Heartstopper season two star Bradley Riches says autistic TV representation ‘heading in right direction’

Bradley Riches as James McEwan in Heartstopper season 2

Heartstopper is set to return to Netflix for season two this August, reuniting viewers with teen boyfriends Nick (Kit Connor) and Charlie (Joe Locke) and introducing us to a brand new cast of supporting characters including James McEwan, played by TV newcomer Bradley Riches.

Riches is just one of a number of actors who’ve landed roles in Hearstopper’s second TV outing, which is expected to cover events from volumes three and four of Alice Oseman’s original graphic novel series.

With Heartstopper already guaranteed to return for season three, and with Volume 5 of the graphic novel set to be released this year and Volume 6 on the way, there’s plenty more of Nick and Charlie’s story still to come, but for now, here’s what we know about series newcomer Riches and his character James.

Bradley Riches plays student James McEwan in Heartstopper season two

Actor Bradley Riches made a brief on-line appearance towards the end of Heartstopper season one.

Heartstopper actor Bradley Riches, who plays James McEwan, smiling (left) and drinking from a mug in bed (right).
Bradley Riches has spoken of his pride at being a visible autistic actor. (Instagram)

Riches has been upgraded to a named role for season two, playing Truman student James McEwan

In September 2022, Riches reacted to news of his casting by sharing a photo of himself on Instagram with the caption: “So proud to announce that I will be playing ‘JAMES MCEWAN’ in Netflix’s Heartstopper S2. Can’t wait for everyone to meet him.”

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Fans of the original graphic novels will know that the character of James is a sweet-natured minor character who appears to have a crush on Charlie and is dared to kiss him during a game at Tara’s birthday party.

Riches has confirmed that the character of James will be explored more deeply in Heartstopper season 2, telling Metro: “It’s really exciting to be part of the Heartstopper universe. James in the comics is only in one scene, so it’s nice to expand the character in ways that I can’t yet say, but whenever I have a character, I always like to bring part of myself to it, as well as escaping my own self.

“I like to find similarities between the character and myself, and that’s what made James.”

Bradley Riches is proud to be a visible autistic actor

Bradley Riches is represented by United Agents has more than 63,000 followers on Instagram.

Riches is autistic, while it is not yet known whether the character of James on Heartstopper will also be autistic, the actor has told Metro that he’s passionate about autistic representation on screen.

“Obviously, Heartstopper is a massive platform and having that with Netflix too is amazing,” he said.

“I never had this when I was younger, I never saw an actor who was openly autistic, but we’re getting towards the right place with more autistic actors playing autistic roles, which should always be the case, otherwise it’s not truthful representation.”

“Someone who hasn’t had lived autistic experiences can’t do the role justice. Netflix and mainstream media at the moment is heading in the right direction which is really exciting. But there’s more to do.”

In an interview with Revamp Magazine published in February 2023, Riches revealed he is writing a play about autism, stating: “It’s a one person play and it’s basically about me – I’m very self-obsessed. It wouldn’t feel authentic otherwise.”

What else has Bradley Riches appeared in? 

Riches told Revamp Magazine that Heartstopper is his first TV gig, but growing up he did a lot of amateur musicals. 

Riches has had roles in Footloose at the Southwark Playhouse, Monstersongs at The Other Palace, Disaster! at the Charing Cross Theatre, Kin The Musical at The Other Palace and A Christmas Story at Waterloo East Theatre, to name a few. 

Who else is joining Heartstopper season two? 

Other newcomers to Heartstopper include TikTok star Bel Priestley as Naomi, Leila Khan as Higgs school student Sahar Zahid, while Jack Barton, who has appeared in The Pursuit of Love, will play Nick’s older brother David

In addition, theatre star Nima Taleghan will be play Mr Farouk, a new Truman teacher.

The new characters will star alongside the existing ones including Kit Connor, who will be returning as Nick, and Joe Locke, who will be back as Charlie.  

Sneak peeks from the production of season two has revealed that Nick and Charlie could be visiting Paris

Alice Oseman has given away a few clues about the show’s second series, claiming that the next season of the show may explore “darker issues”. 

She said in an interview with PinkNews that if viewers have read volume three of the graphic novels “you’ll know that there are certain things coming”.

“I’m really excited for people to see our mental health storyline in Heartstopper. I think it’ll bring something quite different. I’m excited to see what people think,” she said.

“We will be following the story of the comics quite closely, but also expanding on and exploring other characters … There’s also so many surprises in store. I can’t wait.”