In his defense. Joe Locke shut down rumors over his Heartstopper co-star Kit Connor’s sexuality after “questions” about his cast mate’s “private life.”
Heartstopper, which premiered on Netflix on April 22, 2022, is based on Alice Oseman’s 2020 graphic novel
of the same name, which tells the love story of Charles “Charlie” Spring (Joe Locke), a shy gay student at Truham Grammar School who was recently outed, and Nicholas “Nick” Nelson (Kit Connor), a popular rugby player a year older than Charlie, who sits next to him in class one morning. The show, which has been viewed more than 24 million times since its premiere, follows Charlie and Nick’s relationship, from the start of their intimate friendship to Charlie’s crush on Nick and Nick’s struggles with his own sexuality and feelings for Charlie.
Locke and Connor, who are both 18 years old, told Them in May 2022 about how being close in age to their characters (Charlie is 15, while Nick is 16) helped them relate to Charlie and Nick. “I think it makes it more authentic because there’s a time and place for 35-year-olds playing 16-year-olds, you know.,” Locke said. “But Heartstopper is definitely a story that hasn’t been told before and so it should be told with the most authenticity as possible. I mean, me and Kit are still in school. We have our A Levels like three weeks after the show comes out. You couldn’t get anymore in school than that!” Connor added, “A really, really important aspect of it is how it plays out in school, and how it works in that environment. The fact that Joe and I both are still in school made it, to be honest, a little bit easier as actors because we didn’t have to think back and remember what it was like. We’re not thirty-year-olds playing teenagers; it’s very much our mindset now. School can be a very strange environment because it does feel like your whole life is just in school, in these friendship groups.”
Connor also revealed to Entertainment Weekly in May 2022 that he originally auditioned for Charlie before the creators of Heartstopper thought he would be a better fit for Nick.” Actually, I did audition for Charlie, which I think a lot of the Heartstopper fans find absolutely ridiculous,” he said. “I auditioned for Charlie and I did this scene, a monologue where, after their first kiss he’s essentially explaining that he completely regrets it and that he’s so sorry. It’s a beautiful scene and it’s a really wonderfully written scene so I was really excited to do it. But yeah, I auditioned for Charlie and then was quite quickly changed over to Nick I think as soon as they saw me really.”
Since playing Charlie and Nick, Locke and Connor have become close friends, so it should come as no surprise that Locke defended his co-star over rumors about Kit Connor’s sexuality. See how Joe Locke supported his co-star over fan speculation and what Kit Connor has said about his sexuality ahead.
What has Kit Connor said about his sexuality?
What has Kit Connor said about his sexuality? Connor—whose character, Nick, is bisexual in Heartstopper—responded to fan rumors about his sexuality in a tweet in May 2022. “twitter is so funny man. apparently some people on here know my sexuality better than I do…,” he tweeted. Joe Locke—who plays Nick’s boyfriend, Charlie—also defended Connor’s right to not go public with his sexuality in an interview Attitude in May 2022. “I think people ask questions but it doesn’t give them a right to know everything about everyone’s private life. When someone’s in the public eye some people assume that they’re OK with their private lives being public,” he said. “Just because you’re in something doesn’t mean you want your life spread around the Internet.”
Connor also told The Times in May 2022 about why he’s decided to keep his sexuality private. “I feel very strongly that I have no obligation to speak about my sexuality to the public,” he said. “I am comfortable and confident in it, but it is a very private matter.” While he’s private about his own sexuality, Connor commended Heartstopper for its representation of bisexuality in men in Nick’s storyline. “There is not much male bisexual representation, so I think it is really important that he is bi and that we really go into great detail and depth about Nick’s discovery of his sexuality and identity,” he said. Locke told The Independent about how sexuality is fluid for many cast members on Heartstopper. “I think, with a show like Heartstopper where the cast is so young and sexuality is becoming a more fluid thing, you can’t create an atmosphere where a young person has to come out before they are ready or [before they] understand their sexuality,” he said.
Locke also told The Times about why he doesn’t think an actor needs to be queer to play a queer role. “If playing a gay character were seen as a type, that would be homophobic and the industry would have to change,” he said. “I think if someone is playing a queer role they should at the very least be a fierce and strong ally and be educated about the people they are playing. I think that about every role.”
In an interview with NME, Connor also revealed that his “biggest motivation” to star in Heartstopper was to bring more representation of bisexual characters. One of the biggest motivations is the lack of representation for bisexual characters, especially male bisexual characters. There really aren’t that many [on screen], though I know Sex Education has a major male bisexual character,” he said. “But you know, this show is very much focused around that. Like, one of the biggest storylines is Nick exploring his sexuality. I suppose one of the challenges of a show like this is it’s never a ‘one size fits all’ kind of thing. We really have tried our best to be as inclusive and representative as possible… but at the same time, everyone’s experience in life is different. We very much tried our best to portray that and create a safe space for the queer community in particular.”
Connor also told Untitled Magazine that Nick’s bisexuality in the Heartstopper book was what attracted him to the character. “There are so many things that attracted me to playing Nick Nelson, it came about via my agent. It was a self-tape and they’d sent through the first volume of Heartstopper [the graphic novel] and I read it and thought it was great,” he said. “There isn’t much bisexuality representation [in media], especially male, but in Heartstopper it goes into quite a bit of depth. That was something new and fresh that I didn’t think had really been done before.”
Connor also told Untitled Magazine about how he and Nick are similar and different. “I’m sure a lot of people can see themselves in Nick, I try to play him as not only a popular and confident character, but he also has a layer of sensitivity and vulnerability,” he said. “I’m not particularly extroverted or super confident in day-to-day life, and that’s probably the main difference between us. Nick has some amazing bravery to explore himself, and I think a lot of people at times are scared to explore their personality and sexuality, and undergo a massive change in their life.”
While Connor hasn’t been public with his sexuality, his co-star, Locke, is openly gay. Locke confirmed his sexuality in an interview with The Independent in May 2022, where he opened up about how he felt “different” while growing up in Isle of Man in the United Kingdom because of his sexuality. “I was never bullied in school but I was a little bit different and I went through phases of being a bit quieter than I’d have liked…” he said. “Teenage years are really hard, I think, and when you grow up, you forget that being a teenager is actually really a bit shit sometimes. When you’re that age, all that matters is school. It’s your whole life. And your whole life is what people think about you and if you’re ever going to find someone who likes you. Part of me is still there, I’m still at school. School can be a wonderful place but it can also be a not so wonderful place if you don’t happen to fit in properly.”
Locke also emphasized about how he felt different in school because of his sexuality in an interview with Attitude magazine. “I think that with queer people there’s a universal experience of school that everyone sort of relates to, but then there are differences,” he said. “I never would say I was bullied. There was only a handful of people I can think of who ever said anything bad to me. Charlie really struggles with that. I think going to an all-boys school probably comes with its differences.” He continued, “I went to a co-ed state school, and I had more friends who were girls than boys. I think it would have been difficult for Charlie, especially in that situation.”
Despite his experience in school, Locke also told The Independent about how acceptance toward the LGBTQ+ community, especially among younger generations, has changed since he first came out. “A lot has changed in recent years but there’s still a long way to go,” he said. “Difference is seen as a bad thing in a lot of schools and to other teenagers because you don’t fit in with a certain norm that’s seen to be acceptable. I know from my own experience that that makes some things a bit difficult. I’d hope that as millennials are starting to have children and bring their children up, that will start to change things. But I think we’re on the tail end of the generation before, which wasn’t necessarily as accepting. There were definitely people who said things to people in my year who were different. And part of that is because, when you’re a teenager, you don’t know yourself, and a way of covering that is to attack other people. That may not change. But we can learn ways of trying to make it better.”
As for how he relates to Heartstopper, Locke also told The Independent about how he could see himself in a scene where Nick takes a BuzzFeed quiz to determine if he’s gay. “The classic BuzzFeed ‘Are you gay?’ quiz was genuinely a popular trend at my school,” Locke said. “It was like, if you got above a certain amount of points, then maybe you’re gay.” He also told the site about how his “dream role” would be to play Disney’s first openly gay prince to star in more projects that “mean something.” “I would love to play the first gay Disney prince,” he said. “That would be a dream.”
In an interview with Behind the Blinds, Locke also opened up about how he saw himself and his own queer experience in Charlie when he read the Hearstopper comic. “When I first heard about the audition, I read the comics and I just saw so much of myself in Charlie and so much of what my school experience was like,” he said. “I really wanted to be a part of the project because I felt like there are not many shows out there that depict the positives of growing up as a queer person – I just thought it was so great that there’s a story in which we can show younger queer kids that they deserve happiness.”
Locke also told GQ about how he related to the script of Heartstopper because of how rare it is to see “unapologetic queer love” on screen. “Charlie’s story is relatable for so many queer people. The second I read the script, I saw Charlie as a more introverted version of me. When I read it, I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s me. That’s really weird,'” he said. “I love how the script talks about queer love, which a lot of people still don’t write about. I love how unapologetic the queer love is in Heartstopper. The characters are never sorry about who they are, and they’re never ashamed to be themselves. It’s so empowering to see! The atmosphere on set was always happy and upbeat, and just really excited to be creating a queer story with nuance. It was such a supportive environment that shines through in the show.”
Heartstopper is available to stream on Netflix.
For more about Heartstopper, read Alice Oseman’s 2020 graphic novel
that inspired the series. The New York Times bestselling book, which features two-color artwork and was the American Booksellers’ Association’s Next Indie Pick of 2020, tells the full love story between Charlie Spring, a shy and softhearted student at Truham Grammar School who was recently outed, and Nick Nelson, a popular rugby player a year older than Charlie, who sits next to him in class one morning. The book follows Charlie and Nick’s relationship, from the start of their intimate friendship to Charlie’s crush on Nick and doubt that he even has a chance. The book also explores Nick’s struggles with his own sexuality and feelings for Charlie, as well as the ups and downs of high school and the innocence of first love.
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