Victoria Moroles isn't new to the entertainment industry by any means, but her recent role starring in Hulu's feature film Plan B arguably takes the cake. Originally a small-town girl from Texas, Moroles relocated to Los Angeles early on to pursue her dream of acting. In the years since, she's managed to build quite the resume, and when approached by director Natalie Morales with the opportunity to co-lead her first major film, she simply couldn't refuse.
The comedy follows best friends Sunny (Kuhoo Verma) and Lupe (Victoria Moroles) as they embark on the wildest of journeys to find an emergency contraceptive after one disastrous sexual encounter. I had the recent pleasure of chatting with Moroles, as she reflected on key moments and themes that audiences see play out over the course of the film. Let's dive in.
Over the course of your career, you’ve demonstrated significant range as a performer. You’ve worked on light, whimsical productions like Disney’s Liv and Maddie, and you’ve also worked on projects a bit darker in tone such as MTV’s Teen Wolf. Tone-wise, Plan B—as a more racy, teen comedy that also packs a powerful message—seems to be a departure from some of your previous work. What was it like for you preparing to embody Lupe, as opposed to some of your previous roles?
I've been professionally working since I was 15, but this is my first co-lead. I feel like it's the most responsibility I've held in a job so far. I was really excited for that, but I also knew that there was a bit more work I had to prepare for. I think what I was really concerned about in the beginning was making Lupe a really well-rounded, multidimensional person within the three weeks I had to prepare. I had never done anything to this capacity, even in film.
I think [with] this specific comedy though, a lot of it was being super prepared [and] being present with Kuhoo. I feel like with this type of questy, road trip, a lot of it relies on the chemistry between us and what happens in the moment. I think both of our main goal was to be as present as we could with each other and keep the characters true to themselves. I just tried to let loose, take risks, and have fun.
Lupe and Sunny have such an admirable friendship. It was especially interesting watching these two leading characters of color support one another through similar, yet non-interchangeable experiences of navigating conservative, predominantly white spaces. On a much larger scale, this film itself is occupying an important space in Hollywood as well, featuring writers and a director of color. How much of that was factored into your decision to sign on for the making of this film?
I was just lucky enough to be able to get the opportunity to be a part of it. There was a decision on my part, but I truly felt like Natalie saw the potential that I could give and took a shot on me. It wasn't really any of my decision, but I was so happy to be able to be a part of it. I'd like to note the inclusion behind the scenes; even our DP and head of lighting were both females as well. That was the first time I had ever been on a set like that.
There was a moment in one of our first rehearsals where I looked at Natalie and Kuhoo, and I just got really emotional because I couldn't believe the opportunity that I had been given; they're both so incredibly talented. I think that specifically for this film, we've seen this story told before by two white females, and to have two non-white females front and center is incredible.
If I could've seen this when I was younger, there would've been so much more understanding for me to feel like I was being seen, truly seen. I hope that it does that for people who can connect to either of them.
The film really underscores how problematic abstinence-oriented sex education can be, and how that fosters a culture of stigma and shame around sex and intimacy. Can you reflect on some of the messaging around sex and intimacy you recieved growing up, and how that may’ve informed your performance?
I love this question because I actually left school when I was in 7th grade. I started homeschooling, so I never really got a "proper" sex ed class. My memory of sex ed was through a booklet and me just trying to understand it myself, which I dont think is very good.
I'd like to talk quickly about my relationship with my mom because she grew up in a very religious Mexican household as well. I feel like that kind of influenced some of her parenting. I would never want to speak for her, but just my experience being a teenager, I knew that's what she went through. I always had a hesitation about how to navigate the conversation with her specifically, and with my parents, because I had heard of her experience.
That was a little though for me, and I think there's so much shame around expressing yourself sexually when you're that age. I did end up talking to my sister about it though, and she said "This is human. You're human and you're young." I finally found somebody to trust and talk to about it, and I hope that if anything, this film will [help] people to find somebody who they feel safe enough with to have that conversation.
There’s a key scene in the film where Lupe and Sunny go to their local pharmacy to buy an emergency contraceptive, and the pharmacist on duty refuses them because of what’s called a “Consciousness Clause.” The idea seemed so ridiculous to me that I remember immediately pausing the film to do a bit of research about it myself. I’m wondering how much of your research for this film felt like a learning experience, as it’ll surely be for so many watchers?
Absolutely, it was a huge learning experience. To be quite honest with you, I'm from [a small town in] Texas, but I've lived in Los Angeles for the past twelve years. So I feel like, in some way or another, we can get caught in a bubble; especially if we live in bigger metropolitan areas, and not really understand that this is something very real that happens all across America. Even when I read the script...I had to go and [do] research myself.
That was all talked about and explained to us, so that we knew what the actual laws were behind the reason for the film. But I'm so happy that you paused and took a second to look that up, because I didn't know about it. I know that there's obstacles to accessibility to reproductive care and sexual healthcare...for women and minorities for sure, but I just didn't know about that specific law. Hopefully we can get something done about that.
Lupe and Sunny then embark on a roadtrip to locate their nearest Planned Parenthood, and with every road trip film comes the obligatory sing-along scene. When her favorite Christian trap song comes on the radio, Lupe can’t help but rap along, as hard as she tries not to. What’s a musical guilty pleasure of yours that you can recite word for word?
I think we all have one. I'm a huge classic rock fan, so I can pretty much recite any Fleetwood Mac... but that seems so silly compared to Lupe's Christian rap song. I was a huge J. Cole fan when I was younger, so when his Forest Hills album came out, I did everything in my power to look at the lyrics and memorize everything. Everybody can recite “No Role Modelz'' though.
A huge part of the culture of shame and stigma that we see Lupe and Sunny navigating is how it causes a breakdown in communication around sex and intimacy, even with those we’re closest to. We soon find out that Lupe isn’t as sexually liberated as she claims to be, and that she’s actually concealing the fact that she’s coming into a queer identity. How conflicting do you think its been for Lupe to exist in spaces where transparent conversations about queerness seem impossible to have—whether at home, in school during sex ed, or even with her very best friend?
I think that it's been incredibly frustrating. I personally as Victoria can't imagine what that would've been like to go through, just the boiling frustration, because I know to some extent what the shame felt like at that age.
But then on top of it, to not even be able to have anybody in my family to talk to about it either, I think that that's where a lot of the deflection with her humor comes from. It's where her need to help Sunny comes from. She's definitely a huge stoner...because it's a source of not really being connected to reality, and I think that what you said has a lot to do with that.
But I think along the journey that she and Sunny have, [there’s] something about being taken out of your "bubble" or hometown. [They] take a risk and go outside; they're going to this big city. I think that kind of gets her mind working a bit. I think that's what kind of allows her to take that initial risk to even go to the bowling alley.
I feel like once you allow yourself to take a risk and allow yourself to be seen inside, it's a hugely courageous thing to do, but you do take a further step into allowing people to see you. I think that's what you see her kind of get to towards the end of the film. Not fully, but she took some big steps.
At its core, this is a film about the ongoing fight for widespread access to reproductive health services. Toward the end, Sunny and Lupe have a really devastating realization that the Planned Parenthood they traveled through hell and back for had been permanently shut down. There are a few shots of the empty facility that really hit home this idea that there’s an abundance of resources out there being denied to people who truly need them. How did you manage to tap into the raw vulnerability that this scene required, as Lupe, supporting her friend through a moment where she feels like all hope is lost?
It's definitely one of the most memorable scenes, the scene in front of Planned Parenthood. At that point during filming, we had been through so much as Kuhoo and Victoria, but also within Sunny and Lupe. It was a really big let down. It was towards the end, the last third of us filming, so to have had all of these experiences and obstacles that we had tried to get through...I mean they're crazy and they're wild but they're tough. If you're a teenager, you're trying to navigate this whole journey they go on. It's really a lot to take in.
At that moment I just felt like all I could do was hold her. We didn't know what the last resort would be; this is what we came for. I think it just symbolizes a bigger problem, which is that these centers are closing down, and that it's a very real thing that people are not able to get access to what they need. If anything, I hope that people connect with...what we were trying to do with that scene; [that] it opens up the conversation to say, "Hey, this can't happen."
I don't want that to be just a picture of reality; I want it to be more of the fact that this is happening, and it's going to keep happening if we don't do something about it. Hopefully there's some kind of connection and then motivation within the portrayal of that scene.
Do you have any last words for viewers? What are you ultimately hoping audiences will take away from Plan B?
There's a lot of heaviness, especially with what we just discussed behind the reality of why the film was made and written. Our writers can speak to that. But at the end of the day, it's a film about friendship too, so I really hope that people can go on the journey with Sunny and Lupe and somehow connect to either of them, parents included. I think that it's going to be really nice for parents to see, [and] for them to connect with Sunny and Lupe's parents, but also for them to hopefully feel nostalgic within themselves [and] remember their teenage years….
The deep need for friendship is huge right now, and I just want people to laugh and cry. I don't want you to cry, but if it happens that's good; it's healthy. In some way, this film was really healing for us and I want it to be healing for other people too. That’s kind of ridiculous to say because it's such a wild ride that they go on, but that's what TV and film is for.
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Jamilah Horton is a graduate of Wellesley College with a B.A. in Cinema & Media Studies and Africana Studies. She lives in Harlem, NYC and enjoys watching and critiquing the latest films and television shows, especially those that center Black women and femmes. Subscribe to her YouTube channel That's A Wrap TV for more!