Interview: Lee Dalloway; Photography: Dennis Leupold
For many of us, a highschool romance with our homo-leaning crush was damn near impossible, while watching it depicted on TV was unheard of. Thankfully, today’s youth have the groundbreaking — and really rather good — drama Love, Victor to relate to.
Even older viewers may find themselves enthralled (and maybe even misty-eyed) by this coming-of-age series.
As the show returns for its second season, stars Michael Cimino and George Sear reflect in the Attitude Summer issue about the homophobia from those close to them they've been forced to challenge, the blowback - and even death threats - they've received from a minority in the LGBTQ community as straight men in playing high-profile gay roles, and why neither extreme has ever made them question their position as ferocious LGBTQ allies.
“I got some homophobic comments — I kind of expected that to happen. I didn’t expect it from my own family members, though", says Michael, who identifies as straight but converys Victor’s journey of self-discovery with the sensitivity the role demands.
"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.
Michael wears shirt Maison Margiela, pearls by Azature A (Photography: Dennis Leupold; Styling: Douglas VanLaningham)
"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.’”
Such negativity is counterbalanced by positivity as Michael reveals that the show has brought a number of other friends and family around from the dark side.
“I have changed opinions,” he smiles. “I had some friends who are religious and they’ve changed their perspective on things."
You get the sense that Michael is so good in the role because, offscreen, he’s kind, genuine and empathetic. He’s not only able to deliver a mature yet vulnerable lead performance at such a young age, but he’s also a fully fledged, cardcarrying LGBT ally in a still bizarrely homophobic Hollywood.
George (left) wears jumpsuit by KidSuper, trainers by Comme des Garçons Play x Converse; Michael wears sweater by KidSuper, trousers by Random Identities (Photography: Dennis Leupold; Styling: Douglas VanLaningham)
“I’ve been advised that you shouldn’t play gay roles, especially [for] your first big role. ‘Everyone will think you’re gay’ or ‘You won’t be able to book anything,’ ‘You’ll never be able to build a fan base.’
“I’m not a traditional ‘masculine’ man, so that would be people trying to force me into something I’m not. Here I am playing a gay role that might not be considered masculine in an outdated idea of what masculinity is.”
Conversely, 23-year-old Brit George Sear, who plays Benji — with a flawless American accent by the way — has had a slightly different experience with his career and the show.
“Overwhelmingly, it’s been really positive,” says George, who identifies as straight. “I love playing this character and I’ve tried to do my best to honour the responsibility of it,” he confesses.
George wears cardigan by Maison Margiela, necklace by Azature A (Photography: Dennis Leupold; Styling: Douglas VanLaningham)
“But honestly, it wasn’t really a thought in my circle not to even play these characters.”
On the other side of the spectrum, Michael is keenly aware fact that some in the LGBT community get a little miffed when gay roles go to straight actors, while gay actors still often have to remain in the closet.
“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,” Michael says.
“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.
Michael wears shirt and jeans by Maison Margiela, suede belt by Saint Laurent, pearls by Azature A (Photography: Dennis Leupold; Styling: Douglas VanLaningham)
“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?”
He adds: “It’s an honour to play Victor, and a big responsibility. I went in with the pure intent to represent that correctly.
“I held myself to a really high standard to make sure everyone going through this story felt represented by the show.”
Read the full interview in the Attitude Summer issue, out now.