Author and screenwriter Alice Oseman has spoken about her experience of writing authentic queer experiences for new Netflix series Heartstopper.
Oseman, 27, wrote the popular Heartstopper graphic novel series which follows the lives of Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson after they meet at school and fall in love.
The series has sold one million print copies since its publication and has been adapted for a Netflix show airing later this month.
Speaking ahead of its release, Oseman revealed her love of writing queer characters and her commitment to ensuring their experiences are portrayed realistically on screen.
“I love writing about queer experiences as a queer person myself. It’s just something I always feel drawn to writing about,” she said.
“Back when I was writing the comics I was very aware that there was little bisexual representation anywhere, really.
“Heartstopper celebrates all kinds of different queer experiences and I like to show a variety of experiences and people who are different.”
Oseman said a large part of showing realistic experiences through her characters comes from authentic casting, and she had been very particular about who would take on the roles of Charlie, Nick and the show’s other characters.
“We wanted a trans actor to play Elle, we wanted the actors to be around the right age and obviously, there needs to be talented actors as well,” she said.
Love meets doubt. Fear meets joy. Boy meets boy. Heartstopper is coming to Netflix 22 April. pic.twitter.com/rW3ieOL1Gv
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) April 13, 2022
“So there were a lot of different factors, which made it a really stressful process, particularly trying to find authentic actors.
“If we didn’t find the people we knew the show just wouldn’t work. But we were determined to do it anyway.
“And we were lucky. We found the perfect people.”
Joe Locke will make his screen acting debut portraying Charlie, while Nick is played by Kit Connor, who previously played a young Elton John in the singer-songwriter’s biopic Rocketman.
William Gao plays Tao Xu, while Yasmin Finney stars as Elle Argent, Corinna Brown as Tara Jones, Kizzy Edgell as Darcy Olsson, Sebastian Croft as Ben Hope, Jenny Walser as Tori Spring and Fisayo Akinade plays Mr Ajayi.
Oseman, who secured her first publishing deal at the age of 17, said the welfare of the cast, which features several young actors, was incredibly important.
“Welfare of the actors was something that we’ve been thinking about since day one, and just being there for them and making sure that they have people in the world of Heartstopper, to turn to if they have any issues with anything,” she said.
“It is a really intense experience to go from being an actor who has no professional credits into a show that has such a giant passionate fandom.
“It’s really, really wild. But from day one, we have just tried to make sure that they know that there’s support there if they need it.”
Through the authentic casting choices Oseman explained the cast have been able to show truly realistic experiences, which will allow viewers to relate to the on-screen storylines.
“That is kind of the heart of heartstopper, it’s showing these real issues, these bad things that can happen to people, but showing that there is hope and joy anyway and giving it that optimistic spin,” she said.
“That’s what creates the realism of the show. I think without the bad things, it would feel very idealistic and not real.
“So I think people will feel a lot closer to it to see that there are these negative things, but also see that there’s hope for the future.”
She added: “One of the challenges of writing, particularly for the show, is getting the drama in there and writing a compelling story that keeps people watching, while not making it unrealistic or melodramatic or too dark as well.”
Heartstopper launches on Netflix on April 22, 2022.