At just 18, Kit Connor has garnered the kind of online attention that could only come from starring in an explosively popular Netflix series. heart stopper, in which Connor plays one of two lead roles, was adapted from the webcomics created by Alice Oseman, and as a series (also written by Oseman) it gets to the heart of the queer connection in an upbeat and surprisingly delightful way. However, don’t be fooled by the show’s seemingly youthful setting –heart stopper may take place in a high school at sweaty rugby matches and after-school parties, but its pivotal relationships can warm the iciest of hearts.
Joining a cast of promising young actors, Connor plays Nick Nelson, a high school jock who begins to uncover his true feelings for protagonist Charlie Spring (Joe Locke), and with it a reckoning with his friendships and sexuality . On a Zoom call from his home in the UK, Connor tells the story W he’s studying for his Advanced Level qualifications while sitting in front of a bright pink poster that has the words “Gonna Be Okay” written on it. He shares a feeling of great gratitude for his heart stopper Rolle, adding that landing Nick after he originally auditioned for the role of Charlie turned out to be “a match made in heaven.”
Wearing a short sleeve beige button closure, Connor is relaxed and articulate. In our conversation, he embodies a level of introspection and self-reflection about his role and the landscape of queer representation in media that seems rare for an actor so young. If I tell him that heart stopper Feeling very single as an older millennial, he jokes that this was the plan all along, that everyone is “very, very sad and jealous of Nick and Charlie” — and that for older queer viewers it must be a “bittersweet” experience heart stopper when they were more limited in their opportunities to grow up with queer-centric television.
With the encouragement of his parents, who wanted their shy child to break out of his shell, acting was originally just a hobby for Connor. He booked his first role at the age of eight, appearing first in commercials and then in film and television. In 2019, the actor garnered some acclaim for his performance as a young Elton John in the biopic rocket Man, while also starting to do some voiceover work. He admits that few know that he is currently addressing Pan Its dark materials, the shape-shifting mouse companion of protagonist Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen). “It always surprises them when they hear it, and then they can’t help but hear it,” he jokes. (Its dark materials scheduled to release a third and final season later this year.)
According to Connor, Nick is one of the most relatable characters heart stopper, and one to connect with on a personal level while preparing for the role. “On a broader level, he’s going through this mental turmoil and this inner struggle for his place in school and society, his sexuality and the people he surrounds himself with,” explains Connor. “I can relate to Nick in so many ways, and so many of the experiences he has on the show, I’ve literally experienced just that.”
As the series progresses, Nick not only grows closer to Charlie, but also to a nurturing group of friends who identify as straight and queer and embrace him as one of their own. “The characters are so pure and it’s such a refreshing, positive and upbeat take on life and the strange,” notes Connor. “I think that’s nice.”
A highlight of filming for the series came when Connor spent two days working closely with prolific Oscar winner Olivia Colman. It was an experience he calls “absolute bliss” and “an honor.” Colman was recruited to play Nick’s doting mother and the two actors share some of the season’s most tender scenes. “She’s such an effortlessly talented actress,” he enthuses. “She’s so professional but also so calm, puts you at ease straight away and knows exactly when to crack a joke.” While Connor says he has a hard time crying on cue, he was impressed by Colman’s control of her emotions and her ability to switch back and forth between them seemingly effortlessly. That is, a scene where Nick frantically googles “Am I gay?” brought a real tear from Connor, an experience that is viscerally realistic for the queer coming-of-age experience.
heart stopper provides an example of positive queer representation for its youthful audience, and Connor says he wants the show to benefit both straight and queer viewers equally. He wants the series to be “a safe space for queer teens and adults to make the LGBTQIA+ community feel safe and represented and loved,” he says, adding, “I hope we’ve done justice to queerness.” But he also wants straight viewers to stick around to see and enjoy queer characters in states of joy and love, rather than some of the darker themes – like drugs and death – that often set the tone in queer storytelling.
The series was embraced by fans so intensely that Connor is still adjusting to the experience of being recognized on the street. in the a recent tweetThe actor also felt he needed to address fans who have been speculating about his sexuality online. On the one hand, Connor says he has empathy for those who want to know. “I totally understand that they want an authentic queer performance and ideally would like to know the sexuality of the person playing the role,” he explains. “I totally agree that authenticity is something to strive for.”
On the other hand, boundaries are rarely respected online. “People can get a little too comfortable on social media,” he says. “Speculating about a person’s sexuality is so dangerous, especially for someone my age of 18, it’s a bit weird for me to see. If I haven’t said anything, you shouldn’t suspect anything, but you shouldn’t pressure me to tell people either. It’s a very personal journey that people have to go on.”
To stay centered, Connor has found a sense of calm by working out at the gym for two hours, a habit he’s maintained after building up for his bulk heart stopper Role. He’s also been watching “whatever I can, whenever I can” to wind down lately Bridgerton, top boy, and catch up Euphoria. And while he’d love to one day play a character who’s polar opposite of Nick (“someone meaner and twisted,” he says) or enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his philosophy is to keep an open mind. For now, Connor will play at least two more seasons of Nick heart stopper, a renewal announcement just in time for Pride month. “I try not to have a lot of dream roles or goals or anything like that,” he says. “I’m just trying to see what happens.”