The 21-year-old actor stars as Victor Salazar on the Hulu series Love, Victor. While Cimino identifies as straight, he's received some backlash, as well as death threats, for playing a gay character.
"I’ve definitely had some criticism from the LGBT community for being in the role," Cimino told Attitude, aware that some LGBTQ roles go to straight people. "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 also touched on the unexpected negative comments that he received from his own family members.
"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 actor expressed that "there’s nothing wrong with being gay." "That ignorance is often something that’s been passed on from generations prior," he explained. "I always approach that [by saying], ‘These are normal people that are struggling and they shouldn’t have to struggle.’”
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"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 continued, adding, "It’s an honor 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."
Season 1 of Love, Victor showed Victor coming to terms with being gay and officially coming out of the closet. The second season explores what comes after coming out, including a number of storylines that take the series from PG to PG-13.
"I feel like [fans] are going to be really excited that we're tackling some more serious topics," Cimino told ET ahead of the season 2 premiere. "I do feel like the overall show still feels very much the same. It's just that we're tackling some more real issues this season."
"It's really important. I think this show tackles these issues in a way where it's easily digestible for people of all ages," Cimino added. "And I think it depicts it in a natural way, in a way where parents who are struggling won't feel like, 'Oh, I'm being punished for watching us.' It's like, 'OK, I feel accepted because other parents go through the same experience, and now I know how to be a better parent because of it.'"