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‘Love, Victor’ star says gay role sparked homophobia from his family, death threats

Two men in suits take a selfie.
Michael Cimino, left, and Anthony Turpel star in Hulu’s “Love, Victor.”
(Greg Gayne / Hulu)

Michael Cimino, the straight star of Hulu’s gay-themed coming-of-age series “Love, Victor,” says he has been attacked by some in the LGBTQ community and even some of his own family members. He said the former went as far as threatening his life.

In a new interview with Attitude, Cimino — who plays the titular Victor — says: “I got some homophobic comments — I kind of expected that to happen. I didn’t expect it from my own family members, though.”

He added, “Some of them reached out, saying, ‘You used to be so cool; now you’re so gay.’ I chalk it up to ignorance. People have that programming and they often don’t have to evolve and try to push past that.”

The 21-year-old Las Vegas native is of Puerto Rican and Italian-German descent and has spoken before of the racism he faced growing up. But he told IndieWire in a 2020 interview that his community had its own issues with prejudice.

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“It’s weird … [the Latinx community] is liberal when it comes to things about Latinos, but when it comes to gay rights, it’s like, eh, question mark,” Cimino said in the interview. “We need to change the narrative on that, right away. Because that’s not right. You can’t just be for some issues that concern your people but not all of them. Just because someone’s sexuality is different than yours, that does not mean that they’re not part of your community.”

In “Boys’ Trip,” Hulu spinoff series “Love, Victor” expands the range of queer identities in the movie “Love, Simon” — thanks to the writers’ own experiences.

In the Attitude interview, Cimino said, “There’s nothing wrong with being gay. That ignorance is often something that’s been passed on from generations prior. I always approach that [by saying], ‘These are normal people that are struggling and they shouldn’t have to struggle.’”

Cimino has said in multiple interviews that he has been warned against taking gay roles for fear of typecasting. Meanwhile, the young actor has also faced fierce blowback for taking a role that an out gay actor might have played.

“I’ve definitely had some criticism from the LGBT community for being in the role… I’ve had death threats, which is horrible. But the show is important to me. The messages of hate — I came into it knowing that would happen, regardless of how good I was,” he told Attitude, which did not detail the threats or their sources.

“But there are some straight actors who play gay characters, who are all about supporting LGBT rights while they’re promoting their project, but once they’re done, a year later, it’s kind of forgotten.

“That’s not how [to] be an ally, that’s not how you support LGBT rights. If you’re not an actual ally, then what are you doing?”

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Straight actors playing gay roles has been the subject of debate for some time, often hinging on Hollywood’s history of forcing gay actors into the closet in real life and offering only limited chances to explore the humanity of gay characters on-screen.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, straight-identifying actor Richard E. Grant, who received an Oscar nomination for playing a gay character in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” said: “I’ve always had that concern ... The transgender movement and the #MeToo movement means, how can you justify heterosexual actors playing gay characters? If you want someone to play a disabled role, that should be a disabled actor.”

When this year’s Academy Award nominations were announced, GLAAD cited 2018 as “a banner year for LGBTQ inclusion in film.”

In a Bustle interview, Emmy winner Darren Criss essentially agreed. Criss, who has famously played queer characters including Andrew Cunanan in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” onstage, said he wouldn’t take gay roles anymore, because “I want to make sure I won’t be another straight boy taking a gay man’s role.”

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Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, however, told the Hollywood Reporter, “I will fight to the death for the right to suspend disbelief and play roles beyond my experience.”

Casting a straight actor in landmark gay role isn’t a misstep. It’s a recognition of shared struggle.

Blanchett, who received one of her Oscar nominations as one of the leads in the lesbian love story “Carol,” framed it as essential to the art and task of acting.

“Part of being an actor to me, it’s an anthropological exercise. So you get to examine a time frame, a set of experiences, an historical event that you didn’t know anything about,” she said in 2018.

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For his part, Cimino told Attitude: “It’s an honor to play Victor, and a big responsibility. I went in with the pure intent to represent that correctly.”


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