[Warning: Spoilers for season 1 of Our Flag Means Death]
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It’s all smiles and joy when Vico Ortiz joins the video call. “It’s surreal, not going to lie. I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience right now,” they tell HollywoodLife. It’s a moment of serendipity – Vico, the breakout star of HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death, was meant to speak with HL about Pride Month and their contribution to The Sound of Pride series. But, thirty minutes before the chat, HBO Max finally announced that OFMD would get a second season, delighting fans of the swashbuckling comedy and its positive on-screen LGBTQ+ representation.
“I’m still kind of just like, what is going on? I’m very excited and just riding the wave, but thank you,” says Vico after being congratulated on the good news. “I was really hoping it was going to be announced today. I’m tired of saying ‘if we get a second season,’ which wasn’t a lot of interviews saying that, but … because for a while, I generally did not know.”
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With the news that the crew of The Revenge will sail again, Vico tells HollywoodLife that they’re “so excited and so relieved as well. I’ve been exploring a lot of emotions with all of this because I didn’t know if anything was going to happen. I was both holding space for the joy of what the show was already bringing to so many people. And at the same time, holding space for me to grieve the potential of not coming back, which was a very interesting and difficult thing to maneuver around.”
What Vico describes are the same emotions that the fans of OFMD have gone through since the first season concluded in March. Featuring Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi, Nathan Foad, Matthew Maher, Samson Kayo, Samba Schutte, Ewen Bremner, Con O’Neill, Nat Faxon, and Kristian Nairn, the show has developed a devoted fanbase. It has also been praised for representing three queer relationships in the main cast: Stede Bonney (Darby) and Blackbeard (Waititi), Lucius (Foad) and Black Pete (Maher), and Oluwande (Kayo) and Vico’s Jim, who, like Ortiz, is non-binary. For three months, fans feared that the show wouldn’t see another shore, which would be disheartening because, as Vico says, things were starting to get good.
“It’s my first time on a big mainstream show where I get to get to know the character with everybody, and everybody’s getting to know their characters at the same time,” says Vico. “We’re all exploring who we are to ourselves and each other and the world that we’re in at the same time. And, it’s like, ‘oh, one season isn’t not enough.’ I want to keep exploring other dynamics, now that we’re getting the juices and we’re understanding ourselves better.”
There’s one relationship that Vico wants to explore in season two, and it’s no surprise for anyone who has watched Ortiz’s TikTok lately. “Yes, he has – Con O’Neill has seen my Izzy cosplay,” Vico says with a laugh. The British actor’s character is based on Israel Hands, Blackbeard’s real associate, and has been a particular fascination for Vico.
“We’ve been sharing fan art with each other. Once I did the Izzy cosplay, I had really bright blue hair,” they say. “He was, ‘do I need to get my hair blue for the second season?’ Really, we’ve been enjoying this fan art banter between Izzy now with blue hair or a jazzified Izzy, or people having storylines of Jim going through Izzy’s wardrobe on the second season and then just walking out. So stuff like that.”
Wardrobe on Our Flag Means Death has greater significance than mere costumery. Stede telling Blackbeard that he “wears fine things well” in episode five is often considered the moment of their romance. Additionally, when Blackbeard and Stede exchange clothes, it harkens to greater intimacy. The exchange invokes a scene from William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra when Cleopatra “put my tires and mantles” on Mark Antony while she wore his sword.
“What’s interesting is that I, as Vico, obsessed with Izzy, right?” they say. “Obsessed with the outfit and then watching Con, like with his fit, I was like, ‘I want to wear that. I would like to wear that.’ And then I was like, What if my dream as Vico, I manifest it through Jim? Like, actually exploring that dynamic? We have these two very guarded people that express their walls up in very different ways.”
“And what happens now that they’re both in the same space?” asks Vico. At the end of OFMD’s first season, Edward Teach – aka Blackbeard – has embraced his persona as The Kraken, the cutthroat, vicious version of himself (and the version that Izzy, as Blackbeard’s right-hand-man, adores.) Blackbeard has stranded most of the crew, and taken Stede’s ship, The Revenge, as his own. Only Jim was allowed to remain on board with Blackbeard, Izzy, Ivan (Guz Khan), and Fang (David Fane).
“There are no interactions between Izzy and Jim in the first season,” says Vico. “Now Jim is stuck in Blackbeard’s or the Kraken’s ship. So, it’s like, how would that look like? And there is this sort of potential dynamic for both of them to admire their skills because they’re both incredible fighters. [They’re] both the most skilled people on both ships.”
“So now they’re in the same space, and it’s like, who is better? How can we outdo each other? And then in that process, end up actually connecting and being like, ‘hey, I respect you. And we actually might be getting along in our own weird ways. It’s like, actually, we have more in common than we thought. And actually, we are able to open up each other in that way,’” adds Vico. “So I’m super down for that. And then as Vico, I’m like, yes, if I ever get to wear Izzy’s clothes, I would love that.”
There is one particular piece of clothing that may not return in season 2: Jim’s beard. The term “beard” has a history within the LGBTQ+ community, but for Jim, it’s quite literal. At the start of the series, Jim has disguised themselves with fake facial hair and a false nose. The old misogynistic superstition was that female-presenting people/women bring bad luck to a ship, but for Jim, the beard was a way to help enact their revenge on the marauders that murdered their father.
Could the beard return in season 2? “I was talking about this yesterday. What I think about Jim’s gender fluidity and their expression and all that stuff — I think that Jim never really thought about gender up until they left the nunnery because their gender was ‘assassin,’” says Vico. “‘Assigned knives at birth.’ There were no actual talks about ‘what is gender? What is sexuality? What is any of those things? You were raised to be a killing machine.’ Once Jim leaves the nunnery into the real world, then they start noticing, ‘oh, people are treating me differently based on what they perceive of me.’”
“Then, once they change that expression to something that’s more in a presentation that is wildly more accepted or has more access, then they start seeing, it’s like, ‘I’m still the same person,’” continues Vico. “‘I’m not changing who I am. I’m just changing how I look. And then now I’m getting more access on certain things based on that.’”
“What’s beautiful about Jim’s arc in the revenge is that the second the beard is off, even though there were the questions and stuff on episode four, the crew treats Jim the same, and it’s something that for them, ‘it’s like, oh, hey, wow.’ So it would be interesting to explore if the beard comes back on [for season two],” says Vico, adding that they “literally have no idea what the writers are writing for a second season.”
One of the best moments written into season one came when the crew of The Revenge sees Jim without the beard and nose, and…nothing changes. There is no “after school special” moment where the crew grapples with Jim’s non-binary orientation. Jim is just Jim.
“It’s really beautiful that The Revenge embraces them,” says Vico. “[Jim] realizes, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter whether I have the beard or not. These people treat me the same as I’ve always been.’ And similarly, Jim doesn’t act any differently when the beard is on or off. I was very intentional about who is this person? How does this person behave, disregarding social expectations of what masculinity and femininity are? And the only thing that changes is how people perceive them. So it would be interesting to explore how that beard — if it comes back, why would Jim bring it back? Or what access would they want to achieve with that or not access, whatever that is? So yeah, that would be fascinating.”
The beard may come back before Season 2 airs – at Comic-Con, in Pride Parades, and at Halloween. Jim, both with and without the beard, is the new cosplay outfit of the season, along with the rest of the fantastic outfits in OFMD. When asked what they think about people dressed up as Jim, Vico’s smile can’t be any brighter.
“I love it!” they say. “It’s so awesome. I’m really impressed. People are whipping up some incredible outfits in a very short amount of time. I love it – love it! I’m seeing all the variations of it too, with the nose, with the beard, without it. People are learning knife twiddling as well. So I was like, ‘this is so dope.’ We’re going to have like an awesome battalion of queer people after this.”
The first season of Our Flag Means Death is streaming on HBO Max now.