Words: Alastair James; pictures: Jordan Rossi
Heartstopper's Yasmin Finney and Will Gao want the show's fans and young LGBTQ people to know this: "You're never alone".
Speaking to Attitude as part of their cover shoot for the May/June issue - out now - the pair, who play Elle Argent and Tao Xu in Netflix's adaptation of Alice Oseman's graphic novel talk of how they relate to their characters as well as what they want fans to take away from the show.
Asked what their advice is for anyone struggling with the identity, or who might be having a hard time at school Will says: "There is a group and there are people that feel the same way and you're never alone and you will find that group."
He goes on to say that "a lot of us have experienced finding that group and that community" and he assures people that "you will find that community," while recognising that it can be difficult.
Yasmin chimes in: "It is difficult but you have to do it. Being authentically yourself, unapologetically yourself is the best way to live. Just live for yourself and I know that's so hard in high school, breaking through that barrier of what other people think. But you have to do it and that's just the way to grow.
"Trust me, it'll pay off in the future. Who wants to live life by what other people think about them? No! Be yourself, and be free and be liberated. That's the best way to be."
Elsewhere, the pair discuss how they relate to their respective characters as well as what it was like working with Heartstopper creator, Alice Oseman, who encouraged both actors to be themselves.
"Do make it your own and put your own spin on the character," explains Will of the advice the author gave him.
In their cover interview, the pair discuss how the show has brought diverse representation to the small screen.
Will is confident that Heartstopper has answered the brief. "Yasmin and I, for example, we’re from completely polar opposites of this country, but we’re together and we’ve made something so special. I think it’s going to be a real change."
For Yasmin, as a Black trans woman, the rare opportunity to provide some sorely needed representation came with some pressure, but she focused on what this would mean for others.
"I am on the screen. That in itself is powerful enough. That in itself is inspiring to people. And I have to realise that and get out of my head and be like, ‘Listen, girl, you smashed it, you’re on the show, you’ve got an amazing support system around you, like, you’re doing really well.’"
Heartstopper premieres on Netflix on 22 April 2022. The Attitude May/June issue featuring the cast of Heartstopper is out now.