Sense 8 cast members look back on Lito's powerful coming out at São Paulo Pride
Sense8 gave Lito (Miguel Ángel Silvestre) a coming-out moment for the TV record books, one we're looking back on with pride.
But Pride Month is very different this year. Coronavirus has led to the canceling of annual celebratory events and protests are serving as a reminder of the revolutionary nature of LGBTQ pride’s beginnings. Lito coming out at Pride on Sense8 is about much more than a party. It’s also about a man who struggled to come out getting a showcase worthy of his journey and what it looks like when a non-traditional family supports one of its queer members without question. It’s a coming-out moment that only a show like globe-trotting gem Sense8 is capable of. We caught up with stars Brian J. Smith, Jamie Clayton, and Alfonso Herrera to discuss the powerful, fun, and memorable scene.
The Netflix drama is about eight strangers, known as a cluster, who are mentally connected to one another. They can communicate with one another from across the world and can utilize any skills from those within the cluster. During the sixth episode of its second season, closeted movie star Lito becomes Grand Marshall at São Paulo Pride. It was a significant event for the character, and Sense8 made sure the celebration was epic and emotional.
Setting the scene in Brazil at Pride meant a massive crowd of screaming people amped up for a celebration. "The overarching thing I remember is just the mass of it, there were a million people there," Clayton recalls, "Brazil has one of the largest Pride celebrations in the world."
The energy was infectious, and the cast was grateful to participate in the annual celebration. "It was incredibly chaotic, but beautiful to see all of those people come together to celebrate their authentic self, especially in defiance of a government that tells them they're not allowed to do that," Clayton shares. Sense8 is a complicated show, but the passionate audience surrounding the float understood the rules. Their role in the scene was to hear Lito's speech, and they played their part perfectly, responding as a scene partner should. "The crowd cheered at all the right places and responded, they knew that the other seven of us sensates were not visible to them even. They knew all of the rules," Smith shares.
"It really was one of the most special times of that season, and there were a lot of special times," Smith adds, "Especially now when we're all kind of locked up at home, looking back on that is just so you're grateful you had an experience like that in your life."
"I wanted to say that I am very honored to be here. That isn't the truth. To be honest with you, I have never been as scared as I am right now" is how Lito begins his powerful speech. He pours his heart out about hiding who he is while building his career as a film star before declaring loudly in front of the massive crowd watching that he is "a gay man."
Lito hones in on his fear of being different because other people are afraid of people who are different. That message of loving everyone equally, regardless of their differences, is one that stayed with Herrera, who played Lito's partner Hernando. "Watching the surroundings where we are living right now and watching the impact of the decisions of people that are not making very smart decisions," Herrera adds, "That message is important right now, and it's one of the most important messages of Sense8." Clayton is happy the speech, and the scene it's part of, exist for people who aren't out to see. "It's a very powerful thing to come out and to have a character on a show come out in such a big public way," Clayton explains, "It would be interesting to hear what those people think about it because I maybe take it for granted a little bit."
Lana Wachowski wanted to showcase the speech in a specific way, one that created an iconic moment. The scene was shot twice: first with a smaller group the day before the parade, and again at the parade. In a controlled environment, Lana was able to get close-ups of Miguel's speech and then improvise on the day, channeling the unique energy of a Pride Parade. "Being able to improvise is when Lana really, really shines," Smith shares, "She loves not to have a plan, and she got these incredible shots with the crowd in the background, the way the sun hit the float, and be able to frame [Alfonso] and Miguel kissing with all the confetti coming down."
Lito's speech was the culmination of a major arc that began with him hiding alongside his partner. The show ended after two seasons, so we don't know where Lito's story would have gone, but Clayton is happy that people were able to see his beautiful arc. "Getting to watch a character like Lito, or on any show, have incredible moments of self-reflection was amazing. Popcorn TV is great, but when you're watching a real drama with deep storylines like that, I think it's important and amazing," she explains.
Part of the speech is dedicated to Hernando, who Lito calls the love of his life. It's a testament to the epic romance, one where viewers watch Hernando support Lito as he gets to a place where he’s ready to come out. "The arc for both characters was a bit complicated at the beginning because Hernando was trying to invite Lito, in a very respectful way, to feel comfortable with his sexuality," Herrera recalls, "Because of Lito's character and his personality, Hernando had to be cautious." He saw Lito's words and actions during the parade scene as an appreciation for Hernando in the and a moment of freedom for both characters. Lito is free to live as his authentic self, and Hernando is free to be himself with his partner without worrying about how it can impact Lito's life and career. They no longer had to hide their love.
Herrera is honored to have been part of telling this love story and still be considered an ally by Sense8 fans and the broader LGBTQ community. "It's very important to make the LGBT community visible. I appreciate the reception at every Pride in Vancouver, in Mexico City, in São Paulo," he shares.
Confetti flew everywhere as Lito ended his Grand Marshall speech with a kiss, and then the party began! The crowd’s cheering, the cluster’s dancing, an energy that could be felt through the screen. The cast had an absolute blast partying on the float with one another. Surprisingly the complicated party scene was not choreographed; everyone was just having a great time. "We didn't really know what we were going to do, we didn't even do a rehearsal ahead of time," Smith shares, "We knew Lana loved these group moments that happened totally spontaneously, so we were able to let go and let the moment take us."
The brilliance of Sense8 comes through as a quiet part of the scene. In the context of the show, the massive crowd can only see Lito, Hernando (Herrera), and Daniela (Eréndira Ibarra) on the float. Nomi (Clayton), Will (Smith), and the rest of the cluster can only be seen by Lito. Smith shares that "The characters always showed up whenever a character in a big moment, whether it was a crisis or a moment of celebration, the other seven would show up to support.” Clayton noted that the cluster’s connection meant her character Nomi never had to field basic questions about being a transwoman, something she loved about the world of the show. "That's the most important thing about family. There's no question, you have a connection, love each other unconditionally, and you help each other," she adds.
The beautiful chosen family the show created was brought into the real world by Sense8 fans. Clayton shares that fans went on to create their own clusters on social media, whether they all shared a birthday or a passion for Sense8, "I think it gives people a really positive example of chosen family."
Looking back on the scene, and the series, the cast members are just proud to have been part of the life-changing experience. "Even though years have passed, people and all the fans remember the show as something very special," Herrera shares, "We all feel very lucky to have been part of the show."
For Smith, who came out after the show ended, the scene holds special meaning. "It was odd standing there on the float knowing I was gay, and everyone on that float knowing that I was gay as well, and not having come out yet," he shares. Watching himself in the scene, he tries to remember what he was thinking at the moment, watching Lito do something he wanted to do in his real life. Lito's moment on the Pride float in São Paulo is also the one fans ask him most about.
"I have thought about that scene a lot in the past year since I've come out, and it was definitely inspiring. It made me feel like I could do it," he adds.