Note: Spoilers for the entirety of “Love, Victor” Season 3 below.
For the past three years, “Love, Victor” has shepherded a wave of uplifting stories centered around young, queer people, including Hulu’s “Crush,” HBO Max’s “Genera+ion,” and Netflix’s “The Half of It” and “Heartstopper.” The serialized spin-off to the 2018 film “Love, Simon,” following Michael Cimino’s Victor Salazar, a closeted high schooler of Colombian and Puerto Rican descent, was heralded as having rectified some of the sins of its predecessor, offering a more nuanced and intricate representation of LGBTQ+ youth.
With its third season, which debuted on Hulu (and Disney+) in its entirety June 15, the series is coming to a close. The show’s unexpected end — announced back in February — came despite its maintenance of strong audience and critical reviews, with Them magazine describing it as “distressing proof that nothing pure lasts forever.”
When speaking with TheWrap, cast members and executive producers reminisced on the show with an unfailing fondness. For some of its young stars like Cimino, “Love, Victor” marks their first major project. For its creators, the earnest, heart-on-its-sleeve-wearing series is a hopeful indication of more wide-ranging stories to come.
“You really realize what it means to people in the response,” said Isaac Aptaker — who, along with Elizabeth Berger, co-created the series and wrote the screenplay for “Love, Simon” based on Becky Albertalli’s novel, “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda.” “Our Instagram DM boxes are flooded with people — especially our younger audience — saying they have never felt like their story has been told in a big, premium-budget show like this. And you realize that there’s just huge chunks of the population who are not being properly represented [on] television.”
Of the experience, Cimino said he’s “grateful,” adding that he “wouldn’t trade it for the world.” “These past years have been really insane … it’s nuts living a dream in real life,” he said.
Season 3 of “Love, Victor” picks up in the immediate aftermath of the sophomore installment’s cliffhanger, following Victor as he chooses to continue his oft-tumultuous relationship with Benji (George Sear). (“When we sat down for season three, we let everyone [in the writers’ room] weigh in on who they wanted Victor to be ringing the doorbell of, and it got feisty,” Aptaker joked.)
In its final volume, the series delves deeper, tracing Benji’s journey with sobriety, exploring generational divides and understandings of sexuality through Rahim’s (Anthony Keyvan) story and unpacking the machismo that informs how Salazar patriarch Armando (James Martinez) reacts to his daughter Pilar’s (Isabella Ferreira) new relationship with Victor’s best friend Felix (Anthony Turpel).
“We try to approach all of our storylines from a place of authenticity,” executive producer Brian Tanen told TheWrap. “Delving into [Benji’s] story we knew we always wanted to go deeper with it, and George is such a wonderful actor. In previous seasons he has, at some times, just existed as this idealized fantasy boyfriend for our main character Victor, so to have him be able to have his own kind of genesis and storyline was really exciting to us.”
He added that it was important for the series to approach the narrative gracefully, as addiction and suicide rates are disproportionately higher for queer youth, who face numerous barriers and obstacles to care, as well as systemic oppression. “We researched and figured out what would be realistic and challenging for a young person going through this journey, which can be very lonely,” Tanen said.
That commitment to depicting real-world experiences translates for the actors as well. Keyvan’s Rahim is a singular persona in the television landscape — a matter that’s not lost on the actor portraying him.
“It’s not every day you get to see a character not only of Muslim, Middle Eastern descent, but also gay — and outwardly gay and extremely out and proud,” Keyvan told TheWrap. “That’s kind of a juxtaposition we see [don’t] a lot, and if we do see a character who’s gay, who’s Muslim, it’s usually a different story. And to be able to play a character who balances both of those themes, effortlessly it seems, I feel like will bring a lot of joy and hope to people.”
Season 3 also gives more space to its side characters, like Lake (Bebe Wood), a friend of Victor’s, who finds new love in Ava Capri’s Lucy. For Capri, who is queer, it was refreshing to portray a character that’s confident in her sexuality while in high school. What’s more, the actress was thrilled to see their love story blossom in a narrative environment rife with Bury Your Gays tropes.
“I really love their story and that we get to see it from [its] origin — from that night that they really connected and to see how it evolved,” Capri said. “It means so much to me. I wasn’t out when I was in high school, and getting to play a character that is out in high school was a really interesting experience for me. I really hope that it has a positive impact in letting people see a reflection of themselves on the screen.”
The sentiment is a broader reflection of the ethos that drives the show’s creators. Beyond mere representation, “Love, Victor’s” EPs are simply humbled to be in a position that allows them to bestow a sense of care onto their viewing audience.
“We hope that this show proves that there is a gigantic appetite for this kind of content and that much more of it is to come,” Berger said. “We’re grateful and honored to have filled this space for these three years, and if we made anybody’s journey or experience easier, that means so much to us.”
For Berger, the show’s characters have grown beyond the screen, becoming a part of her consciousness perhaps not unlike the leads in “This Is Us,” another one of her recently wrapped series, which garnered her four Emmy nominations as a producer. Berger admitted that she likes thinking about “Love, Victor’s” core group, wondering “if they’re thriving” after their time in high school. If the show could continue with a fourth season, she would personally want to “take a little time jump” and follow the leads through their college journeys.
It’s a thought that comes up in interviews with the cast as well: Cimino imagines Victor playing for his college basketball team, while Sear thinks Benji can make it as a musician. Capri speaks more broadly, hoping that Lucy continues to stay “true to herself” and lets “love happen” to her. Keyvan answers assuredly — fashion designing is certainly in the stylish Rahim’s future.
As for more concrete details, such as Benji and Victor’s relationship trajectory, both Sear and Cimino are hopeful. “I think they have a special bond, and they’ve gone through so much together,” Sear said of their long-term potential.
In its closing, Season 3 pays homage to the film that started it all by reuniting its main couple at the Winter Carnival’s Ferris wheel, where Simon (Nick Robinson) and Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale) shared their first kiss. It’s a full-circle moment in more ways than one: Sear revealed that an early Season 1 take that didn’t make the final cut featured Benji and Victor’s first kiss on the ride as well.
“We shot [the closing scene of Season 3] first, and then we moved to the ground and shot some other things, and that was where it was really starting to get to the teary moments because we really knew, ‘Oh, God, this is it. This is like the last hour,’” he recalled.
Aptaker added that the plan was always to bring the show back to that pivotal moment, filmed at the same spot as the pilot.
“It had this real last night of summer camp feeling for all these kids, who are, I think, going to remain lifelong friends,” Aptaker said. “It was a really, really cool thing to see for this old man [himself] watching this young group be on the precipice of these huge next chapters.”
“It felt really right and really emotional to us,” Berger said of the final sequence, “and also, in a lot of ways we had those same big feelings.”
Despite the show’s finality, Tanen pointed to the growth of each character — lead or otherwise — throughout its three seasons. As “Love, Victor” traced the evolution of its main friend group through budding relationships, awkward tension and anxiety-inducing family interactions, it also left an indelible mark on the predominantly young audience watching them.
“I have this feeling at the end, watching the finale, like, ‘These kids are gonna be alright,’” Tanen said. “You know what I mean? Like, ‘It’s OK.’ Even if life throws them some curveballs, you get the sense that they know how to get through it now.”