Joe Locke has opened up about the negativity he’s encountered since rising to fame on Netflix’s hit series Heartstopper.
The 18-year-old, who beat out 10,000 other actors to land the lead role of Charlie Spring in the LGBTQ+ comedy-drama, said he first found himself looking for the negative comments online.
Speaking to the Reign with Josh Smith podcast, he said it was a ‘very natural human thing to do’ after hitting the big time in his first ever screen role with ‘everyone wants a piece of you”.
Speaking out: Heartstopper’s Joe Locke, 18, revealed ‘everyone wanted a piece of me’ as he shot to fame on the Netflix show and now shuns social media for his own mental health
The series, based on the graphic novels by Alice Oseman, sees Joe play schoolboy Charlie, who falls in love with his schoolmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), forcing them to navigate a journey of self-discovery and… acceptance.
Speaking about his sudden rise to fame on the show, the actor then revealed that he decided to go on social media more sparingly for his sanity.
“I don’t look at Twitter or TikTok or my Instagram as much anymore because I find it a bit overwhelming and I find it a lot,” he explained.
Heartstopper: Speaking to the Reign with Josh Smith podcast, the actor revealed he decided to check social media sparingly for his own good (pictured with co-star Kit Connor)
“And that doesn’t mean I can’t see all the nice things that people say. I just have to do it in the metrics. Otherwise it will just get a little overwhelming.
“I think it’s about setting boundaries and figuring out what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with.
“Because I found that once you’re in the public eye, everyone wants a piece of you, good or bad.”
Joe, whose first ever TV role was in Heartstopper, added: “So it’s just about feeling comfortable saying no, it’s a really difficult thing and I had to get used to it.”
Young Love: The Series sees Joe playing a schoolboy who falls in love with his classmate Nick (Kit Connor), forcing them to navigate a path of self-discovery and acceptance
Revealing he was relieved that the show didn’t feature “an attractive, six-pack, white man as the protagonists”, Joe also spoke of “unrealistic body images” in film and television.
He said: “We need to show more of the norm and what is normal because I think, especially on big TV shows, unrealistic body images are presented as the norm.” It’s a lot of effort to have a little more muscle. It’s just a lot of effort. I prefer to enjoy my life”.
The hit eight-part series has already been renewed for two more seasons, and the upcoming second series will focus heavily on Charlie’s eating disorder.
Speaking about his character’s story, Joe said: “I think showing this journey from an optimistic lens, into a lens that you always know is going to get better, that you always know is going to be okay good.”
Real people: Joe said he was relieved the show didn’t feature ‘an attractive, six-pack, white male as the protagonists’, the actor went on to discuss body image in film and fashion television
Big Names: Streaming now on Netflix and also starring Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman, the series is based on Alice Oseman’s graphic novels
“And that doesn’t mean the negative aspect is diminished, but I think it would definitely help people who are going through this to see that they can overcome this,” he added.
Joe said he thinks that, while we’re at the start of a “boom of a lot of queer TV,” Heartstopper is a more LGBTQ+ positive show than the rest.
He spoke about the importance of the show’s main characters being gay and admitted he couldn’t remember watching a show when he was younger where LGBTQ+ characters weren’t just the “best friend or secondary character”.
“I think there have been so many shows recently that have shown history or the more negative aspects of queer life and queer experience,” he continued.
Happier stories: The actor said many other queer shows show a more negative side to LGBTQ life (It’s a sin in the picture – which followed the lives of friends during the AIDS epidemic of 1980s)
“But there wasn’t one that was based on joy. I always see our show as telling darker issues from an optimistic perspective, like you can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.
He then spoke of his pride as the Netflix show reaches countries where being gay isn’t as accepted as it is in the UK.
‘Young fagot from Saudi Arabia can see it, ‘Actually, it’s not me who’s wrong here. It’s my country and its laws that are bad. I’m doing well. I am who I am.’
Proud: Joe (right) then spoke of his pride as the Netflix show reaches countries where being gay isn’t as accepted as it is in the UK (pictured with co-star Kit)