Photographer: Jemima Marriott
Stylist: Ruta Jane
Skin and Hair: Nadia Altinbas
Interview: Ines Shubshizky
The first thing I notice about Kit is his incredibly warm and personable nature. Despite being in the industry from such a young age, he comes across as a genuine, kind person, which immediately turns the interview into a casual conversation.
He currently plays the role of Nick in the Netflix series “Heartstopper” – a series about two teenagers who realise that their relationship seems to be more than just a friendship.
Hi Kit, Heartstopper has been so well received. Why do you think people love the series so much?
I don’t think a show like this has ever really been made for its target audience. A lot of shows about queer teens, especially in the recent past, have been more for older teens or young adults. This is a show you can watch with your whole family, with anyone really, and that’s what makes it so new in my opinion. It has this element of innocence and truth and love. Even though it’s a very optimistic and heartwarming series, it feels very real and grounded and deals with some really important issues.
What was the best thing about shooting Heartstopper?
I think one of the best things about shooting Heartstopper was the friendships we made with everyone on set. It was one of the happiest sets I’ve ever been on because everyone was so excited to be there and we truly enjoyed each other’s company. We spent a lot of time together, had lunch together, and even did things on the weekends. We all became very close, and having that energy is exactly what you want on the set of a TV show.
Do you sometimes feel like you’re missing out on a ‘normal’ youth?
I did my first film when I was nine years old, so I sort of grew up as an actor. I think there’s definitely an element of me missing out on a normal youth because a lot of times I wasn’t in school, I couldn’t go on certain class trips or do other things that a lot of people my age do. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve been so fortunate to meet the people that I’ve met, to do the things that I’ve been able to do and go to the places that I’ve been able to go. I consider it an incredible privilege to be able to do what I do, and I’m very lucky. I definitely missed some things, but not anything too crazy.
“If in 10 years or so I still have the passion for acting that I have now, and if I’m still living my life being happy, then that sounds pretty successful to me.”
Do you see yourself in Nick? What do the two of you have in common and where are you different?
I think all the characters are easy to relate to. Nick is so warm, kind and caring. That makes him such a wonderful character that I aspire to be like. He’s a very popular kid in school, but he didn’t choose that. It happened because he’s easy to talk to and he’s a nice person, which is why people are attracted to talk to him and to become friends with him. He has this popularity and therefore these social expectations that he didn’t really ask for. Growing up as an actor, I often attracted certain people that I wasn’t sure if they were actually friends with me or if they befriended me because of my career.
Was there anything in particular that defined your teenage years?
A big part of my childhood was spent on film sets. I think being involved in a film like Rocketman and being able to go to the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate the film was a really defining moment, not only in my career but also in my life. I think that film was very important to a lot of people and helped a lot of people, so it’s a real privilege for me to be able to say that I got to be part of it.
“I think an amazing strengths of our generation is how open and truthful we are. It makes people a little less afraid than they used to be.”
You made your acting debut at such a young age – what made you want to become an actor at that time?
I never really wanted to be an actor when I was very young. I wasn’t one of those six-year-olds who looks at the screen and says, That’s what I want to be. It just fell into my lap. I started doing commercials at first and then I slowly got my first TV job. I think it was after my first movie that I realised that this is something I really want to pursue. I fell in love not only with acting, but with the whole arts around it. I never really wanted to be an actor until I was one, and then I thought, Oh, yeah, this is amazing.
How do you deal with the pressure in the industry?
I think the pressure comes naturally with the industry. After all, your face will be on the screens for many people to see. That brings criticism and scrutiny, but at the same time a lot of positivity. I think the pressure is inevitably there, but you have to learn to push it aside and to focus on the positive aspects. It’s good to be aware of criticism sometimes, especially when it’s in a constructive way that helps you improve. At the same time, however, it is possible to put your main focus on the positive feedback , and I think that’s one of the keys.
Do you feel pressured when you post something on social media?
I think it’s the nature of social media that there’s always some pressure. I’m very careful that what I post is what I want to post, what I want to publish. I think social media is a double-edged sword. It can be amazing, it can be a really empowering tool and a great force for change. But at the same time, it can also put a lot of pressure on people and open the door to criticism and hate. I definitely try to take a step back from social media sometimes, I’m not so keen on being on it all the time. When I do use social media, it’s usually just to switch off and scroll through it mindlessly. People can often find ways to find out things about you through social media that you probably didn’t want them to find out, such as things about your friends and family, which I’ve always found to be quite invasive. Again, that’s the nature of what happens when you go into this industry.
Do you have a dream shooting partner?
I have two that I really love. One is Andrew Scott. When I saw him in Sherlock at a young age, it gave me goosebumps. Working with him would be an absolute pleasure. Second is Paul Mescal. He’s still very young and at the very beginning of a career that I’m sure will be very long. I’ve watched Normal People maybe three or four times, and every single time I’ve been so impressed by his performance. I think he’s one of the most talented young actors I’ve seen in a long time, and I think he’s going to continue to blow everyone away for the rest of his career.
“I think acting is mostly about understanding people. If you understand your character and how they think, then you know how to deliver your lines.”
How do you prepare for a role?
I don’t usually prepare dramatically for a role. Specifically for Nick, the producers hooked me up with a rugby coach who I trained with a lot leading up to the series. That was really helpful, but I’m not one of those actors who has a notebook and fills all the pages with notes about their role. I think acting is mostly about understanding people. If you understand your character and how they think, then you know how to deliver your lines, how to react and navigate the scene. I usually, almost subconsciously, try to figure out what the character is thinking, what their motives are and then I just sort of attack it from there. That usually works.
What is a great strength of your generation that is often overlooked?
I think our generation sometimes gets a bad reputation because a lot of the older generations say we’re attached to our phones or everything is solely digital. I think one of the amazing strengths of our generation is how open and truthful we are. There is a lot more freedom to express ourselves, and it makes people a little less afraid than they used to be. They’re able to be a little more open and generally be a little more themselves. A show like Heartstopper, for example, probably couldn’t have been made 10, 20 years ago. That’s one of the beauties of our generation, really.
Do you have a particular dream that you want to pursue in the near future?
I think my plan for the future is to just keep acting and doing what I love. I would love to get into the role of Nick a few more times because he’s really fun to play. Also, I would love to do something a little more twisted at some point. Playing a golden retriever type of character is great, but I’d also like to get a wider range of roles and do something different. At some point I’d also like to try my hand at directing as well. In general, I’d like to get my own place and grow up a bit – on and off the screen.
What does ‘success’ mean to you?
I’ve always thought that success means doing the things and being with the people you love. It would definitely be nice to be successful as an actor, but really it would be great to still be acting at all. If in 10 years or so I still have the passion for it that I have now, if I’m with the people I care about and I’m still living my life being happy, then that sounds pretty successful to me.
HEARTSTOPPER is now available to watch globally on Netflix.