LGBTQ couples return in “With Love”

“With Love.” (Prime Video)

The second season of “With Love” premieres June 2 on Prime Video, with out gay local actor Mark Indelicato and out gay actor Vincent Rodriguez III reprising their roles as Jorge and Henry, respectively. As the couple’s relationship encounters various highs and lows, Rodriguez shines — especially when he gets to sing, or perform magic, or appear as a version of himself known as “Hank.” PGN spoke with Rodriguez about what he loves and “With Love.”

What observations do you have about love and relationships in general, and Henry and Jorge’s relationship in particular?

It can be complicated, and it’s tough. There are a lot of things to consider, but ultimately, when you love someone, there is a certain level of sacrifice and willingness that you have in your heart to bring out the best in the person that you care about. Both Jorge and Henry step out of their comfort zones. They are dealing with adult challenges on their own, but as a couple, they are faced with some fears and conflict. But with any relationship, whether it is romantic or familial, love has a way of softening those blows and moments of conflict and leading you to a stronger, better place. We see a lot of those moments between Henry and Jorge.

You get to perform a nifty musical number in Season 2. Can you talk about your skills as a singer? 

It was fun because I got to sing as my character. I wasn’t thinking about sounding perfect or giving a “Broadway” performance. I let down my guard and let go of perfectionism. I let the character perform. I choregraphed the dance [scene]. I played music captain. It’s 3-part harmony. I [prepared] videos for each of the actors with me doing their choreography, and singing their vocal track, so I got to collaborate and create this moment that feels real, and magical, and a little bit like a fantasy, but rooted in silliness and sentiment. 

Speaking of magic, you also get to perform some magic on the show. What is the appeal of magic, especially for gay men?
I don’t know, to be honest. I think it is similar to the trope of the stereotype of the LGBTQ community loving musicals. Part of why queer people love musicals is there is something fantastical and otherworldly about them. We get to feel an emotion so strong that we sing [Rodriguez sings this sentence.] Taking it to those heightened levels of human expression may be what is appealing. There is the same draw to magic. I grew up watching “The World’s Greatest Magic.” I became hooked on the magic of magic — giving someone an expectation, breaking it, and leaving them with this question: Is it real or fake? If it’s fake, ick, but if it is real, how, how, how? That wonderment has been a joy for me.

Henry is a people-pleaser; he makes sure everyone else is OK. What can you say about this idea of perfection and the need to achieve it, which is quite prominent with the Asian American community and the “model minority,” and in the queer community? 

I am very grateful for this specific question. I brought it up in terms of Henry’s development as a character. When I was approached with the character, he was described as a “Bisexual Filipino Dreamboat.” Words I’ve never seen on a breakdown. We’re in a different world now and there is a lot more Asian-centric stories, and we are redefining what Asian romantic leads look like. 

When I was developing Henry as a character in Season 1, I saw Henry as perfect. That’s cool, but that’s not where he was his whole life. So, I thought, what was his life like before? I thought he was striving to build this ideal version of himself. When we meet Henry in Season 1, he wants to find someone to share his life with, and feel things, and not be worried about being perfect, or goal oriented, or sacrificing his other interests or goals. That’s why Henry is with Jorge, it is what they bring out with each other. In Season 2, we see Henry deal with his past and bring that to light to Jorge. It is scary for him. Henry is a perfectly imperfect human being who is lucky to have found someone who will love him no matter what. 

Regarding that, there is an episode where Henry drinks tequila and turns into “Hank,” and he loses control. Can you talk about that?

Hank is from Henry’s past, and Henry’s friends know Hank, but Jorge doesn’t. Henry is reluctant for Jorge to meet “Hank,” because of what happens. When someone feels pressure to hit an ideal, I think it does damage. With the Asian America experience and perfectionism, that deals with mindset and self-worth. There are other, deeper themes inherent in Henry in terms of his perfectionism and where that can stem from — because of his Asian background, or because he is bisexual. He has to be a better version of a human being to compensate. That is not the healthiest mindset, but it is real, and something people can relate to. That is what I love about Henry. I was asking myself who is Hank, and what is he like, and how is he so different from Henry? I pulled a little too much from my own personal experience. Tequila has a way of stripping you of your inhibitions. I don’t drink anymore. But it was fun to explore that feeling again and how that comes across when one loses control, but also has so much life in him.

What can you say about the differences and similarities between Latin and Asian cultures.

There are a lot of similarities between the Latino and Filipino culture. One form of love and connection that I find both palpable and heartwarming is not the romantic love, but the platonic love, and how the Diaz family has all these people connected to them and everyone belongs. That’s a beautiful aspect of the show. We’re saying you can pick your family and love them and accept them and embrace them as your family. You can belong to them and to yourself. 

Sol (Isis King), the trans character on the show, says it very eloquently when she appreciates being “seen for who I am.” 

That’s one of the most important aspects of our show. People are going to feel seen, seeing our characters being who they are, and being proud of who they are. They have no filter, being themselves and still are receiving love, giving love, and being accepted and accepting themselves.

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