If you’ve been watching TV for a while, you’re probably already familiar with 24-year-old Rachel Hilson — and if you are not, that should change now. The actor, writer, and dancer has so far had recurring and guest roles on highly-acclaimed and massively popular projects the likes of This Is Us and The Good Wife. However, it’s Hulu’s new Love, Victor that’s bound to put her on the global spotlight.
A spinoff to the 2018 film Love, Simon — based on Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda — Love, Victor follows Victor Salazar, played by Michael Cimino, as he moves to a new school and explores his sexuality. Rachel plays Mia Brooks in the series, a smart and kind-hearted teen that quickly strikes up a close relationship with Victor — all the while dealing with complex family dynamics at home.
With the 10-episode first season out, Schön! caught up with Hilson to discuss Mia’s future, landing the role and the journey that lead her to where she is now.
First of all, how did you land the role of Mia?
It was actually a pretty quick process. I was the last one to be cast. My manager called me on a Friday, asking if I’d be interested in the show. Obviously, I said yes, having had seen the movie and knowing Isaac and Elizabeth’s incredible work. On Monday, I went in for a chemistry read with Michael, who plays Victor, and Bebe, who plays Lake, and then I started shooting that Friday. It was kind of a whirlwind!
What was it about her, and the project in general, that attracted you to the role?
I loved how complex she was—she’s kind, she’s soft. She’s edgy at times. I love her old soul. There’s a lot happening in her world, and I was excited about the opportunity to tell a unique and nuanced story about a young Black teenage girl.
How did you prepare for the project? You mentioned you had watched Love, Simon before landing the role, but did you read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda?
Funnily enough, I had just seen Love, Simon for the first time on a plane ride last year! And LOVED it. I read the book after I booked the role, which I also loved. Becky really created a special world.
You touched a bit on this already but how would you describe Mia?
Mia is kind. She cares about people. She’s smart and artistic and funny. She’s got a bite to her because she’s been hurt by people close to her, particularly her mom. She’s definitely on a journey of self-discovery and self-love.
In the series, Mia is the popular girl in high school but she also has a bunch of problems at home. Could you relate to her in any of that? What are some of the similarities and differences you share with Mia?
She does. We all do at some point or another, don’t we? We all have those invisible scars and challenges. I think that’s what’s awesome about Love, Victor; it shows audiences, especially younger ones, that no life is perfect even if it looks that way on the surface. I definitely had challenges as a high schooler, both at home and with friends in school. I still face challenges now! I think Mia and I are similar in that we’re both really loyal and creative. I also think that we can both be a little spicy when we want to be. I love her spice.
At the beginning of the series we see her grappling with the “loss” of her mom and later on coping with the pregnancy and engagement news from Veronica. Both are drastically different situations but both feel emotionally taxing and demanding. How was it navigating that arc as an actor?
It was really interesting to explore that arc. I think she definitely fears being abandoned again, especially with the introduction of this new woman in her dad’s life and a soon-to-be new sibling. It’s a lot to take in for a teenager. I think she just wants to be seen and loved and is afraid of getting left behind.
What’s your favorite Mia moment from season one?
My favorite Mia moment. Hmmm. While the last episode is heartbreaking for Mia, I was excited to finally see her kind of release, first with Andrew and then with Veronica. You see so much building up over the course of the season that it was nice when she finally just let go and allowed herself to be really held by someone. I, personally, also loved shooting all of the food scenes — the sushi with Michael, the grilled cheese with Mason. Love eating on set.
Are there any scenes you would have want to be part of that you didn’t? Like that NYC trip…
The cake heist with Lake and Felix! And New York, yes.
Before the release, the series “struggled” a bit… moving from Disney+ to Hulu earlier this year. How were you feeling during those uncertain times?
It was a swift shift! I didn’t have time to feel anything other than excited about it! I think Hulu is the perfect home for Love, Victor.
Mia shares substantial storylines with Andrew and Victor. How was it working with Michael Cimino and Mason Gooding?
They are great guys. Both of them are so funny and so talented. Michael is a prankster. He always tried to scare me. And Mason is just one of the funniest, most charming people I know. Never a dull moment with him.
You also share a handful of scenes with Sophia Bush, which are perhaps your most complex (aside from witnessing that kiss). How was that experience?
Sophia is amazing. She is so talented and has the biggest heart. She’s really dedicated her platform to bringing awareness to causes that we should all be aware of and care about. I was also always eyeing the books she’d bring to set. Truly a phenomenal human.
Would you want to do a season two? How do you feel those relationships — with Victor, Andrew, and Veronica — would evolve in a potential season two?
I’d love to do a season two! I don’t know. I think Mia definitely would need some time and space as far as her relationship with Victor is concerned. As far as her relationships with Andrew and Veronica, I am excited to see how they evolve. I feel like we hit a turning point with both of them by the end of the season.
You’ve done a fair share of TV projects like This Is Us, Rise, and The Good Wife. The whole Hollywood scene is currently on pause, but do you have plans to do any more films soon?
Perhaps! Tehe. I’m really just trying to take things day by day, as I think we all are.
Speaking of taking it day by day, your IG shows you’ve been into music while quarantining! Do you plan to make that jump professionally?
Oh, ha, no! Not yet at least. I really just do it for fun and for me! It’s been a dream to learn the uke, and that’s definitely been a form of therapy for me right now.
Going into your background. You studied at NYU’s The Gallatin School of Individualised Study and majored in “Writing and Performing Race.” Can you tell us a bit more about creating your major or how your findings have changed since joining the industry fully, especially given the current climate?
Gallatin is a special place. I took some really awesome courses that helped to inform my interest in art and performance studies. I acted, wrote, produced, and directed my own plays and became really interested in the performance of race — or rather the mythology of racial performance: How it’s been constructed over the course of history, what it has looked like and does look like in art and media, and what it looks like in real life. As far as how my findings have changed, I think the way we think about race is always evolving, perhaps not always for the best or as swiftly as we’d like. I hope that we’re on the cusp of something new. I think there has been an awakening of awareness, which is a good starting point. I hope people vote.
Last but not least, what are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing my family in Baltimore again soon and giving them all big hugs.
‘Love, Victor’ is now streaming on Hulu.
This Schön! online exclusive has been produced by
photography. Jonny Marlow @ Early Morning Riot
fashion. Erica Cloud
talent. Rachel Hilson
make up. Tasha Reiko Brown @ The Wall Group
words. Sara Delgado
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