Jerrod Carmichael
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Our Flag Means Death's Vico Ortiz Says Fan Art Encouraged Them to Get Top Surgery

jim and oluwande

Our Flag Means Death has a whole crew of queer characters, from pirate captains Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard, to the sassy Lucius and the boastful Black Pete, to the scruffy Calico Jack and the stylish Spanish Jackie. But one character named Jim, played by nonbinary actor Vico Ortiz, has meant something special to fans, many of whom have never seen a character like them on TV before.

Now that the first season of the show has been released, Ortiz talks to Out and is overjoyed with the fan reaction to both the show and their character.

“It’s been so beautiful to see folks, including Spanish-speaking folks, who are like, ‘Wow, it’s so dope to see Nana (the woman who raised Jim) just take on the name Jim, and it’s not a big issue,’” they say. “I’m getting a lot of those, and people feeling empowered to stay in their truth and ask the people that are around them to use they/them pronouns. Or use Jim as a conversation starter for folks who have never seen someone who is nonbinary or trans or gender nonconforming.”

“And they watch the show together, and it’s like, ‘What do you think about Jim?’ and, ‘Let’s talk about Jim,’ and be like ‘Actually, I’m a Jim,’” they continue. “And it’s been so cool to see that the show is being this tool for people to feel empowered. It’s been really beautiful.”

Jim is a radical character, and their relationship with Oluwande (played by Samson Kayo) is radical for relationships we’ve seen on TV. Not only are they a nonbinary person of color and a Black man in a relationship together, but all notions of gender roles in the relationship are gone. 

Ortiz points out that it was their idea for Jim to be the big spoon when we eventually see Jim and Olu in bed together, something that fans, especially queer ones, have loved.

“I’m so happy that people are feeling seen by that,” Ortiz says. “Because a lot of the tropes are like, ‘Oh, now that the beard is gone, now Jim is a hot item.’And it’s like, no, Olu wanted them no matter what.”

Ortiz also says that they’ve seen fanart depicting Roach, the ship’s cook and de facto surgeon played by Samba Schutte, having performed top surgery on Jim, and that fan art is actively changing their life.

“I’ve been thinking of whether or not to do it, or have them smaller, and I was like, ‘How is that going to look on Our Flag?’ For a while, I was like, ‘Maybe I’ll just wait if we get more seasons.’ I would just wait until that’s done and then do it,” they say.

“But then seeing all this fan art, people totally going with Roach being the top surgeon, I was like, ‘I could totally do this!’” they add. “I guess I’ll thank you internet for giving me this beautiful gift of just, I can get that surgery and show my scars and people will know it’s Roach (who performed the surgery).”

One thing Ortiz hopes for in a potential season two is seeing their character get to know Izzy Hands (played by fan-favorite Con O’Neill) a lot better. “I feel like they’re both very competitive people. They both are incredibly skilled fighters — Jim on Stede’s crew and Izzy on Blackbeard’s — and I think it’ll be really fun to see these two people trying to one-up each other and see who is best, right? And then a bad dynamic ends up being, ‘Actually, I enjoy you,’ and they could open up.”

For now, they just want to encourage fans to keep doing what they’re doing, and hopefully, HBO will listen and greenlight more seasons. “I feel like, just keep doing what you’re doing,” they say. “And I hope we know something soon because I’m also brain-rotting over this.”

You can watch season one of Our Flag Means Death on HBO Max now.

RELATED | With Gay Pirates, Our Flag Means Death Revolutionizes Queer TV

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