'heart' in heartstopper

A full-on proper gay crisis: 20 fascinating facts about ‘Heartstopper’

Kit Connor, as Nick, sits and looks at Joe Locke, as Charlie, in school uniforms sitting at a desk in a promotional still for 'Heartstopper.' Animated leaves fall around them.

Has any film, television series, or piece of media ever highlighted the importance of LGBTQ+ representation like Heartstopper?

The British coming-of-age show –– based on a series of graphic novels by Alice Oseman –– tells the story of gay schoolboy Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), who falls in love with rugby star Nick Nelson (Kit Connor). Furthermore, they’re surrounded by a cast of lovable classmates, like newly out trans artist Elle Argent (Yasmin Finney) and her boyfriend Tao Xu (William Gao).

Through their coming outs, romantic firsts, and adolescent growing pains, both young and old LGBTQ+ people were able to see their stories depicted with sensitivity, innocence, and authenticity. For the first time.

It’s no wonder why Heartstopper quickly became one of Netflix‘s most-popular series, scoring its share of Emmys, GLAAD Media Awards, and a handful of honors at The Queerties.

The first season premiered in April 2022 and its second arrived in August 2023. Thankfully, a third installment is on the way… and can’t come soon enough.

In the meantime, dive into the lore of this heartwarming show with 20 fascinating facts about Heartstopper.

1. Over 10,000 people auditioned for the show via Zoom.

Kit Connor, as Nick, and Joe Locke, as Charlie, stand in a doorway in their school uniforms in a scene from 'Heartstopper.'
Image Credit: Netflix

The not-so-secret ingredient behind Heartstopper is its impeccable casting, but finding the perfect leads was no easy task. Because of the candid content, it was important that the teenage leads actually, uh, looked like teenagers. In the end, over 10,000 people auditioned through an open casting call.

“We wanted young actors, we wanted to cast authentically, [and] we obviously needed talented people,” Oseman told Tudum. “So we knew it was going to be a difficult, difficult task. But somehow, they just found their way to us.”

2. Joe Locke and Kit Connor met and bonded immediately.

Joe Locke, as Charlie, and Kit Connor, as Nick, embrace on a hotel bed in a scene from 'Heartstopper.' They smile while looking at each other.
Image Credit: Netflix

After auditioning for Heartstopper via Zoom, Locke and Connor came in for an IRL chemistry read… in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (“We were sat like 6 feet away with masks on, so it was an interesting way to meet,” Locke told Entertainment Weekly.)

Nevertheless, it was obvious “quite quickly” that the two actors had great on-screen chemistry. “It was just like Nick and Charlie had come to life in front of me,” Oseman recalled.

3. Alice Oseman made a cameo in Season 1.

The mastermind behind Heartstopper (and the Osemanverse at-large) made a cameo in Episode 8 of the show’s first season, appearing as a young girl sketching on the train, seated across from Nick and Charlie.

But what was she drawing? Her beloved characters, of course!

4. Baby Queen, Orla Gartland, and other queer artists received a huge streaming boost.

Any coming-of-age TV series is only as good as its indie-pop soundtrack, and Heartstopper‘s is second to none. The first season featured bops by queer artists like Baby Queen and Orla Gartland which seemed to seamlessly underscore the hit show’s tense moments of heartache and yearning. And they became hits of their own!

According to the UK’s Official Charts Company, inclusion in the series led to boosts in sales for nearly all of the songs, with “some tracks even gaining their best ever week of sales in the UK as a result.”

5. The show started off as a webcomic.

The illustrated cover for 'Heartstopper' webcomics, featuring a boy in Converse shoes and shorts and another in joggers and tennis shoes.
Image Credit: Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman was already an established author, having published young adult novels Solitaire and Radio Silence, when she dreamt up Nick and Charlie. Although she couldn’t shake their story, Oseman had trouble turning their “long, ongoing, episodic journey” into prose and hence, turned to the uber-popular webcomic format.

In 2016, she began self-publishing bite-sized comics about the two lovebirds on Tumblr, only to find their romance immediately resonated with readers.

6. Then the webcomic turned into a graphic novel, thanks to devoted fans.

After the webcomic’s success, Oseman launched a Kickstarter in 2018 to self-publish physical copies of the beloved Heartstopper story. She surpassed her $11,500 fundraising goal within two hours… and the series was eventually picked up by publishing company Hachette Book Group the next year.

It was through this Kickstarter campaign that Nick and Charlie’s story found executive producer Patrick Walters, whose production company See-Saw would eventually bring it to life.

7. Heartstopper went to a Netflix for a specific reason.

Kit Connor and Joe Locke smile and look on at a press event.
Image Credit: Getty Images

As executive producer Patrick Walters told Variety, the creative team went with Netflix due to its broad access to the type of young, queer people who needed this story.

“We really wanted to appeal to this young teen audience, it felt that Netflix was high on the list of targets, because it’s [in] 190 countries globally, it just is beamed into the younger generations’ devices,” he explained. “They were so positive that actually there was no time to think about anywhere else.”

8. Kit Connor felt forced to come out as bisexual.

In November 2022 –– and amidst rampant online speculation and accusations of queerbaiting –– Connor felt forced to make a statement on X, writing, “back for a minute. i’m bi. congrats for forcing an 18 year old to out himself. i think some of you missed the point of the show. bye.”

Nevertheless, despite feeling forced (and a fan attitude that contradicted the series’ spirit of sexual discovery and taking one’s time), Connor looks back on the situation with optimism. “I think it was a bit disappointing,” he told Teen Vogue. “The reaction that I got in just trying to be myself and trying to discover myself and putting boundaries up. But despite that, I was still happy.”

9. Joe Locke never officially came out as a gay.

Ironically enough, Joe Locke, who identifies as gay, revealed in a 2023 interview that he never actually came out to the media. “People have assumed and written it, and I haven’t corrected anyone because I haven’t felt the need to,” he told Teen Vogue. “But I’ve never specifically stated my sexuality.”

The Agatha All Along star explained that he knew he felt different around 9-years-old, and has been “openly gay [to friends and family] since I was, like, 12.”

10. Olivia Colman filmed her scenes in just two days.

Olivia Colman, with tears in her eyes, smiles at Kit Connor, as Nick, sitting at a kitchen table in a scene from 'Heartstopper.'
Image Credit: Netflix

Olivia Colman is mother –– and she’s literally Nick’s mother Sarah in the first two seasons of Heartstopper.

While the legendary actress was unable to commit to a third season due to timing, her appearance in the show (especially her performance during her son’s coming out as bisexual) was scene-stealing. Colman filmed her scenes within two days, though Oseman never expected someone as popular as The Favourite star would’ve given them the time of day.

“I thought there was no way she would want to be a part of this or anyone famous would want to be a part of this,” she told Metro. “I was proven wrong!”

11. There was careful consideration to every book Isaac reads throughout the series.

Tobie Donovan, as Isaac, sits in a school uniform and jacket reading "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder" in a scene from 'Heartstopper.'
Image Credit: Netflix

A voracious reader with a deep loyalty for his friends, Isaac (Tobie Donovan) quickly became a fan favorite, especially as we’ve watched him navigate his asexuality throughout the show.

And through the tomes Isaac is seen lugging around, fans are able to glean information about his personality and what’s happening on the show. Some of these titles include retired gay rugby player Gareth Thomas’ memoir Proud: My Autobiography, a book featuring interviews with trans kids Gender Explorers, and There is No Planet B, a book about steps individuals can make to fight climate change, showing “[he’s] always one step ahead.”

12. The uniforms at Truham Boys School evolve with Nick & Charlie’s relationship.

Two-panel image. On the left, a Truham Boys School uniform emblem with a few sprouts on its T like a tree. The panel reads "Spring." On the right, the same emblem under "Summer," with a more flowered tree on the T.
Image Credit: Tudum/Netflix

The coming-of-age series is filled with Easter eggs that highlight how Charlie and Nick’s relationship is changing them –– and their peers –– for the better.

One major detail, as highlighted on Tudum by Netflix, appears in plain sight on the Truham Boys School uniforms. According to production designers, “the tree has no leaves in winter, some leaves in spring, and is in full bloom during summer” to mimic “Nick and Charlie’s blossoming relationship.”

13. Heartstopper was nearly the entire cast’s debut roles.

Although Heartstopper‘s young-adult leads are well primed for Hollywood stardom after its incredible success, the show marked the onscreen debut for nearly every actor.

Only Connor and Sebastian Croft, who portrayed Ben, had other projects (like Rocketman and Game of Thrones, respectively) on their resumés.

14. Kit Connor originally auditioned to play Charlie Spring.

Kit Connor and Joe Locke smile outdoors around a lit up fair and Ferris wheel while filming for 'Heartstopper.'
Image Credit: Netflix

It’s hard to imagine anyone besides Kit portraying soft and sweet rugby player Nick Nelson. But as he told Entertainment Weekly, he originally auditioned for Charlie “which a lot of the Heartstopper fans find absolutely ridiculous.”

“I did this scene, a monologue where, after this first kiss he’s essentially explaining that he completely regrets it and that he’s so sorry,” he explained, adding that after reading the first four volumes of the graphic novel, he knew this was “something I’ve got to be a part of.”

15. The animated doodles appear during patented “Heartstopper moments.”

Kit Connor, as Nick, holds Joe Locke, as Charlie, while laying on a beach in a scene from 'Heartstopper.' Animated leaves appear all around them.
Image Credit: Netflix

The animated doodles that appear in the show –– from falling leaves to butterflies –– are entirely intentional. Not only are the illustrations “an Easter egg for fans of the original webcomic and a tool that helps the series feel all the more magical and surreal,” but they help underscore its most heart-tugging sequences.

“When we were writing the scripts, we came up with this idea called ‘Heartstopper moments,’ which are sort of emotional moments in the story,” Oseman, who storyboarded all the effects, explained to Tudum. You can spot them when Charlie and Nick meet, during daydreams, or even fearful moments.

16. The cast is just as “bonded” off screen as they are onscreen.

William Gao, Yasmin Finney, Joe Locke, and Kit Connor pose on a red carpet for a queer media event.
Image Credit: Getty Images

As the show’s executive producer Patrick Walters told Teen Vogue, “They’re such a bonded gang in the comics and the scripts … and then you have actors who are also equally bonded and love each other so much.”

Connor and Donovan even made the trek to New York in support of Locke’s recent Broadway stint in Sweeney Todd. (“Well done sweetheart,” Connor wrote on Instagram Stories. Aww!)

17. Locke & Connor are outspoken advocates for the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only is the Heartstopper cast making waves for the LGBTQ+ community with their onscreen representation, but they’re taking to the streets. During a London Pride Parade, the cast hilariously flipped off anti-queer protestors who appeared at the event.

Furthermore, Locke inspired change on the Isle of Man after calling out its “archaic rule” against gay men donating blood in a video for their 2022 Pride celebration. In a statement, the government responded that “discrimination based on sexual orientation is set to be done away with entirely.”

18. The biggest difference in the series is its supporting characters.

William Gao, as Tao, and Yasmin Finney, as Elle, pose wearing sports uniforms on a field in a scene from 'Heartstopper.'
Image Credit: Netflix

The biggest difference between the Heartstopper comics and TV series is that each season allows more room to focus on its cast of supporting characters. Although fan favorites like Elle, Tao, Isaac, Tara (Corinna Brown), and Darcy (Kizzy Edgell) appear in the books, Oseman told Tudum that the series let her “show [their stories] in so much more detail.”

“In the comics, especially, Tara and Darcy are the perfect couple,” Oseman explained. “They’re together, they’re solid, they don’t really have any issues.” But in the show, she was able to show “things aren’t always perfect.”

19. A 2015 novella by Oseman may hint at what’s to come for Nick & Charlie.

Nick and Charlie, animated, sit on a bed cuddled up and reading a book together. The picture is an illustration for Alice Oseman's "Nick and Charlie" 2015 novella.
Image Credit: Alice Oseman/HarperCollins Children’s Books

Before Heartstopper was an award-winning series (or even a webcomic or graphic novel), Oseman began writing Nick and Charlie’s story near its end in the appropriately titled Nick and Charlie. The 2015 novella was penned as a spinoff of her first novel Solitaire, though it has a much more fatalistic view of first loves.

“Nick is leaving for university, and Charlie will be left behind at Sixth Form,” its description reads. “Everyone’s asking if they’re staying together, which is a stupid question … Or are they delaying the inevitable? Because everyone knows that first loves rarely last forever….” Still, Oseman has yet to reveal whether the new series’ ginormous success might affect the characters’ eventual fate.

20. The third season picks up from a very important cliffhanger.

The script for 'Heartstopper' Season 3 with a pencil resting on top of it. The script reads "Season 3, Episode 1, 'Love' by Alice Oseman."
Image Credit: Alice Oseman/Netflix

Heartstopper Season 2 ended with a huge cliffhanger: Charlie types out a DM to Nick reading, “I love you.” Is he going to press send? Will the two youngsters finally say those three mighty words? It’s a moment that didn’t even happen in the comics! But the answer likely lies in the Season 3 premiere episode title: “Love.”

Still, Oseman is keeping tight-lipped. “We know that Charlie loves Nick,” she told Tudum. “I think we know that Nick loves Charlie as well. It’s just about when and how they’re going to say that to each other.”

Hopefully the big moment doesn’t make our own hearts stop when Season 3 hits Netflix on October 3, 2024.

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