It’s typically not a good idea to draw conclusions about an actor’s sexuality based on the role they play (or for any other reason); just ask Kit Connor from Heartstopper, who was pushed out of the closet last year in reaction to queerbaiting claims.
However, at least one actor has really profited from having the chance to test the waters through a fictionalized version of themselves: Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things, who came out to the public in a TikTok video entitled “I guess I’m more similar to will than I thought” earlier this year.
Matt and Ross Duffer, the show’s creators, had always imagined Will as a “kid struggling with his sexual identity” (according to Variety), but this aspect of the character wasn’t formally acknowledged until Schnapp acknowledged that “it’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike” in an interview with Variety last summer.
The process of bringing Will out of the closet made everything feel a little safer for Schnapp—who had never spoken of his sexuality to anyone—to make the same change in his own life. “I saw all these comments on Instagram and TikTok.
There was not one bad thing about him being gay. I was like, if he has all this support, then why should I worry about anything,” he told Variety in a pre-strike interview. (Previously, fan questions about his sexuality “made me hold it down deeper… because it was kind of being poked and prodded out of me in such a public way.”)
“Once I did fully embrace that Will was gay, it was just an exponential speed towards accepting it for myself,” the actor continued. “I would be in a completely different place if I didn’t have Will to portray, and to embrace and help me accept myself. I think if I never played that character, I probably would still be closeted.”
Before and after sharing his TikTok, Schnapp was showered with love and support from his friends (including Millie Bobby Brown, who he came out to on a FaceTime call in a Party City), family, and the Stranger Things cast (including executive producer and director Shawn Levy, who broke down in tears when he said that the role helped the young actor “actualize”: “that may be one of the most beautiful outcomes of Stranger Things that I’ve heard”).
The actor also said that his personal journey of self-realization has enabled him to repay the character who gave him so much in the last season of the Netflix series: “I think the way I act in Season 5, honestly, might be a bit different. I’ll be completely conscious of who I am. I’m genuinely simply delighted to know all of that about myself and be able to incorporate it into my character.