[This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike authorization.]
Let the swooning begin! Season 2 of Netflix‘s U.K.-based gay teen romance drama Heartstopper is back to explore what happens next for sweet Charlie Spring (Joe Locke) and jock Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). The Season 1 finale found the pair finally together as a bona fide couple and Nick taking the big personal step to come out to his understanding mother Sarah (The Crown‘s Olivia Colman) as bisexual.
And while Season 2 picks up shortly after the finale, Nick’s coming out is a big part of these episodes as he’s unexpectedly unprepared for coming out to everyone which, of course, impacts his relationship with Charlie as the pair only tell their inner circle.
To find out more, TV Insider had a chance to chat with Locke about Charlie dealing with Nick’s dilemma, his working relationship with Connor, and what was the most challenging part of filming the eight-episode second season. (Don’t worry, we also talked to Connor, and that chat is coming next week!)
What do you make of the fact that the show does reach so many different age groups and demographic? Because I feel like I’m not the target audience, but I know a lot of people my age that love the show.
Joe Locke: I think when we were making it, we were not aware that that would happen, but when the show came out and it reached a way larger audience and way wider range age audience than we’d ever expected, it was really… Well, obviously because shows like this didn’t exist back when those people were our age, and so obviously people are going to be attracted to it. So I find it really beautiful that we’ve managed to create something that means so much to a lot of different types of people.
I have heard myself say to a lot of people that I wish I had a show like this when I was young and trying to figure myself out because I think the show says a lot about that, so congrats on that.
Thank you so much.
How would you say Charlie has changed since Season 1?
I always have said that Charlie’s got this quiet confidence to him. He knows what he wants from his life and he knows how to get those things. Whereas I feel like in Season 2, in general, he’s just more confident. He’s more confident in himself, he’s more confident in the person he loves, he’s more confident in his friendships, which was really fun to play.
I think also Charlie, along with the whole show, matures in Season 2 — especially in the last four episodes you see that more than the first four. But the show is like… We’re growing up with these characters. It’s never going to be an adult show, but they’re teenagers and you do a lot of growing up when you’re a teenager. So I think that the show does that with the characters.
You never know, Joe. It could run 10 years and you do the college years and then the late 20s. It could go on for a while.
You never know.
One of the big parts of Season 2 is Nick dealing with coming out to all the friends and people at school and that, which is harder than he would expect. How does Charlie react to that?
Charlie really understands Nick’s feelings and he understands the difficulty of what Nick has to do or wants to do. But I think they have this deep love for each other that Charlie will always just be there for Nick no matter what, no matter how hard it is for Nick. Charlie just cares about Nick’s feelings. In an ideal world, Charlie would scream to the rooftops about their relationship, but he cares so much about Nick that he wants it to be the most painless and perfect way for him.
Let’s talk about Charlie’s home life a little bit with his parents and how they deal with the fact that now he’s in this relationship. What do we see in that dynamic?
Charlie has been bullied badly, which you didn’t see [on the show]. He has had a hard time adjusting and giving Charlie the freedom that every teenager wants. In the comics, it’s dealt with more, and I don’t know if in Season 3 that will be explored further, but Charlie and his mom have an interesting relationship that’s very, very classic teenage child and parent. But it was really fun to play a bit of a brat in some of the scenes and arguing with the parents. That was really fun.
At one point Charlie says to his sister that he really wants everything to be perfect with Nick. How realistic is that just knowing the world as it is and what may be coming down the pike?
That’s a classic line of foreshadowing for the audience rather than anything else. Also, I don’t think Charlie really believes that. He wants to be an optimist at heart, even though I’m not sure he necessarily is.
How careful do Charlie and Nick have to be at school especially if Nick’s not ready to come completely out at school?
It’s as careful as they can be. They try but they have this infatuation for sure that they can’t deny. I think in the early episodes they get caught a few times.
They can’t help themselves.
How has it been working with Kit for Season 2 since you had the whole first season to get to know each other?
God, it was just really awful. He’s such an awful person. [Laughs] I’m joking. He’s the easiest person to work with. We have this level of comfortability with each other that I’m not sure I could ever have with anyone else. He’s the best scene partner you could ever ask for and especially when you have to kiss this person time and time and time and time and time and time and time again, which never are fun scenes to film. They’re always awkward. But working with Kit makes them the least awkward as possible because we’ll just have fun and laugh and try and make it less awkward.
I feel like Season 2 also really gives all the other characters a lot to do. It’s not all Charlie and Nick-focused.
Yeah, definitely. I often find with adaptions, you always lose some story; whereas I feel like with our show, nothing is lost. Just lots and lots of additional space is made [in the show] for the other characters. The comics are really based only on Nick and Charlie; whereas the show, there’s a lot more space in the ensemble, which is great. This season we have so much of Tao [William Gao] and Elle’s [Yasmin Finney] relationship and Tara [Corinna Brown] and Darcy’s [Kizzy Edgell] relationship, and also Isaac gets his limelight, because Tobie [Donovan]’s an amazing actor and he deserves the limelight.
The Tao and Elle story this season, I think, is my favorite in any story of the season. I think it’s really gorgeously played out, because I think there’s this idea sometimes of Heartstopper that it just simplifies what teenage relationships are. With the Tao and Elle story, there’s a lot of chewing and fraying. Will they, won’t they, but in a different way to what’s Nick and Charlie’s relationship, which I think is great. This Heartstopper is all about showing different types of relationships.
The show has such an innocence about it, even though these are teenagers and life is happening around them. Do you think that continues through Season 2 or does it get a little more adult?
Heartstopper is always going to be Heartstopper. It’s never going to be a show which is explicit. The show matures this season, especially in the later episodes where there’s more conflict and more of a mature conflict than anything else.
Were there any scenes or moments in Season 2 that were particularly challenging to you as an actor, whether they were super emotional or just something you weren’t expecting?
The final scene of the show is gorgeous. It’s my favorite scene of the show but also was definitely the hardest scene to do as an actor. Without giving too much away, it’s just a very emotionally raw scene and it’s also the most grownup scene in the show. It shows the real maturity of Nick and Charlie as characters. I’m very excited for people to see it, but also it was hard and really tested the craft.
I saw on social media you were at a lot of Pride events. What’s that feel like to get direct reaction from people who have watched the show and are excited about it?
It’s still not very real. It’s really something that will never be real, but it’s a been really nice hearing how Heartstopper really affected people in real ways with people talking to you about a show that means as much to them as it means to you. So it’s really beautiful and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.
Heartstopper, Season 2 Premiere, Thursday, August 3, Netflix