Wednesday, June 29, 2022

‘Heartstopper’ stars share hopes for queer teen smash seasons 2 and 3

Audience crowds by “Heartstopper” were cause for celebration last week, as Netflix confirmed that it has renewed the LGBTQ-inclusive teen series for two additional seasons.

Based on the first two volumes of the graphic novel series from Alice Osman’s web comic, “Heartstopper” follows Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), an openly gay student at his all-boys secondary school in small-town England. Following his relationship with a closed classmate, Charlie finds himself attracted to Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), a star athlete on the school’s rugby team, who appears to be straightforward.

At first, Charlie brushes off his feelings for Nick without an unrequited crush. Through a surprising series of events, however, the two boys become close friends in the classroom and on the athletic field – prompting both to question whether something beyond platonic friendship is in the cards.

Catch the series trailer above.

In the weeks since its April 22 premiere, “Heartstopper” has become one of Netflix’s most talked-about shows, earning sterling reviews and generating passionate discourse on social media.

While the series propelled Connor and Locke to stardom overnight, the 18-year-old actors didn’t anticipate that their performances would be received with such enthusiasm.

“It’s definitely always felt like our little show,” said Connor, previously known for “Rocketman,” in which he portrayed a young Elton John. “So blowing it up like this is really mind blowing.”

In a candid chat with HuffPost, Connor and Locke opened up about their now-iconic performances, working with stunning co-star Olivia Colman, and where they hope to take Charlie and Nick’s love story forward. Share some behind the scenes stories.

As actors, what attracted each of you to the story of Charlie and Nick, and what excited you most about telling it?

Kit Connor: In terms of Nick… bisexual is not something that really comes up very often in the mainstream media. So I think in our show, we take a deeper approach in terms of her exploring and exploring her sexuality. He goes from thinking that he straight to thinking maybe he is gay. He then comes to the conclusion that she may be bisexual. This is something that I found really interesting and important to bring to the mainstream media.

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Kit Connor (left) and Joe Locke in “Heartstopper,” now streaming on Netflix.

Joe Locke: I think Charlie is a relatable character for a lot of people growing up. Although she is so universally relatable, her story and her tales – the struggle of being an only child in school – haven’t really been told before. It’s great for me to be able to tell that story for my first acting job.

Where would you like the story of Charlie and Nick to take you in future seasons?

Locke: If we follow Charlie’s story from web comic and novels, his mental health gets worse. I think it would be really interesting to tackle the series and see how [impacts] Charlie and Nick’s relationship. Not only do they get older, but their problems become even more serious. What we’ve created in Season 1 is an environment that tackles serious topics, but through an optimistic lens.

Conor: I think Charlie’s mental health will definitely be the main focus. But we’ll also look at how they learn to deal with it as a couple – how they learn the importance of building a support system, as well as learning that you can’t always help and help people do things on their own. Let learning. This is a really important part of the web comic.

Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Nick’s mother was such a big surprise, considering that her casting was kept under wraps until the series premiere. What did you learn the most from working with them?

Conor: I spent two days filming with Olivia and they were amazing. I think he is one of those actors who is effortlessly good, skilled and talented. As the crew called “action,” she went from bubbly and happy to serious and emotional.

From left: "Heartstopper" Actors Sebastian Croft, Kit Connor and Joe Locke.
From left: “Heartstopper” actors Sebastian Croft, Kit Connor and Joe Locke.

David M. Bennett via Getty Images

Locke: I never got a chance to work with him as much as Kit. He is very high in his career and a household name, but he spent so much time in the day talking to everyone and making everyone feel comfortable instead of relaxing in his trailer. This is a great thing to maintain. He is just a very sweet person.

What movies or television programs did you watch regarding LGBTQ representation when you were growing up?

Locke: “Modern Family” was a big one.

Conor: Yes! “Modern Family” was the first time I saw an openly gay couple onscreen. Obviously a great deal was made about it, but they didn’t think it was unusual. It was very common, and I think it’s the first step towards a healthier portrayal of weirdness in the media.

Many younger viewers have credited the show with helping them come to terms with their families as LGBTQ, or addressing their truth in other ways. What do you say to fans who look up to your characters as role models?

Locke: It’s an honor to be able to create a series that means so much to so many people. When I was growing up, if I had a “heartstopper,” I would feel a lot more normal.

So, I hope that’s what we can do [provide] Also for the next generation of young people, because it will be for as long as Netflix. It will always be there for people to see and for young people to see. They all deserve love and happiness.

Conor: We are teenagers ourselves, and to be able to have that impact on a person’s life, confidence and self-love is something that is so powerful. I got very emotional when I first heard that a fan had used a scene I had filmed to appear in front of their parents. It’s a real “Pinch Me” moment, and it told me that the show has an impact on audiences that we didn’t even expect.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

Nick (Connor) and Charlie (Locke) share a tender moment by the sea in the season 1 finale "Heartstopper."
Nick (Connor) and Charlie (Locke) share a gentle moment by the sea in the Season 1 finale of “Heartstopper.”
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