Home Graphic novel Joe Locke on his Netflix hit ‘Heartstopper’ and the importance of queer love stories

Joe Locke on his Netflix hit ‘Heartstopper’ and the importance of queer love stories


Joe Locke had no idea about Netflix Heart stroke would be such an instant hit. (It’s always hard to know exactly how many people watch Netflix shows since the streamer doesn’t release viewership numbers, but Heart stroke overcome Varietythe “Trending TV” chart by a wide margin, possesses near-perfect scores from Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s huge on gay Twitter.) Locke, who stars in the queer teen coming-of-age story, always saw it as a “small show” on “a small budget,” he explains. But “when all the buzz started coming in, we were like, ‘Whoa, we didn’t expect this.'” The series, based on a graphic novel by British author Alice Oseman, follows the romance between Charlie Spring (Locke), who is shy and comfortable with his queer identity, and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), a popular and outspoken rugby player. “It’s so awesome that a show that’s based on gay people, made by gay people, and has mostly gay characters has gone mainstream,” Locke said.

Heart stroke is mostly lighthearted, celebrating the fluidity of sexuality, love, and maturity with nuance and joy. It’s also Locke’s acting debut after being chosen over 10,000 other hopefuls in an open casting call. The 18-year-old is still completing his education at Ballakermeen High School in the Isle of Man (population: 85,000) off the northwest coast of England, and between finals he spoke to GQ about Heart strokequeer representation and falling in love.

QG: What specifically attracted you to the script when you first read it?

Joe Locke: Alice [Oseman] has such a wonderful way of creating rich, complex characters that mean so much to people. Charlie’s story is relevant to so many queer people. The second I read the script, I saw Charlie as a more introverted version of me. When I read it, I was like, “Oh my God, that’s me. That’s really weird.”

I love how the script talks about queer love, which a lot of people still don’t write about. I love how shameless queer love is Heart stroke. The characters are never sorry for who they are and they are never ashamed of being themselves. It’s so stimulating to see! The atmosphere on set was always cheerful and upbeat, and really excited to create a queer story with nuance. It was such a supportive environment that comes through in the show.

Courtesy of Netflix