Welcome to this week’s “Just for Variety.”
As readers of this column know, Netflix’s “Heartstopper” is one of my new favorite things.
Based on Alice Oseman’s web comic and graphic novels of the same name, the show follows a friendship-turned-romance between two British teens, the seemingly straight Nick and the out-and-proud queer Charlie, played by “Rocketman” actor Kit Connor and newcomer Joe Locke, respectively. Their friends include a lesbian couple (Corinna Brown and Kizzy Edgell), trans student Elle (Yasmin Finney) and Charlie’s best pal Tao (William Gao).
“Heartstopper” has done its job for Netflix. The show shot to the top of Variety’s Trending TV chart, with 1.05 million engagements on Twitter in the week following the April 22 series premiere.
I recently caught up with 18-year-old stars Connor and Locke over Zoom from their homes in the U.K.
Did you know about “Heartstopper” before you auditioned for the show?
Kit Connor: My sister was a big fan. She had the first volume on her bookshelf so I had seen it around the house. But when I got the first email about auditioning, they sent me a link to the web comics. I read it and I said, “I need to be a part of this.” Then as the auditioning process went on, I read through the rest of the volumes. The more I kept reading the more I really wanted to be a part of it.
Joe Locke: I had a friend who was obsessed with them. When I went on my first audition, I read through the whole web comics in one sitting. I just sat on the sofa for hours reading it. I couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with it.
Joe, this is your acting debut. You’re now on this huge Netflix hit. What is going through your mind?
Locke: When I auditioned, I thought there is no way this is going to happen because that doesn’t happen to people like me. But I think that worked to my advantage because it made me less nervous. I was just like, “This is fun, but it’s never going to happen.” So it’s all surreal to me because all my dreams are coming true. I’ve been able to become an actor. I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.
What do you want “Heartstopper” to mean for young queer people?
Connor: To have a show where you see queer people being happy and being together and united as a group, I think there’s something really beautiful about that. I think that shows like “Euphoria” that are very queer are still very much sort of adult in many ways because they are very dark and gritty. I think it’s really important to have a show that is just portraying queer love and queer beauty.
What kind of messages are you getting from queer fans?
Locke: There was one that said that they’d used the coming-out scene to come out to their parents, which was just so sweet. I also read a review that was talking about how they felt so joyful after watching it, but also this sense of melancholy because they didn’t have this when they were growing up. I think it’s so great that we’ve been able to create this to show younger queer teens that they deserve love and happiness, because there aren’t many programs that show just pure happiness for queer people.
You two have such great chemistry. What was your chemistry read like?
Locke: We had one chemistry read on Zoom, which was a very weird way of trying to see if we had chemistry because it was over the internet and miles away from each other. But we hit it off straight on. We didn’t do one in person until months later.
Connor: When we were actually able to meet each other and have a little chat and get to know each other, I think they could tell quite quickly that we were going to have very good on-screen chemistry.
Olivia Colman plays Nick’s mom. If there’s a second season, who would you like to see on the show?
Connor: There have been a lot of brilliant actors who have said that they’d love to be involved in Season 2. Connor Jessup from “Locke & Key” is very keen to be involved. I’m sure we can get him involved somehow.
Locke: Jennifer Coolidge should play my grandmother. That would be so cool. I love her. She’s amazing. I also want a scene with Nick’s mom so I can work with Olivia Colman.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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