Ana Ortiz made a name for herself playing a loving mother to a gay child on Ugly Betty over a decade ago – but her new role on Love, Victor is very different.
In Ugly Betty, Ortiz played Hilda, a vivacious single mother who shows unconditional love and support to her gay son, Justin. In Love, Victor, she plays Isabel Salazar, a staunchly Catholic Puerto Rican mother who is not exactly a champion of gay rights, complicating life for her young gay son, Victor.
Tapping into that experience was not easy for Ortiz. “It’s so interesting, because I’ve played a lot of mothers of gay children in my career, which I love, it’s like my happiest place,” Ortiz tells PinkNews. “But this is the first time I’ve actually had to play a mother who doesn’t accept it. It’s something that’s really foreign to me as a person, and having to portray it, it’s been really eye-opening.
“It’s a real challenge, because I’ve been an ally my whole life. But it’s also really interesting to look at it from the other side, to look at it from the other perspective, and to try to find some sympathy and to try to find where she’s coming from,” Ortiz says. “Clearly, she loves her kids. She would do anything for them, Victor being her first born, being Latino – that whole scene is very intense. It’s been a real growth experience for me to be quite honest, and I’ve really loved it.”
While her character struggles to come to terms with her son’s sexuality, Ortiz hopes Love, Victor will send out a hopeful message to queer youth and their parents.
“I think there is an opportunity for parents to watch this show with their child, or for their child who might be afraid to come out to say: ‘Hey, there’s a TV show I’d really like to watch together,’ and have that be an introduction of how to do it… I hope the message we can convey is one of hope.”
It takes work to get over your own prejudices.
Ortiz acknowledges that it is not always an “easy road” for families when a child comes out as LGBT+ – and this is one of the reasons she is grateful that a show like Love, Victor exists.
“It does take work, and maybe the message is, have that conversation, do the work. It takes work to get over your own prejudices,” she says.
“I’m Puerto Rican, so in our culture, it’s very difficult to come out for a young man half the time – for a young woman as well. It’s still a little bit taboo. So if Victor can sort of open the door a little bit for a young person feeling that they’re the other, and make them feel like they’re part of the cultural zeitgeist as it were, and being represented, that might give them that little bravery, that little ‘oomph’ to be able to go and tell their parents, or their grandparents, or extended family and friends, who they are and what their truth is confidently and with joy and pride. So that’s what our hope is.”
Ortiz also hopes that Love, Victor can bring hope to a new generation of young queer people in the same way that Ugly Betty did for the last generation.
“What I want for Victor to impart is that you’re not alone. Representation really matters.”
Love, Victor cast hopes the show ’empowers’ LGBT+ youth.
The wider cast of Love, Victor is proud to be part of a show that puts queerness and diversity front and centre. Isabella Ferreira and Rachel Hilson, who play Victor’s sister Pilar and his girlfriend Mia respectively, both hope that LGBT+ viewers feel empowered watching the show.
“I would love for LGBTQ youth to take away that there’s no one way to navigate figuring out who they are, and it may take some time,” Hilson tells PinkNews. “Be patient with yourself and know that you have people around you who are there to support you and who want you to be you.”
Ferreira says: “I hope they feel empowered when they watch the show, that they feel less alone. Personally, I’m still young – I’m still figuring out who I am, and what I like and what’s going on, so I think for other young people watching out there, this is something that needs to be said and needs to be heard.”
Ferreira hopes the series will be widely watched when it is released in the UK, adding: “You’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry, but at the end it’s going to be a long, wonderful ride, and I think it’s just a really great show that people will love.”