How Love, Victor season 2 proves the rom-com is more than 'just a coming-out story'
It took a full season for Michael Cimino's title character to come to terms with his sexuality and build up the courage to come out to his parents on Love, Victor. Viewers didn't get to see how his parents reacted to his news in the season 1 finale, and that will be a major part of the story the Love, Simon spin-off series is telling in season 2. But Love, Victor is more than just the story of how a young gay teen comes out — and that's where the endearing Hulu rom-com really shines.
"A lot of people and critics say, 'Why are LGBTQ stories always coming-out stories? Why is that always the narrative that's told?' And for our show, that isn't really the narrative that we want to tell; that's just the first chapter of it," showrunner Isaac Aptaker tells EW. "This isn't just a coming-out story."
Cimino was pleasantly surprised at how Love, Victor expands on what he's seen before with LGBTQ teen stories. "I don't feel like a lot of TV shows and movies explore past that point," he says. "This takes a deeper look into what happens next, which isn't really spoken about, which is great for people to see since it can help them navigate their own lives."
Aptaker, who wrote Love, Simon along with fellow Love, Victor showrunner Elizabeth Berger, says the spin-off series was always going to start at the beginning of Victor's story, which of course is how he comes out to himself and his family. "Now we've told that part of the story and we're moving into new stories about what it's like for Victor to be an out gay kid, with his family, in his school, as he struggles to figure out how 'gay' he wants to be and is," he says. "It's a whole new set of stories and challenges that are moving past just the coming-out narrative that we've seen."
One of those new stories is how Victor's devout Catholic mother, Isabel (Ana Ortiz), is the parent who struggles the most with Victor's sexuality, and not his father, Armando (James Martinez), like he had assumed. "We're telling a story of a mother who loves her son unconditionally but is also very religious and has conservative values," Aptaker says. The writers consulted with PFLAG (the country's largest organization for parents, families, and allies of LGBTQ people) to "tell an authentic, at times painful, but hopefully ultimately optimistic portrait of what that can be like for families."
The showrunners knew that Armando having a difficult time accepting Victor's sexuality would be "the story that you're expecting," and is just one of many ways the Hulu series seeks to expand on any critiques of Love, Simon's story.
"We're a bit more familiar with the story of the macho dad upset at the idea that his son is gay, but it actually came out of our conversations with PFLAG and with some real-life parents," Aptaker says. "Oftentimes the more religious parent is the one that really has a much harder time coming to terms with their child. As soon as we heard that, we thought that's a story that I haven't seen nearly as much, and it feels like a much richer, more complicated one because in season 1 we established Victor as just the apple of her eye. But she's also a deeply devout Catholic woman."
Watching Victor and Isabel have such conflict throughout the season is painful because of how close viewers know they've always been. "We explore how hard it is for her to reconcile how much she loves her son but also what her religion tells her is wrong and right," Aptaker says. "There's so much love there, but there's also so much that they have to work through. And it's not a story that we're wrapping up quickly. We tried really hard not to take the easy way out and to live in that complicated gray area."
Cimino says it's "fascinating" to see both Victor and Isabel's points of view. "I don't want to get too spoilery, but I definitely do think that they come out better from this whole situation at the end," he says. "But it's not an easy path."
"And on the flip side with Armando, we're telling a really lovely story about how a guy can quickly get his head around who his son is and become a really supportive, progressive dad," Aptaker adds. "Even though he wasn't necessarily that in season 1. We wanted to tell a story of a much different coming-out experience [from Love, Simon], about a kid who had the odds stacked a bit more against him in terms of his parents so readily accepting his sexuality."
But it's not all pain and heartbreak this season, because while Victor's home life has never been worse, his love life has never been better. "Victor gets a much-deserved, really epic summer and start to the school year with his new boyfriend, Benji [George Sear]," Aptaker says. "A bunch of our characters are entering into new relationships at the beginning of this season, so we get to explore all of those firsts, which are always really compelling stories: the first time having sex, the first time saying, 'I love you,' meeting each other's parents, all that really good stuff. So much of this show comes out of the experience of the writers' room, and everyone gets to tap into their own high school years and relive the victories and the traumas."
EW has an exclusive sneak peek at one of those firsts in the video above, as Victor decides to lose his virginity to Benji. But the sight of a bottle of lube packed in Benji's things on their romantic trip to a cabin causes Victor to panic and DM his mentor Simon (Nick Robinson).
"Victor and Benji are going to get some major honeymoon period, and there's some real wish fulfillment there," Aptaker says of giving Victor a big step forward in his relationship this season. "They're so great together and the characters are so much fun to write. That said, no one wants to watch a couple be happy for too long — that's not exactly compelling television — so they certainly will have their trials and tribulations."
A big point of contention for the new couple this season is Victor's status as a jock, since he's the star player on Creekwood High's basketball team. And when he comes out publicly at school, their happy honeymoon bubble threatens to burst when some of Victor's teammates call foul. "There are so many real-world examples of that happening with teens today," Cimino says.
"The locker room is a really loaded, often scary place," Aptaker says. "One of the more complicated parts about Victor being an out gay kid in his high school is that he's an athlete. That is one arena where there is still such a lack of LGBTQ+ representation. That was something we really wanted to explore: What is it like for Victor being an out gay star player in high school, and how is that world uniquely challenging and scary for him?"
That issue also raises a big question for Victor as he discovers who he really is and how much of himself he was hiding while he was in the closet. "A lot of his exploration into his love life with Benji becomes discovering who he is as a gay man," Cimino says. "He comes out very publicly at school, and that causes a lot of people to assume things about how 'gay' they think he is or isn't, and it's something he has to figure out for himself."
That journey ultimately gave the writers the most satisfaction as Victor evolved over the course of this season. "Victor's really coming into his own as he discovers, 'Now that I'm being honest with the world about who I am, who am I actually to myself?'" Aptaker says. "That's a complicated, tangled net to work his way through."
Love, Victor season 2 premieres June 11 on Hulu.
A version of this story appears in the July issue of Entertainment Weekly. Order the July issue now or find it on newsstands beginning June 18. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
Hulu's small-screen spin-off of the 2018 film Love, Simon.
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