The cover for the graphic novel Heartstopper, floats above the main characters from the Netflix series.

Page to Screen: Heartstopper

| Burlington County Library

Alice Oseman’s webcomic-turned-graphic novel Heartstopper has gained an impressive fan following since its launch on Tumblr in 2016. The ongoing series, which follows English high schoolers Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson as they fall in love and navigate both social and personal problems, is a refreshingly wholesome LGBTQ+ story. The series is praised for its LGBTQ+ representation, its handling of mental health issues, and realistic and relatable characters in addition to the heartwarming slice-of-life story without heavy drama.

In July 2019, it was revealed that Netflix had gained the rights to Heartstopper and a live action series would be produced by See-Saw Films (The King’s Speech, The Power of the Dog). Fans were concerned until Osemen herself confirmed that she would be heavily involved in the adaptation, even writing the screenplay. She also required that the actors portraying the teenagers would be played by young people, averting the complaint that many teenage characters are played by actors in their 20s. The casting department actively searched for actors that matched the characters’ LGBTQ+ and racial traits. Trans actress Yazmin Finney, who plays Elle Argent, remarked that she had never seen an open casting call requiring a “trans girl of color” before. Actor Will Gao added that the casting call for Tao Xu described “an East Asian or half/mixed East Asian actor.”

Charlie and Nick, from the Netflix series Heartstopper, look at eachother while standing in the rain.

The live action series’ first season, consisting of eight episodes, was released on Netflix on April 22 to wildly positive acclaim. The show does vary from the graphic novel by introducing two new characters and adding content and plot points. In any other adaptation, these alterations would be met with outrage. However, since Oseman herself wrote the screenplay, the change seems more like an expansion of the original’s world. Her influence is seen everywhere. Falling leaves are a sort of emblem for Heartstopper, appearing often in the book to show the passage of time or an important moment. To the delight of fans, these leaves also make an appearance in the show, animated in Oseman’s distinct art style.

The cast was unanimously adored by the fandom. Fans praised 17-year-old actor Joe Locke for his portrayal of anxious Charlie Spring; shockingly, this was his debut acting role. His acting partner, Kit Connor, hilariously, was an experienced child actor. The praise was so overwhelming, Netflix ordered a second and third season only one month after the release of the first! As of June 10, Heartstopper had a 100 percent approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.

Audience: All Ages