Since Season 1, many fans have suspected that Noah Schnapp’s character on Stranger Things, Will Byers, was gay. As the young actor stepped aside in interviews to allow for audience interpretation, after Season 4's much more obvious nods to Will’s sexuality, Schnapp finally feels comfortable discussing Will’s storyline, and how some of his own choices affected how Will was shown on screen.
In a recent interview with Variety, Schnapp says that “It’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike. They’ve been intentionally pulling that out over the past few seasons. Even in Season 1, they hinted at that and slowly, slowly grew that storyline. I think for Season 4, it was just me playing this character who loves his best friend but struggles with knowing if he’ll be accepted or not.” He mentions that if he had stated outright that Will was gay it would have spoiled some of the nuance that led up to the incredibly emotional scenes with his character throughout the season.
He relates that when his character is talking to Mike about Eleven’s feelings—which mirror Will’s own—they shot all day. By the end of shooting, he was sobbing. The final cut, however “was actually more subtle,” than Schnapp remembered playing it. The kicker comes when Schnapp reveals that the emotional scene between Will and his brother, Jonathan, was actually not in the original script. “It was only until after I did the scene of me in the van, where they saw me crying and the protectiveness that you see with Jonathan looking in the rearview mirror. They were like, we need a scene with that.”
One of the tricky parts of working with a young cast is that they tend to grow up pretty fast. For a show like Stranger Things, embracing the growth of these characters was key to making them relatable, giving them problems and struggles that kids of similar age to the actors can relate to. Schnapp continues. “It’s also very important for people to see that Will is not alone—because all we ever see of him is struggling and feeling depressed and that he can’t be himself. Jonathan is talking to him in code—it’s just the perfect way to tell someone like Will that he cares about him and he accepts him no matter what.”
Is Stranger Things a childrens’ show? No. But will children watch it? Inevitably, yes. Will’s story is a small part of a much larger narrative, but Schnapp’s nuance and care will be incredibly important to the kids who need to see it most.
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