What do pirates like? Fabulous booty, cheap rum, and a little rope bondage. After quietly coming onto the scene in early 2022, Max’s Our Flag Means Death slowly ignited a rabid fandom that grows more passionate by the minute. The Gentleman Pirate and his sales rack of pirates went on a surprisingly romantic journey in Season One that saw many of them stranded on an island by The Legendary Blackbeard, but Jim (Vico Ortiz) was one of the few to join Edward Teach (Taika Waititi) on his new crew.
Production headed to New Zealand to film the second season back in September 2022, but it wasn’t until October 2023 that fans clamoring for the next chapter could see it unfold on Max. Season Two picked up with Stede Bonnet (Rhys Darby) trying to find a way back to the man he loves, but Blackbeard’s crew had to cope with Blackbeard’s breakup era. Even through the darkness, Jim managed to find new love that reconnecting with Oluwande (Samson Kayo) only deepened.
Popverse recently had the opportunity to speak to Vico Ortiz, who has already been flooding fans with behind the scenes content alongside other cast members since the SAG-AFTRA strike lifted. From Ortiz's Hobbiton visit with Samba Schutte to some words of reassurance for fans still grieving the season’s most emotional moments, Vico Ortiz was more than happy to pull back the curtain and offer their perspective on the making of Our Flag Means Death.
SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains major plot spoilers for Season 2 of Our Flag Means Death.
Popverse: What was it like having the convergence of representation in being a non-binary actor portraying a non-binary character on a show with non-binary writers in the room like Zayre Ferrer and Jes Tom?
Vico Ortiz: I felt so held and so seen and so taken care of throughout the process. It feels good to be able to collaborate in a way where I’m not also fighting for myself or advocating for myself. I just walked in, and I was like, ‘This is me. I’m Vico. I’m Jim. Just Jim.’ I was able to then be playful and collaborative in a way that wasn’t just having to explain all these things. Anything I would add to Jim’s emotional progression, it felt very nice to just be treated like another actor. It’s a bummer because—
The bar is low, but it’s nice that we’re actually clearing it.
Correct, correct. It feels good to just walk into work and just be an actor and be treated as such, and not to be like ‘Oh, well now I have to put my educational hat on and have to explain all of this and then on top of that have to add the emotional nuance.’ It felt really good just to be free.
Gypsy Taylor said in an interview that Jim’s outfit on Blackbeard’s crew was directly inspired by shibari [Japanese rope bondage]. Was that something that you collaborated with her on, and what do you think Jim would enjoy the most about shibari?
I did not suggest that, but I noticed that because the second I started putting stuff on I was like, ‘what’s going on here, Gypsy? What are these knots? What’s goin’ on in this situation?’ And she was like ‘oh yeah, Blackbeard’s crew is like lowkey BDSM-coded everywhere.’ And I was like… 'LOVE!'
One of these scenes that I had with Olu when I’m talking to him about Archie, when I’m like ‘I saw her boobs, both of them,’ in some of the takes I just kinda went and started spitballing other stuff. I was like ‘and she did this thing with like some ropes, and I thought that ropes were just used for torturing people, but I guess torturing can be-’ I was trying to go on a different tangent. I was like, ‘I guess…torture can be pleasurable,’ and I was trying to figure out ways to still be somewhat innocent, but also not that innocent. So yeah, I think Jim would very much enjoy being tied up.
There were definite nods to polyamory in season two including the three-way dance at Calypso’s Birthday, Jim calling Oluwande an ‘anchor,’ and the ‘we could share’ line towards Zheng later in the episode. Can you talk about getting to portray those moments on screen as a polyamorous person?
It feels really good, and I definitely would like to keep exploring that. If we ever get a third season, I think I can speak pretty confidently for myself, Mads, Samson, and Ruibo that we all would love to continue to expand on this non-traditional way of caring and loving for each other.
I feel like it’s really beautiful to see that there are so many ways in which we can connect with people. There are so many ways with which we can express that love and care, and what better show to do that than Our Flag Means Death that is so in your face about certain things, but is not bringing you a bullet powerpoint presentation [explaining it]. I think that similarly to what they did with Jim in the first season, it’s like 'Jim is just Jim.' It’s not Jim having a whole season arc about ‘this is how I feel about gender,’ it’s ‘I’m just Jim’ and we move on.
Now Jim gets to explore who they are outside of their individual revenge identity, so it was really fun for me to walk into this new season and see this shift in Jim and Olu’s dynamic that opened up for expansion, because there is such deep, emotional, secure connection with Jim and Olu. They know that they’re gonna be there for each other no matter what. But there’s also other people that we’re interested in, and it’s like - no one bats an eye. This all makes sense. 'Do that. I love you. I’m here for you. I’m your anchor. We’re anchors.' Right? So it’s really cool to explore that, because yeah I don’t really see that much of that in TV, and if there’s a third season I definitely would love to keep exploring that with playfulness. It’s really interesting to see compersion happen on screen. I was like, 'Oh my gosh. Jim is like actively stoked about Olu reconnecting with Zheng and hoping it goes well.'
On that note, tell me about Garlic Knot and Garlic Soup as ship names, where did that start and how often was that used between y’all in talking about the polycule?
I cannot remember how it started, but I saw it somewhere and I was like ‘Oh, Garlic Knot, that’s really funny.’ Because I love ship names, and me and Samson have talked about TealOranges. But then I was like, 'Wait, hold up, do we, TealOrangeSnakeQueen?'
I think we were using TealSnakeOrangeSoup at first, which works but it’s clunky.
But truly, having Garlic Knot turn into Garlic Soup is my favorite. I love it. It’s a good time. Truly, I feel like because Ruibo, Mads, Samson, and I as a people outside of these characters have such a good vibe with each other, that very easily translated into the screen. I mean, as you can see from all the BTS, we were all stoked being around each other. It was like ‘Yes my queen,’ and we would just make jokes about all of that.
One of the most emotional aspects of season two was the death of Izzy Hands, something that has really upset some fans of the show. I know this is a tough ask, but do you have any words of reassurance for anyone grieving the loss of Izzy, and can you talk about Jim getting Izzy’s glove?
I’m so glad that people noticed. I also confirmed it on Twitter, but I was like, I need people to know that this happened. Jim likes to keep mementos of people that are really important to them, the knife being one of them. Because Izzy was such a big figure for them, it’s one of those like, 'I honor this person and I want to have a piece of this person with me.'
Me and Con talked about it, and I was like, ‘If Jim were to keep something from Izzy, what do you think?’ I was between the sword sheath or the glove, and he was like ‘Yeah, glove.’ And I was like ‘Good, we’re in it. We’re in it.’
It’s a tough one, because I also need that reassurance too. I feel that I grieved that scene when it happened, and then I lowkey forgot about it. And all of a sudden I see it again, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I- this sucks, ow, this hurts.’ But I do feel good about the glove choice because I think there’s always that element, similarly to the oranges, Jim is someone who mementos are really important to, and honoring the dead, it’s a big one for them.
I know that Izzy goes through a lot in this last season. And know that when he went, I know that he was saying ‘Ed, you are loved,’ all that stuff. But like, he’s also saying that to himself. One way or another, everybody on that ship absolutely loved and adored Izzy at that point. That was someone that we all were like, ‘hell yeah, You’re our unicorn.’ Even though he left us, he’s still gonna be with us no matter what. And he left being loved by everybody in their own different ways.
Season two was filmed in New Zealand, and I know one thing you did was embrace your inner Lord of the Rings fandom. Can you talk about visiting Hobbiton and who all you went with?
I went with Samba and his partner Aria. Oh my gosh, I loved it. It’s stunning. That whole area is just - I know that it’s a set, and it’s a built-in set, but there’s so many elements of that which are just natural that are just from there, from that land. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful and stunning. I took so many photos that look like photos from a magazine. One of my backgrounds in my phone is from Hobbiton and I was like ‘Yeah, this is from there’ and my brother was like ‘What?!’
I love Lord of the Rings. I love bein’ a little weirdo. So I just pranced around pretending to be Gollum for the longest time, and I’m safe with Samba and Aria. So they were embracing me being weird and crawling places, and just being like ‘Smeagol is free.’ Just making voices. So yeah, I loved that trip. I mean, honestly I could get lost happily driving through New Zealand because everything looks just breathtaking.
I know you’ve got plenty of experience with choreography and stunts, but the bulk of the bar fight scene in Season 2, Episode 7 appears to be one very chaotic continuous take. What was it like tackling that challenge with all those moving parts that needed to be nailed at once?
It was super chaotic, because obviously scheduling is bonkers bananas - especially towards the end of filming. So a lot of rehearsals were done in between takes from other scenes and shoots. I would get [stunt coordinator Jacob Tomuri] being like, ‘Vico, do you have five minutes in between this change of setup?’ and I was like, ‘Hells yeah.’ And I would go to the corner with Jacob and be with the stunt person who’s fighting with me in that moment. I’ll practice with that person a few times, then another day I’ll do the same thing. I see that Jacob is trying to meet with everybody throughout the week prior to the shoot, and then all of a sudden ,it’s like the day of, and we’re putting it all together in that moment.
We were able to rehearse it in our own little individual chunks so much, we all felt pretty comfortable coming together. So after a few times of doing different takes in chunks, Fernando was like, ‘Let’s just do the whole thing. Let’s do the whole thing at once where we don’t need to cut it.’ And we did it. And it was epic. It’s so epic. With the amount of things that need to happen, my goodness gracious. And in that one I believe no one had stunt doubles. So we were all just doin’ it. We were all in.
I think Leslie, at the end she was only supposed to come in and be like, ‘Get the fuck out of my bar,’ but then she was like, ‘Oh hell no, I wanna fight too.’ And then they added the whole grabbing that person [and] just tossing that person at the end.
You said one time in an interview that you have a soft spot for witches and magical people. Are there any magical characters from other shows or fandoms you wish you could see interacting with Jim from Our Flag Means Death?
This is a really great question. For some reason, Lana Parilla from Once Upon A Time comes to mind. I’ve worked with Lana in a short film forever ago, and she’s just so incredible. We’re both Puerto Rican, so it’d be really fun to have some sort of witch moment. Something with Jim in that regard, or with, I don’t know, any other character.
I mean, Neverending Story is a classic, but you know how Hollywood just enjoys doing remakes? If at any point they have to do a remake of Neverending, I’d love to interact with Falkor. I would love some Falkor moment. I also love How To Train Your Dragon, which I do know they’re making into a live-action. And I’m like, 'Listen, I could either be a CGI dragon or I could be one of the dragon riders. Let me be a dragon. Put me in the CGI suit, the mocap and just like have me interact, whatever that may be.'
Our Flag Means Death season 2 is currently streaming on Max.