The Making Of "Love,Victor" Episode 8: A Must Watch For Closeted Teens (SPOILERS)
Updated: Jul 24
Photo by Eric Miccandless/HULU
There’s a kind reverence to Love, Victor–a show that puts young queerness and the unraveling of identity at the forefront of mainstream media. No, Victor Salazar is not the first queer Latinx character. But while Latinx queerness in the past has been appeased with little crumbles of supporting characters, this show centers us. That being said, there could be no Victor without Ricky Vasquez (My So-Called Life), Justin Suarez (Ugly Betty), or Elena Alvarez (One Day At A Time). It is through their legacy that the writer’s of Love, Victor were inspired to continue writing. Now, they take center stage.
Hidden under a blanket while my conservative family makes dinner, this episode in particular stuck with me the most. Episode 8, follows Victor as he takes a departure from his family and friends to take a trip to New York to meet with Simon from the original film. There, he is instead met with Bram played by Keiynan Lonsdale, and a group of queer characters that challenge Victor’s perception on what it means to be unapologetically yourself.
This episode brings hope to a viewer in which the oppressive walls of their home or school shift from a dead end to a tunnel. And on the other side: the chance to find a chosen family.
I got to speak with Executive Producer Jason Ensler, director of the episode Todd Holland, writer Marcos Luevanos, and leading star Michael Cimino for an in-depth look at how this episode works as a life-raft for many watching.
From the onset, showrunner Brian Tanen thought of this specific episode as wish fulfillment, a way to show Victor, and the viewer, that being gay shouldn’t be a lone journey.
MARCOS LUEVANOS: We definitely talk a lot about RuPaul’s Drag Race in the [writers] room. RuPaul says on the show quite often that the best parts of being gay is that you get to you get to pick your family. We wanted to touch on that aspect.
The writer’s knew how special it was to be working in a show so groundbreaking. It was important for them to take it up a notch, and push Victor to take a leap of faith. New York was that leap.
JASON ENSLER: Going to New York was an opening up, it was a blossoming. It was an expansion of the small Creekwood world and his family–to show Victor that there is a world of acceptance. And though he was having trouble finding it in himself or finding it in his small sort of microcosm, this episode provided hope on a level even outside the show that there is a world of acceptance for you to find.
There was a specific level of care needed for the nuances of this episode. Michael Cimino gives credit to director Todd Holland for the personal insight he brought to set.
MICHAEL CIMINO: [The story] had to be done in a way where it was tasteful and true to life, and I think Todd really helped us capture that…I think it wouldn't have read as well, if we hadn't had a queer director on set providing us with another perspective.
Todd Holland, an out gay director, who previously helmed shows like The Real O’Neals and Shameless, knew exactly what Victor was feeling when he first refused to come out.
TODD HOLLAND: To come out as gay, at the beginning, is to feel this loss of your family, your old life, your friends. It is all about loss. You feel like if I do that, it's all gone. If I actually commit to this, it’s all over.
Other characters in this episode: Ivy played by Friday Chamberlain, Kim played by River Gallo, and Justin played by Tommy Dorfman are a special surprise for the queer viewer, as these actors are known LGBTQAI activists, performers and, directors.
TODD HOLLAND: They all ended up across the board being the most lovely and generous. I mean, it was just a magical group of actors. I couldn't have been more blessed.
MICHAEL CIMINO: Working with all those people, kind of being able to just learn from them and see how multi-talented they are. To see how they operate on set, how professional they are, how they brought it together is probably the thing that I learned the most from them.
During our conversation with the cast and crew of Love, Victor. They expressed how deeply impressed they were by River Gallo.
River Gallo is a Salvadoran-American filmmaker, actor, model, and intersex rights activist. They wrote, directed, and acted in the 2019 short film Ponyboi, which is the first film to feature an openly intersex actor playing an intersex person.
Watch their short film PonyBoi
One of the scenes that makes this episode so special is when Bram takes Victor to play basketball. This isn’t your average ballgame. Victor and the viewer come to find that everyone on the court is gay. Watching Victor confront ideas of masculinity and queerness, I heard a proverbial wall shatter and in the echoes, a declaration: You can be gay and have it all.
TODD HOLLAND: What Brian Tannen wrote was just brilliant. Through basketball, giving [Victor] back something familiar, something that [he] loves, realizing there's queer basketball, that's like saying, “I don't lose that part of myself–I don’t lose something that I love.”
JASON ENSLER: [Victor] allows his understanding of what the male archetype is to sort of influence that lie and say, “I'm here for the basketball thing.” And then what's so great is how [Bram] uses it against him and says, “I'll show you the male archetype. It's redefined now for you forever.”
MICHAEL CIMINO: That scene is not only for Victor to see, but also for the audience to see as well. There's no right or wrong way to be gay.
Jason Collins made history in 2013 when he became the first openly gay athlete in one of the four major North American professional sports leagues - Reuters
Collins makes a short but loving cameo on Episode 8 while playing basketball with Bram and Victor.
Photo credit - @jasoncollins98
Fans of the original film rejoice when Nick Robinson, who plays Simon in Love, Simon, appears for a brief yet crucial scene at the end of the episode. It’s revealed that Simon had told his roommates that Victor is gay, outing him without his consent. For Simon, this serves as a reminder of privilege. Victor comes from a middle class religious Latinx family. Simon’s advice does not take into account this difference. It's an interesting choice to make the film’s original protagonist at fault at the end. Why did this happen?
MARCOS LUEVANOS: We really wanted to show that no one person has all of the answers.
TODD HOLLAND: We all share this journey, that's what makes you family across the queer community
MICHAEL CIMINO: Chosen family is so important because they understand your story when your family doesn't. It is so vitally important because it shows that you need to reach outside of your family.
BEHIND THE SCENES SECRET
Both director Holland and producer Ensler agreed that working within Nick Robinson’s schedule was the hardest part of bringing episode 8 to life. At the time Robison was playing Jem Finch on Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. Because of that, they weren’t able to shoot the club scene with him in LA, so they shot Robinson in front of green screen in NY and digitally added him into the Drag bar scene. This is why he isn’t seen with the rest of the cast.
Love, Victor is a light, family friendly show, serving up positive depictions of queer stories.
JASON ENSLER: It's not a bleak depiction, It's not tragic. In the past there have been stories that have been told that are ultimately not necessarily about love.
TODD HOLLAND: It's a world that parents can watch with their kids, and they think you might be gay this week. It's accessible because it's got a softer kind of intention, which makes it give it a much broader impact.
MICHAEL CIMINO: We didn't really plan for the show to come out during a time where it was so needed, but I think it couldn’t have come out during a better time. I think that not only is the show uplifting, but it tells a story that needs to be told. And know what better time than when everything is kind of like falling around as far as we know it.
Season 1 of Love, Victor is now streaming on HULU.
Meet the Family
Francisco Cabrera is a Venezuelan-American trying to make his immigrant parents proud. He focuses on "slice of life" character-driven stories with radical explorations of vulnerability and empathy. Recently, Francisco graduated from FSU's College of Motion Picture with a BFA in writing and directing. This past year, his latest film YUNIOR premiered at HBO’s New York Latino Film Festival and later Outfest.
A few years back, he was awarded a Student Emmy by the National Academy of Television & Sciences for his short REVOLVING CHILD which screened at the TIFF Vanguard Honors. There he received positive reviews and was named "The New Promise of Latino Cinema." by People Magazine.
Learn more about Fran here