Kit Connor breaks down the one big difference between Heartstopper and queer TV

Kit Connor talks queer representation in Heartstopper. (Netflix)

Heartstopper star Kit Connor has expertly explained how Netflix’s smash-hit series subverts expectations for LGBTQ+ shows with its depiction of queer joy.

Based on Alice Oseman’s bestselling graphic novels, Netflix’s coming-of-age series Heartstopper has cultivated a devoted queer fanbase since its first season landed in April 2022.

The show has been hailed as a breath of fresh air when it comes to onscreen queer representation, featuring a diverse young cast and authentic queer characters from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

The first season followed shy gay student Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) as he navigated his first relationship with popular rugby captain Nick Nelson (Kit Connor).

The highly-anticipated second season – which lands on Netflix next month – is set to follow the couple as they continue to figure out their sexual identities and overcome the challenges that come along with making their relationship public.

Although creator Alice Oseman has previously hinted that the second instalment of the show will be considerably “darker” and “more mature”, tackling issues such as homophobia and mental heath struggles, Connor has reassured fans that it will continue to highlight queer joy.

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Heartstopper season two promotional image.
Heartstopper season two promotional image. (Netflix)

In an interview with the Guardian on Saturday (22 July), the Rocketman actor reflected upon the huge success of the show, and how its depiction of the queer experience made it so markedly different from other high-profile queer media.

“It was called ‘the anti-Euphoria thing’, which was catchy but true,” he explained. “Queer media is pretty dark and depressing and involves a lot of trauma, whereas we wanted to push the other message: that being queer can be beautiful.

“There will be adversity, sure,” Connor said of the second season. “There are highs and lows. But the highs can be really high, so it’s worth fighting for.”

The actor also described his “shock” at the show’s popularity among both US and UK audiences (it ranked as the fifth most-watched Netflix show in the English language) and how it differed from the usual “heavily sexualised” coming-of-age dramas.

“We were surprised anyone was watching it,” he admitted. “We don’t have any drugs in this show. We don’t have any sex. We don’t even have vapes. So, yes, it was wild.

“Especially with 18-year-olds; I thought it might hit a slightly lower age group. I was looking at the TV shows people my age were watching, and it was super-saturated with dark, sexual content, pretty stressful-to-watch shows.”

Connor is likely referring to the popular TV shows centred around scandal-ridden teenage behaviour such as Euphoria, Ginny and Georgia, The Fosters and Sex Education.

Connor also highlighted how Heartstopper doesn’t subscribe to the media’s typical hyper-sexualisation of young queer people.

“I don’t think there’s a lack of queer sex in the media, but a lot of the time when queer people are on screen, especially gay and bisexual men, they are heavily sexualised. So, I think there’s something quite nice about the fact that we’re not sexualising it,” he concluded.

The actor also took the opportunity to point out the irony of being forced to come out as queer on Twitter last year, when his character’s storyline in season one saw him struggle with negative stereotypes over what constituted “queer” as he navigated his sexual identity.

“The whole point of the show is that [queerness] is not always so stereotyped,” he continued.

“There are so many lines in the show where someone goes: ‘Nick Nelson, he’s the straightest guy in the school. He’s the captain of the rugby team so there’s no way [he’s queer].’ Sometimes you just need to give people space.”

Connor has previously explained how he would have kept his bisexuality private, but felt the need to speak up about his sexuality after he faced accusations of “queerbaiting” by fans for holding hands with a female co-star Maia Reficco.

Heartstopper season two drops on Netflix on 3 August, 2023. Season one is available to stream now.

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