What started as a webcomic turned graphic novel will shortly be taking over screens one heartstopping moment at a time. Heartstopper, based on the books for Scholastic by Alice Oseman, is directed by Euros Lyn (Doctor Who), and executive produced by Hakan Kousetta (Sinbad), Jamie Laurenson (State of the Union), and Patrick Walters (The End). Oseman also served as an executive producer and the sole writer. The show is produced by See-Saw Films and will begin streaming on Netflix with eight 30-minute episodes, starting April 22.
Two British teens, Charlie Spring (introducing Joe Locke), a high-strung, openly gay overthinker, and Nick Nelson (Kit Connor, His Dark Materials) a warm and cheerful rugby player, form an unlikely friendship after sitting together in class one day. Charlie begins to realize his feelings toward Nick might be something more, but does not believe he has a chance. But soon Nick realizes that he is more interested in Charlie than he previously thought. Along with their friends, among them Tao Xu (introducing William Gao), Elle Argent (introducing Yasmin Finney), Nick and Charlie navigate their way through the trials of first love, mental illness, and school.
Working collaboratively was a difference Oseman needed to adjust to. “I’m working with a big team of people, whereas I make the comic by myself,” they told PW. But Oseman was able to learn quickly from the Heartstopper team and was able to have input on various elements of the show, including casting, locations, costume, and props. “For the show I’ve been working with producers, a director, a costume designer, a production designer, and many more creative people who all have very different skillsets and talents,” Oseman said.
Those talents extended to the cast, who were Heartstopper fans themselves. “It was wonderful getting to know them, and it meant so much so me to see how much they genuinely loved and cared about Heartstopper and what we were making,” Oseman said. “I’ve grown to feel so protective over all of them, as I’m sure they’re all headed for stardom and all the challenges that will bring.” Oseman emphasized the importance of having age-appropriate actors, which presented an early hurdle of casting actors who would more likely than not be unknown. But they are excited to have found an “incredible cast.”
Oseman has many fond memories from working on set. But one moment in particular that stands out took place at a sports stadium, which they dubbed “the cursed location of the shoot.” where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Among the incidents were multiple Covid crises, terrible weather, and unwell actors. But fortunately, not all their memories of the stadium were unpleasant. “One day that we were there, me and a bunch of the actors managed to spend an hour or two sitting in the stands, having deep conversations and playing various silly games,” they reminisced. “It was a small silver lining in an otherwise horrible few days.”
Eagle-eyed fans might notice the absence of a few scenes that were in the comics. One scene that did not make it into the show was a scene from Volume One where Nick and Charlie play-fight over a piece of homework. “At the time, I felt that it just didn’t work narratively in the show, but now I feel a little regretful and wonder whether I should have tried writing it in anyway,” Oseman lamented. “Too late now, I suppose!”
But there are many scenes Oseman is excited for readers to enjoy on screen, in particular, the first kiss between the two main leads. “It’s almost identical to the comics, down to the expressions and gestures. Kit and Joe, who played Nick and Charlie, deliver such a beautiful performance,” they told PW. “It’s magical in every way.”
Fans of Oseman’s work can look forward to The Heartstopper Yearbook (Scholastic, Oct.), a mash-up of new illustrations and comics, containing character profiles, a quiz, drawing guide and more.
Oseman hopes the show will bring a smile to audiences’ faces, and that it will help “young LGBTQ+ people believe they can find love, friendship, and happiness.”