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“The goal for me is to be in a show that really affects young people in a positive way,” says Michael Cimino. “Something that gives them a new perspective, to walk a life where they can finally be themselves. I think we’re past the point of hiding who we are. People have every right to be who they are truthfully, and have no shame about it. That’s the message I want younger audiences to receive.”
Cimino currently stars as Victor Salazar, the teenage protagonist of Hulu’s new LGBTQ-themed series, Love, Victor, a spinoff of the popular movie Love, Simon from two summers back. As with Simon, the new show is set in the Atlanta suburb of Creekwood, maintaining narrative connectivity to its predecessor. (Nick Robinson, who played Simon in the movie, is gently threaded into the plot in a shrewd way.) Victor has moved to the sleepy haven with his family, and on top of adjusting to his new life — and coping with familial unrest — is secretly and trepidatiously coming to terms with his sexual awakening. Unlike the character of Simon, however, who grappled only with coming out, Victor is uncertain where he lands on the spectrum — is he attracted to guys? Girls? Both?
“The film, for a lot of LGBT people, including myself, was a wonderful representation of wish fulfillment,” says showrunner Brian Tanen. “It was a coming-out story, a romantic comedy. It was all these things we want to see happen for young gay people.
“Still, there was feedback that this wish-fulfillment version might not be the most reflective of reality. The television series is a better medium by which to tell a story that is more complicated. You don’t get everything tied up with a bow at the end of two hours. In fact, you have an entire season — and then hopefully additional seasons — through which your characters can come to terms with ideas, grow, and learn. The TV series allows us to tell a more complex, nuanced story.”
In writing episodes for the series, Tanen tapped into his own experiences as a gay teen. “I was reminded of how deeply felt all my own emotions were in high school,” he says. “The smallest interactions had the absolute deepest impact on me. The stakes feel so high when you’re that age and are experiencing first loves, first crushes, familial strife. All these things that, as you become an adult, are less new to you and don’t have the same power to shake you, but as a teen are everything.”
The show presents Victor with two possible, appealing love interests: Mia (Rachel Hilson) and Benji (George Sear). “I think Victor does need to make a decision to finally be who he is as a person,” says Cimino. “That’s an important message to be sent, because ultimately everyone eventually needs to make the decision as to who they want to be in their life. Sometimes it’s not an easy realization to come to.
“I’ve always just been the type of person where it’s like you should just be who you are authentically,” continues the 20-year-old. “I’ve always wanted to get to a place where I wasn’t judged for being who I was. And I think everyone should have the right to just be who they are.”
Love, Victor is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.
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