With Stranger Things 4 now in the rear-view mirror, cast member Noah Schnapp is getting candid about the longstanding fan debates surrounding Will Byers’ sexuality in the hit Netflix series. Despite the fact that the subject is not discussed outright in the latest collection of episodes, Season 4 all but confirms that the character is indeed gay and has feelings for one of his best friends. Aside from more overt implications (such as Will’s heartfelt discussion with Jonathan in the finale), the series also drops a number of subtle hints. In the premiere, for example, Will turns in a school report on Alan Turing: the historical British codebreaker who was formally prosecuted for homosexuality in the 1950s.
"Obviously, it was hinted at in Season 1: It was always kind of there, but you never really knew, is it just him growing up slower than his friends? Now that he’s gotten older, they made it a very real, obvious thing. Now it’s 100% clear that he is gay and he does love Mike," Schnapp explained during a postmortem interview with Variety.
"But before, it was a slow arc. I think it is done so beautifully, because it’s so easy to make a character just like all of a sudden be gay. People have come up to me — I was just in Paris and this, like, 40-year-old man came up to me and he was like, ‘Wow, this Will character made me feel so good. And I related to it so much. That is exactly who I was when I was a kid.’ That just made me so happy to hear. They are writing this real character and this real journey and real struggle and they’re doing it so well."
When asked about the experience of what it’s been like to field endless questions about Will’s personal life from members of the audience, Schnapp admitted that "it has been tricky." He continued: "Years ago in Season 1, I didn’t know where the Duffers wanted to go with this character. So I was kind of figuring it out along with the audience. But now that I’ve spoken to them and seen the show, I know what they want to do with it. They obviously don’t tell me anything, either. I’m always spoiling stuff, so they will never share anything with me. So it’s a lot of figuring it out on my own. And kind of realizing later on, like, ‘Oh this makes sense and this was intentional.’"
The actor also went on to emphasized that Will’s sexual preferences are "just a single layer" of a character, who has gone through a disturbing amount of emotional turbulence since the Upside Down bled into Hawkins back in 2016…er…we mean 1983.
"He was taken by the Demogorgon and then his friends, they never acknowledged him, and now he’s scared to come out and doesn’t know if they’ll accept him," Schnapp added. "And then Eleven is like his sister, but he doesn’t want to hurt her because if he says he likes Mike, that’s gonna hurt her feelings. There’s all these things running in his mind. So I kind of just have to make sure that I’m conveying the depth of all his traumas."
Both volumes of Stranger Things 4 are now available to stream on Netflix. The show will wrap up its story in a fifth and final season, which viewers fully expect to bring Will’s curious link to the Mind Flayer and Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) to the forefront.
"The Duffers are saying for next season that they’re going to focus more on Will and build that storyline. I think that’s super exciting" Schnapp teased. "I called them a few weeks ago and I was like, “What’s your plan with Will? Like, with his sexuality, but also with the Upside Down and all of that?” They have a lot to get to. They’re still working it out, but they have their end goal. There’s so many different things they have to address. Obviously, we hope for a coming out scene, and I also want to see them address this connection to the Mind Flayer and how that fits into the world. And I’ve always been wondering, why was Will the first victim and the first one captured?"
Looking for more sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock. Looking ahead, SYFY has the new series The Ark in the works from original Stargate film producer Dean Devlin, as well as Stargate SG-1 producer Jonathan Glassner.