Normalizing Queerness, One Gay Kiss at a Time
‘Love, Victor’ stars Michael Cimino and George Sear on bringing gay sex to their YA series and impacting LGBTQ+ youth
“Love, Victor,” now in its second season, refuses to navigate coming out as simply a one-note experience.
The gay teen-romance, a series spinoff of the groundbreaking “Love, Simon” feature film, launched its debut season last year on Hulu. The first season was created for Disney+, but the company declined to air it after filming was complete. The show, Disney execs decided, was too grown-up for its young audience. Season 2, then, was created with Hulu audiences in mind, which means more mature emotional themes and a good amount of gay nooky — in fact, an entire episode is devoted to the show’s romantic leads, Victor (Michael Cimino) and Benji (George Sear), having sex.
This season, the series follows Victor as a newly out high schooler, from all sorts of Benji-Victor (“Venji,” as they’ve been collectively coined) romantic side plots –– meeting the parents, learning about gay sex — to how homophobia, when complicated by deep-rooted cultural and religious beliefs, has to be unlearned.
Before you read any further, know that this interview with Cimino and Sear, who talk about all that making out (and why they opted out of an intimacy coach for those sex scenes), includes some spoilers.
You guys owe me a few boxes of tissues for all the crying I did last night binging this season.
George Sear: Yeah, it’s an emotional one.
Michael Cimino: It’s a roller coaster, for sure.
Sear: I, myself, was tearing up yesterday because I watched the first three episodes, and particularly the scenes with the parents.
I also just have to start by saying that if I saw two boys making out as much as you two do in this season of “Love, Victor” when I was 16 years old, I would have made out with a lot more guys. Like, where were you in 1995?
Cimino: I was still, um, not even a thought! I wasn’t even a thought in either of my parents’ heads. But no, I think we’re moving in the right direction. I don’t think we’re in a very different time, but I think that we’re moving in the right direction (with) shows like this, where young LGBT youth can watch it and be like, “Oh, this is normal. This is OK.”
I feel like a lot of straight teens are like, “Oh yeah, I can make out with this person or this person, and it’s completely fine.” But it should be exactly the same for the LGBT community. They should feel no pressure and (it) should be completely normal to just kiss people in public.
Or have sex with your boyfriend and have your mom or dad catch you, because that also happens with gay people.
Cimino: Yes — yes, it does. It totally does. And I think that, obviously, right now, we’re definitely talking about… this show is definitely (about) queer Latinos and I love that about it. I think that it’s kind of exactly like every other straight teen show but except through a queer lens. I love that part about “Love, Victor.”
Sear: It does show the difficult realities of coming out in today’s age, which is a difficult thing for most people, but also just the joy in celebrating who you are and embracing who you are on the other side of that. And living your truth.
I think gay sex has been really neglected on television and I was pleased to see the second season of “Love, Victor” really go there with the sex. What did you appreciate about the way that this season tackled sex, George?
Sear: I think just having LGBTQ writers bring their stories and their experiences into the script brings this authenticity and realness to the stories. So the writing is all there. You know, as an actor to be able to play this part and then have such great quality writing is really kind of everything. What about you, Mike?
Cimino: Honestly, the whole representation of Victor’s sexual awakening and his sex life with Benji definitely relies a lot on George and I’s chemistry. I think that George is — sorry to give you your flowers on here — so easy to work with and so incredibly understanding and so willing to just do things and try different things (to) see what works and what doesn’t.
Sear: Yeah, it felt very explorative on set, didn’t it?
Cimino: Yeah, for sure.
Sear: They did say, “Do you want an intimacy coach?” and we felt, to be honest, both really dedicated to these characters and wanted to honor this writing and we just sort of felt like we had a closeness and were able to do that on set.
Cimino: We actually completely opted out of having an intimacy coach. George and I both felt like we were very comfortable with each other already. We really just went for it, and I think that that kind of reads on screen, where it felt very explorative. It felt very new and exciting, and I think that’s something that’s really, really cool.
I don’t know how you guys identify, but there’s this conversation about straight people playing queer roles and if you are straight, you know what, you did your job. You were so believable in these parts. I really felt this relationship was a real relationship.
Cimino: Thank you.
Sear: Thank you for saying that.
Cimino: That means a lot to hear because that is obviously a topic for discussion, and I’m glad it’s a conversation we’re having. I think conversations such as those should be had, but I think, realistically, it relies purely on an actor-to-actor basis. I feel like there are actors that are taking LGBT roles and not representing the community in an accurate way. They’re taking it as a cash grab and then they don’t represent the community afterwards, where it’s like you’re not advocating for the community. They’re not donating money to LGBT charities, they’re not trying to do things that will help the LGBT community, but they’re just taking the role because it’s a cash grab or, “Oh, it seems like it will make a difference in my career.”
What has it been like for both of you to bring this Venji romance to life on screen?
Sear: It’s an ever-ongoing journey, particularly the difference between Season 1 and Season 2. Being on Hulu this time around, being able to tell more realistic stories, it’s been great to be able to continue playing these characters and exploring their journeys collectively and individually and just exploring it in other areas, really, that we maybe weren’t able to do in Season 1 (on Disney+). So, it’s been great, and I hope we get the chance to get back to it.
You have to do it again. You cannot leave me like you left me at the end of this season.
Sear: No, no. We’ll manifest it.
Cimino: Yes. For sure, for sure. We’ve got to manifest it.
Michael, are you Team Venji or Team Vahim?
Cimino: Oh, man. I feel like… I don’t know. I haven’t been able to watch the show in its entirety, so I can’t really say. I’m so torn.
Sear: Yeah. He doesn’t want to let you down on this interview, that’s what he’s saying.
Cimino: I feel so torn.
Sear: No, I think ultimately you probably just want Victor to be happy.
Cimino: Yes, exactly. We just want Victor to be happy.
That’s a pretty good non-answer.
Sear: That’s a very good deflective answer, isn’t it?
Cimino: I’m just… I’m confused, OK!
My opinion on the third season is that you three just form a throuple.
Sear: Hey, we’ll pitch it.
Cimino: (Laughs.) Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’ll pitch it. We’ll put you in the “special thanks.”
Because the show has had an immense impact on LGBTQ+ youth — I mean, it would have changed my life, like I told you, when I was 16 — what’s one letter you’ve received from a queer fan that really made you feel like what you were doing here was really affecting lives?
Sear: Off the bat, one that sticks out to me — because there have been many — (was a) message from someone who’s in the military. I don’t think they had a very good experience with their sexuality, obviously, with the way things are in the military. And they said watching the show really just made them feel some sort of acceptance, and heard.
Cimino: I’ve gotten so many messages, but some of the ones that stick out to me the most are (from) people that are literally Latino and they’re like, “This is my exact story and this is exactly what I’ve been going through with my mom, or my dad, or my uncle.” It’s crazy to know that we’re still not in that place where people can just accept their children or their family for just being true to who they are as people. I think that it’s really inspiring for me as an artist to continue to push myself harder and to continue to represent the community in an accurate way because I get to see the impact it’s making on people’s lives.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Chris Azzopardi is the Editorial Director of Pride Source Media Group and Q Syndicate, the national LGBTQ wire service. He has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, GQ and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.