Noah Schnapp recalls how embracing his Stranger Things character helped him come out as gay

On the left, a still of Will Byers in season four of Stranger Things. on the right, Noah Schnapp wearing a black shirt and a white blazer.

Actor Noah Schnapp has revealed that he would “still be closeted” if it wasn’t for his Stranger Things character being gay.

Schnapp, 18, plays student Will Byers in Netflix’s juggernaut sci-fi drama. Ever since episode one, where his mother Joyce (played by Winona Ryder) says that other kids call him “queer”, the fandom has been obsessed with Will’s sexuality.

Up until the latest season, Will was too preoccupied with working out his connection to the parallel realm, the Upside Down, and its monstrous villain Vecna, to think much about his sexuality.

But in season four, which aired in the spring, Will’s sexuality became clearer. During one scene, as best friend Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) opens up about being worried that his girlfriend El (Millie Bobby Brown) will no longer need him one day, a teary Will responds: “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake.”

In a much-memed moment, Will then turns his head, looking away from Mike, and weeps, with fans certain that the scene meant that he is gay and has feelings for his pal.

Will Byers. (Netflix)
Noah Schnapp plays gay student Will Byers. (Netflix)

Schnapp later confirmed, in an interview with Variety that the character is indeed gay, and is in love with Mike.

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“I think for season four, it was just me playing this character who loves his best friend but struggles with knowing if he’ll be accepted or not, and feeling like a mistake and like he doesn’t belong,” Schnapp said at the time. “Will has always felt like that.”

Now, in a new interview, the Queerty and People’s Choice Awards winner explained that it was his journey of playing an LGBTQ+ character that enabled him to feel comfortable enough to come out as gay himself.

In January, Schnapp posted a TikTok in which he lip-synced to an audio recording that said: “It was never that serious, it will never be that serious.” In text written above his head, he wrote: “When I finally told my friends and family I was gay, after being scared in the closet for 18 years, all they said was, ‘We know’.”

@noahschnapp

I guess I’m more similar to will than I thought

♬ original sound – Privacynbling

He’d captioned the video with: “I guess I’m more similar to Will than I thought.”

Speaking to Variety about his coming out, Schnapp said that once he saw the positive reaction to Will being gay, he felt able to accept that he is gay, too.

“It kind of blew up in the press, and everyone was like: ‘Oh, Will’s gay, hooray’. I saw all these comments on Instagram and TikTok. There was not one bad thing about him being gay.

“I was like, if he has all this support, why should I worry about anything? Once I did fully embrace that Will was gay, it was just an exponential speed towards accepting it for myself.

“I would be in a completely different place if I didn’t have Will to portray, and to embrace and help me accept myself. If I never played that character, I probably would still be closeted,” he admitted.

Elsewhere in the interview, he went on to explain that his mother, father, twin sister and wider circle of friends all had similar, positive reactions.

However, when it came to telling his Stranger Things co-star Brown, he still struggled.

“I kept trying to do it in person with her, it was too hard,” he revealed. “So, I just FaceTimed her one day and I was like: ‘Millie, I’m gay’. And she was like, ‘Oh, Schnapper, you told me finally’.”

Since coming out as gay at the beginning of the year, Schnapp has been embracing his sexuality, and in June, he celebrated New York City Pride, dancing in a water fountain while wearing a vest that had “straight outta the closet” on it in rainbow lettering.

“It was truly such a liberating feeling, just seeing my parents cheer me on,” he said. “I’ve never felt so supported and loved.”

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