Groff has played several memorable roles over his career. From Kristoff in Frozen to Jesse St. James in Glee to King George III in the original Hamilton Broadway cast. Now fans are looking forward to his guest appearance opposite Ncuti Gatwa in the upcoming Doctor Who series.

Alongside his flourishing career, Groff has also been outspoken on LGBTQ+ issues. In 2014, he served as a Grand Marshal at the New York City Gay Pride parade, while in 2015, The Point Foundation recognised him as “a young trailblazer” advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.

However, Groff’s journey to publicly embracing his sexuality has not always been easy. In a new interview in Conde Nast Traveler, the 38-year-old star reminisced on his touching coming out story.

Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff. (Getty)

In June 2008, after finishing his two-year stint on Broadway’s Spring Awakening, a 23-year-old Jonathan Groff went solo travelling across Italy, following Rick Steve’s guidebook.

The day before he planned to meet his brother in Rome, Groff visited the Accademia Gallery in Florence – home to Michelangelo’s sculptures including his famed nude statue of David.

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“When you turn the corner, there are rows of other unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo,” Groff recounts in the publication.

“These figures are so constricted, like they’re straining to be released from the marble and fighting for airI ached just looking at them. But they lead up to this perfect, liberated form.

“I started crying and wondered, What is it about this naked man that makes me so emotional? Afterward, I sat in a piazza, journaling, thinking about how nobody here knew or cared about me, and I decided to come out to my brother – who is also named David – the next day.”

Jonathan Groff (L), Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa (R) in Doctor Who.
Jonathan Groff (L), Millie Gibson and Ncuti Gatwa (R) in Doctor Who. (James Pardon/BBC Studios)

At the time Groff had a secret boyfriend – his roommate – who was the only person he had come out to so far. However, when he met his brother, also called David, in Rome he built the courage to come out over dinner and drinks.

“I knew that if I didn’t tell him right then, I would never do it,” Groff continued. “My hands were shaking; my voice was hoarse from talking, because I hadn’t spoken to anyone in seven days.

“But David also seemed nervous. He said, ‘Jonathan, there’s something I need to talk to you about.’ He told me all about this girl that he was in love with, who is now his wife. It was like he was coming out to me, because we’d never talked about relationships or sex or love in our entire lives as brothers.

“He teed it up perfectly, and once he gave me all of the details, he said, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever felt this, and I’m wondering, What about you?’ And I shared everything with him. We just showed all of ourselves to each other. It never could have happened anywhere else.”

Groff – who publicly came out in 2009 – has previously spoken about how starring in HBO series Looking helped him come to terms with his sexuality.

“I came out of the closet and I was still feeling quite shameful for many years,” he told Out magazine in an interview in 2022.

“When I did Looking, I was playing a gay character on a set with a lot of gay people. I started to fall in love with who I was for the first time. It was really that experience that really turned the corner for me.”

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