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Joe Locke has opened up about the negativity he has encountered since finding fame on Netflix‘s smash hit series Heartstopper.

The 18-year-old, who beat out 10,000 other actors to land the leading role of Charlie Spring in the LGBTQ+ comedy-drama, said he initially found himself seeking out the negative comments online.

Speaking to the Reign with Josh Smith podcast, he said it was a ‘very natural human thing to do’ after hitting the big time in his first ever onscreen role with ‘everyone wanting a piece of you.’

Speaking out: Heartstopper's Joe Locke, 18, has revealed 'everyone wanted a piece of me' as he found fame on the Netflix show and now avoids social media for his own mental health

Speaking out: Heartstopper’s Joe Locke, 18, has revealed ‘everyone wanted a piece of me’ as he found fame on the Netflix show and now avoids social media for his own mental health

The series, based off Alice Oseman’s graphic novels, sees Joe play schoolboy Charlie, who falls in love his classmate Nick Nelson (Kit Connor), forcing them to navigate a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

Speaking about his sudden rise to fame on the show, the actor went on to reveal that he has decided to go on social media more sparingly for his mental health.

‘I don’t look at Twitter as much anymore or TikTok or my Instagram because I find that I find it a bit overwhelming and I find it quite a lot,’ he explained.

Heartstopper: Speaking to the Reign with Josh Smith podcast, the actor revealed he has decided to view social media sparingly for his own sake (pictured with co-star Kit Connor)

Heartstopper: Speaking to the Reign with Josh Smith podcast, the actor revealed he has decided to view social media sparingly for his own sake (pictured with co-star Kit Connor)

‘And that doesn’t mean that I can’t see all the nice things people are saying. I just have to do it in measures. Otherwise it’ll just become a little bit overwhelming.

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‘I think it’s all about like setting boundaries for yourself and figuring out what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with. 

‘Because I found that once you get into the public eye, everyone wants a piece of you, whether that’s good or bad.’

He added: ‘So it’s just about feeling comfortable to say no, it is something that’s really hard and I’ve had to get used to.’

Young Love: The series sees Joe play a schoolboy who falls in love his fellow classmate Nick (Kit Connor), forcing them to navigate the journey of self-discovery and acceptance

Young Love: The series sees Joe play a schoolboy who falls in love his fellow classmate Nick (Kit Connor), forcing them to navigate the journey of self-discovery and acceptance

Revealing he was relieved to find the show wasn’t casting ‘conventionally attractive, six pack, white male as the leads’, Joe also discussed ‘unrealistic body images’ in film and television.

He said: ‘We need to show more of the norm and what is normal because I think that, especially on big TV shows, unrealistic body images are shown as the norm. 

‘That’s a lot of effort to have a little bit more muscle. It’s just a lot of effort. I’d rather enjoy my life.’

The eight-part show has already been renewed for two more seasons and the upcoming second series will focus heavily on Charlie’s eating disorder.

Real people: Joe said he was relieved to find the show wasn't casting 'conventionally attractive, six pack, white male as the leads’ the actor went on to discuss body image in film and TV

Real people: Joe said he was relieved to find the show wasn’t casting ‘conventionally attractive, six pack, white male as the leads’ the actor went on to discuss body image in film and TV

Speaking about his character’s anorexia, Joe said: ‘I think to show that journey from an optimistic lens, in a lens that you always know is gonna get better, that you always know it’s gonna be okay.’

‘And that doesn’t mean that the negative aspect is diminished, but I think it definitely would help people who are going through that to see they can overcome this,’ he added.

Joe said he believes that while we are at the start of a ‘boom of lots of queer television’, Heartstopper is a more positive LGBTQ+ show than others.

He spoke about the importance of the main characters on the show being queer, and admitted he couldn’t remember watching a show when he was younger where LGBTQ+ characters weren’t just the ‘best friend or the side character.’

Happier stories: Joe said many other queer shows show a more negative side to LGBTQ lives (It's A Sin cast pictured - which followed the lives of friends through the 1980s aids epidemic)

Happier stories: Joe said many other queer shows show a more negative side to LGBTQ lives (It’s A Sin cast pictured – which followed the lives of friends through the 1980s aids epidemic)

‘I think there’s been so many shows recently that have shown the more negative history or aspects of queer life and the queer experience,’ he continued.

‘But there hasn’t been one that has been based in joy. I always see our show as telling darker issues from an optimistic point of view, like you can always see the end light at the end of the tunnel.’

Joe also spoke of his pride for the Netflix show being able to reach countries where being LGBTQ+ is not as accepted as in the UK.

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‘The young queer kid in Saudi Arabia can see that, ‘actually, I’m not the one who’s wrong here. It’s my country and their laws that are wrong. I’m okay. I am who I am.’

Proud: Joe (right) then spoke of his pride as the Netflix show reaches countries where being gay is not as accepted as in the UK (pictured with co-star Kit)

Proud: Joe (right) then spoke of his pride as the Netflix show reaches countries where being gay is not as accepted as in the UK (pictured with co-star Kit)

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