Kit Connor plays Nick Nelson in Netflix’s new show ‘Heartstopper’ . image: (Netflix ROB YOUNGSON)
Romance, sexuality and drama run through the Netflix’s new and highly-anticipated LGBTQ+ series Heartstopper.
The eight-episode series traces the friendship and then romance between Charlie (Joe Locke) and Nick, the most popular rugby player at their all-boys grammar school, played by Kit Connor.
Connor has just turned 18 but he’s already an acting veteran.
Making film and TV since the age of eight – he was a young Elton John in Rocketman and voices Pantalaimon in His Dark Materials – his role as rugby playing Nick is his highest profile to date.
Based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novel and webcomic series, Heartstopper is far from the typical teen dramas that centre around alcohol, sex and partying.
Instead, Connor tells The Big Issue, this is a show about identity, acceptance and young love.
THE BIG ISSUE: What about Heartstopper have we not seen in a teen drama before?
Kit Connor: It’s a queer teen drama. It’s for a demographic that hasn’t seen much, if any, queer representation and it’s accessible to not only teens but people of all ages. You can watch it with your parents – it’s perfectly appropriate. There are certain teen shows, and especially queer shows like Euphoria, that are amazing, but I wouldn’t watch with my parents.
How important do you think LGBTQ+ representation is?
I think it’s extremely important. It’s something that you can never really have enough of. The fact that there hasn’t really been a show for this demographic is crazy to me. Because how can you expect to normalise the LGBTQ+ community and allow kids to grow up and know that it’s perfectly normal to have these feelings and give them that sort of possibility to further understand themselves and really accept and love themselves? How can you do that without showing queer people being happy, in love and enjoying themselves? Nick, in particular. There isn’t much representation of male bisexual characters in mainstream media. So it’s really for people who have experienced this internal conflict that Nick goes through, they can relate to him.
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Heartstopper is a love story above all else. It’s about self-discovery, self-acceptance and self-love. But it’s also about dealing with the social pressures that come with being a teenager. A lot of it is very much to do with social media and how people can hide behind their screens and say awful things. Although it is an extremely positive, heart-warming and optimistic show, we don’t hide away from problems like homophobia and bullying that are extremely present inside schools. Also outside of school, adults that still have these views… just really wrong.
Do you have a lot in common with Nick?
There are certain moments in the show where, for example, I’m sort of coming to terms with my sexuality and understanding it. There’s a point where I’m talking to my mum at the end of the show. That’s a very relatable moment for so many people. That moment of really just finally being honest with themselves. Nick is the kind of person that I aspire to be really, he’s so warm, understanding and caring. Just a genuinely lovely human being. I can also relate to the fact that he’s a very popular kid in school. When I was eight, nine and 10, my acting career started to happen. That meant when I joined secondary school, certain people were attracted to talk to me because of that. The expectations and the social pressure is something that Nick absolutely goes through in the show.
Does Nick make friends with the right people?
My character is a very popular rugby player, he’s made friends with questionable people. Some of them are quite homophobic and misogynistic. When we meet him in the show, he hasn’t quite found someone that he really connects to on a deeper level. When he meets Charlie he has a much deeper connection with him than he has with anyone else. Only then does he start to realise that maybe it’s more than just a friendship. And their relationship slowly progresses.
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How did you make sure the chemistry between you and Charlie felt real?
Well, Joe Locke, who plays Charlie, is a great guy. As a cast in general we were very keen to try and spend time with one another. The relationship between Nick and Charlie is a pivotal part of the show. I didn’t want to force it. I felt that it would be insincere and disingenuous if we did. We were lucky that we got on so well.
Is it fair to say you’re a fan of the romance genre?
Yeah, absolutely. One of my guilty pleasures is Notting Hill.
Might there be a second season?
I know absolutely nothing. I would love to think that we could. Hopefully we’ll get another season, and that will be amazing. I would love to do Nick again. I’m very much open. I’m not going to go to uni. I’ve decided I’m going to try and pursue acting. Having a role like Nick is really important. Although he is about 16 in the show, he’s got a sense of maturity about him. Nick’s a great role to have as one of my first as a slightly more adult actor because there’s a lot of different things that go on with him throughout his storyline and a lot of really challenging scenes that we had. It was really good for sort of stretching me in terms of what I could do.
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