How Love, Victor and Love, Simon collided in Hulu series' emotional eighth episode
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Love, Victor episode 8, "Boy's Trip."
From the "screw you!" Instagram DM that started it all in the series premiere of Love, Victor to the official passing of the torch (or rather, jean jacket) in episode 8, Victor (Michael Cimino) and Simon's (Nick Robinson) pen pal relationship has evolved into an actual friendship. And all it took was a quick trip up to New York to change Victor's life forever.
Hulu's Love, Simon spin-off series reaches an important milestone as Victor takes a spontaneous trip to finally meet Simon in person, only to discover he's out of town that weekend — that's what you get for assuming you can stay with someone without asking first! Luckily, Simon still arranges for his boyfriend, Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale) — yes, they're still together post-high school! — to meet up with Victor and take him under his wing for the weekend instead. In just a few short days, Victor's eyes are opened to all that life has to offer a young queer person, from a gay basketball league full of jocks like Victor to Simon and Bram's close-knit friend-group-turned-family full of love and acceptance. And after talking with other young LGBTQ people, getting advice, and even meeting the first openly gay NBA player, Victor realizes that there is a full spectrum of being queer. It's the inspiration Victor needed to finally speak his truth out loud for the first time, and he comes out to Bram and his roommates in a powerful, heartwarming scene.
But wait, there's more! While out at a drag show, Victor gets upset when he finds out Simon has been sharing his DMs with Bram and the rest of the roommates, people he thinks are strangers. He flees the bar only to run into the man, the myth, the legend himself: Simon, who explains to Victor that he's just a young kid trying to figure out his life too and he doesn't always know the right thing to say. That's why he needed help from his friends when responding to his messages. Everyone has been through something different in their coming-out journeys, so they all had different advice and perspectives to offer.
"And you're not a stranger, you're one of us," Simon tells Bram. "To me, that's the best part about all of this, having a community… On some level, we've all been through the same thing, because we're family." Simon gives Victor his iconic jean jacket from the movie, they go back inside the bar, and Victor gets brought on stage at the drag show, calling this the best night of his life.
"That was such a fun episode to shoot because I met a whole bunch of new people and made so many new friends and got to work with so many good actors, like Tommy Dorfman, Keiynan Lonsdale, even Nick Robinson!" Cimino tells EW. "Like, come on, that was so freakin' cool. Getting the chance to hear their stories, it was incredible."
Lonsdale, who just released his first full-length studio album, Rainbow Boy, admits that there's always a bit of nervousness when it comes to spin-offs, "especially of something that was done really well initially." But he says that as soon as the showrunners described the series and this episode to him, "it sounded just as necessary as the film." It was a "no-brainer" for him to jump right back into Bram's shoes, especially since he has become more comfortable with himself and his sexuality since he was last seen in the film.
Episode 8 was written by one of the showrunners, Brian Tanen. "Brian is gay, and he wrote the wish-fulfillment fantasy of what he could have had as a teenager if he could have taken this magical trip to New York and been embraced by kids who are a few years older and show him the ropes," showrunner Isaac Aptaker tells EW. "And then our casting department did such a great job filling out that group of friends. We started with Keiynan from the movie, but then getting Tommy and just everyone else, they just feel like this world that Victor wants to be a part of."
And getting the emotions right in the scene in which Victor comes out to Bram and his friends was crucial for many reasons. "When Victor first came out to them, even though it's a whole bunch of people that are part of the LGBTQ community, it was terrifying," Cimino says. "In talking to people and getting a little bit more perspective, sometimes coming out to people that are part of the LGBTQ community is a little bit more scary for some reason. That was such a moment of bravery for him, and seeing how accepting they were and seeing how much they loved him for just him being himself, from that point forward Victor is brave enough to be himself. Those moments really inspired him to embrace who he is as a person."
Lonsdale was proud of how that scene was written and filmed because of how all the roommates show patience and hold space for Victor. "That's the best thing that you can do," he says. "The energy was really palpable and really special, and for each of us to be able to come together in this warm embrace was really lovely. We were all smiles the whole time, outside of the tears."
Aptaker explains that this moment "changes everything" for Victor. "It makes him realize when he gets back to Atlanta that things have to change and he has to start being honest with the people that he loves," he says. "That episode really sets the stage for our climax in episodes 9 and 10, where he's going to start telling the truth to his friends and family."
Lonsdale adds that it meant a lot to see Bram play such an important role in another young person's coming-out journey because it represents the kind of growth that can happen and the kind of community that can be there for anyone who needs it. "It's something that I have wished that I had had in my journey of coming out," he says. "I'm really fortunate to be able to take on certain characters that mirror certain things back to me in my own world, and they teach me how to be better, in a sense. It was an honor to play someone with that experience because it's what we're all hoping for, just a little help along the way. And I was happy that Bram was in a good space."
One of the ways that Love, Victor has set itself apart from Love, Simon from the very first episode is how Victor's life is nothing like Simon's: Simon is white and from an open, accepting, and affluent family, whereas Victor is Latinx with a very conservative family. And this episode further continues to show that with Bram introducing Victor to a gay basketball league, illustrating that there is more to being gay than the limited stereotypes Victor has been taught.
"We have a heavily LGBTQ writers' room, and in the same way that they are all wildly unique people with different perspectives and different outlooks on life, we really did want to have an opportunity to do an episode that showed there's no one way to be gay," showrunner Elizabeth Berger says. "It doesn't have to look a certain way. There's all of these different options and ways to be out there. That episode felt like a really nice place to broaden our world and show these different kinds of representation."
Shooting the scene where Bram and Victor play a basketball game with the league was fun for Lonsdale, "outside of the fact that I'm definitely no basketball player," he says with a laugh. "I've been able to meet a few people that have broken through those stereotypes for me, and they've been really informative conversations and have helped me grow in a lot of ways. So I was really, really happy that that's a route that the show had chosen to take because it's important, and it's definitely different than the narrative that we've been given. We play sports, and we can have a safe space together. And that's just the reality. There's a lot of gay leagues, which I actually didn't know about, so it's cool that the show is providing some genuine education for people and probably blowing a lot of people's minds."
And then having Victor and Simon finally meet face-to-face at the end of the episode was a highlight for Cimino. "He is so freakin' cool, and so when we actually first met in New York to film that scene, we just talked and we got food beforehand, and I totally geeked out and acted like a fool," he says. "But Nick was totally understanding and totally sweet to me. It was just amazing to meet him for the first time."
Berger says it was always their hope to have Robinson's Simon appear on screen for one episode in addition to his voice-over work in every episode. "That felt like the right level of seeing him, just to have one really special episode where they got to meet," she says. "Nick is very busy and successful so there were some scheduling issues, but he was so fantastic in terms of making it work while he was appearing on Broadway in To Kill a Mockingbird, so we found the time to make it happen. Nick was amazing about helping that come to fruition."
Aptaker reveals that the scene with Victor and Simon meeting outside the bar actually took place on the last day of shooting season 1. "We flew Michael up to New York and got those scenes with Nick, and he was just buzzing with excitement," he says. "He'd waited this whole season to meet the original Simon, and on camera you have that great passing of the jacket, but it felt like that was happening behind the scenes too, where Michael was like being anointed the new guy."
Love, Victor season 1 is now streaming on Hulu.