Connor has flirted with fame for a long time, but never in its current potency. Born and raised in Croydon, south London, he has played supporting characters in primetime soap operas such as Victim and television movies, before, in their teens, becoming box office hits. In 2019 she appeared as a youngster. Elton John in rocketman and in the independent drama little joe. Between takes, he attended a performance school, where he was, by his own recollections, the “well-behaved and never too rebellious” among his friends.
Connor recalls that, at age 11, he had to choose between playing the son of Rachel Weisz and Colin Firth in a British drama from a BAFTA-winning director. piety, or join your classmates on a traditional end-of-year trip to the Isle of Wight. “It was a real and genuine debate in my head,” she says. He chose the film and feels that he made the right decision. “When you’re younger, these little things” — school trips, he wants to say — “seem huge. I have lost much of my childhood in many ways, [but] I do not regret at all.”
Locke’s childhood had different risks. He grew up gay in Douglas on the Isle of Man, the last place in the British Isles to legalize homosexuality in 1992. It’s “a classic English small town but on an island you can’t escape.” He was bucolic, “safe and sheltered”. When Connor was on his first televisions, Locke was still making dens and playing fantasy wizards with your friends. “What was I?” he ponders him, when I ask him what he thought of himself growing up. “Loudly,” he says, “but really quite shy and anxious.” An effervescent exterior covered the parts of himself he was a little more insecure about.
Like Connor, drama played a part in Locke’s life. The Isle of Man had what he calls “a really weirdly high caliber” of amateur theater and, as one of the few boys interested in it, he says he was almost guaranteed the good parts. But he never seemed possible to her as a real-life vocation. “Acting was always my passion,” he says, “but I guess I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen.” Older friends had left to pursue theater careers in London“and then they wouldn’t get lucky in the right ways, or they wouldn’t find the right things and then they wouldn’t be able to sustain life [there]. The way society treats people trying to break into the industry is so harsh and shitty.” So he got down to business and charted a different future, planning to go to college, and then maybe law or journalism.
When they were both preparing for their GCSEs, heartstopper I had started to put them together. The show’s casting director, Daniel Edwards, had previously auditioned Connor and initially thought of him to play Charlie. But when Connor auditioned for Zoom (most of the casting process happened in early 2021, during the pandemic), Edwards recalls that “his maturity of him was screaming Nick.” Locke responded to an open audition call on social media. “Joe sent us a tape from the corner of his bedroom with his posters on the wall,” recalls program director Euros Lyn. “He felt so authentically like Charlie: a 15-year-old boy who would apologize for taking a breath. There was a quality that Joe had, a humility, that spoke to that.”