Forces of Spring: Charlie Heaton, "The Eccentric"

Forces of Spring: Charlie Heaton, "The Eccentric"

The punk rocker-turned-streaming sensation brings a “stranger” sensibility to sci-fi blockbusters.

The punk rocker-turned-streaming sensation brings a “stranger” sensibility to sci-fi blockbusters.

Photography: Chris Colls

Styling: Ilona Hamer

Text: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte

This cover story appears in the pages of VMAN41, our Spring 2019 issue, on newsstands March 1st!

The first time I saw Charlie Heaton was in a pile of audition tapes. He had a thick British accent and, if memory serves, a black eye. I was 22 and casting my first film, As You Are, and while I was initially wary of casting a Brit to play a part written to be me or one of my Albany friends, his take on the character of Mark assuaged my suspicions.

If there was one thing As You Are succeeded in, it was the cast; the three leads (Charlie, Owen Campbell and Amandla Stenberg) clicked immediately. We’d all met each other at a time in our lives when, like the characters, we needed each other. We were devastated when Charlie had to miss the wrap party (it overlapped with his first day on Stranger Things) but when he left there was no doubt that the friendships we had made were real and lasting.

My most recent encounter with Charlie was at the Ace Hotel in New York, as he was preparing for the premiere of Stranger Things’s third season in July, and his upcoming role in The New Mutants.

CHARLIE WEARS GIVENCHY

MILES JORIS-PEYRAFITTE: When did I see you last?

CHARLIE HEATON: We were shooting Season 3; it must’ve been when I played drums for Faye Webster in September.

MJP: That was the first time I got to see you play—right back where we started, too. Do you remember the first time we hung out, at Baby’s All Right [in Brooklyn]?

CH: Yeah, how could I forget? You took me to see that really cool band. I wasn’t impressed [laughs].

MJP: I remember looking at your face, like, oh I lost him. Found this great kid and he fuckin’ hates this. Do you have your own drumkit in Atlanta?

CH: No, but I bought myself some music stuff last year—a guitar and keyboard. Because when you’re acting, you’re not in control of anything you do or say, so I still want to do music. Not to release an album—I’m literally coming home, emoting a bit, crying into the microphone... So sad! But it’s been nice. [Music] has always been a part of what I do.

MJP: You left for Atlanta to shoot Season 1 the day we wrapped As You Are. No one knew what the show was going to be.

CH: You wanted to hate it.

MJP: I wanted to so badly. I was furious at the show. They wouldn’t let me shave your head. And then I watched the whole season [in a] day and I just couldn’t believe it. I loved it so much. How has the show affected you as a person?

CH: It feels like a long time since [has passed] since the first season. The characters have been on a journey, and all of us [as actors] have been on a journey. Sometimes I’ll get extremely nostalgic for the first season; there was innocence in not knowing what it would become... The trajectory of the last three years happened so quick; you don’t have time to think. And when you get a grip of things, you think, yeah I can be in control of my own destiny.

CHARLIE WEARS SHIRT, TANK, PANTS GIVENCHY BRACELET (RIGHT ARM) DAVID YURMAN BRACELET (LEFT ARM) HEATON’S OWN, BOOTS CLERGERIE

“I find it hard to walk away from any scene and be like, that was fucking great! Did you see me do that? I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to please myself.”—Charlie Heaton

MJP: [That reminds me] of seeing you get out of the car for the As You Are premiere in San Sebastian. In my head, this is literally when Charlie realizes that he’s famous, but he also has food poisoning... But you insisted on [being there]. It seems like you’ve always just gone and done the work. What was going through your head, [when] all of a sudden there were people giving a shit about you.?

CH: At first I thought they were screaming “Dali,” but then I realized they were saying “Charlie.” I was really sick [but] you have that duty. It was a new to me, so I [had to keep going].

MJP: It’s kind of a drummer thing—your head is down, you’re keeping the beat, doing the work... Do you feel like your fanbase, which is a lot of young people, all on social media and who have opinions, puts a new responsibility on you?

CH: Everything is really instant, in the world we live in now. Nothing is tangible, it’s all quickfire. Social media can feel quite toxic. It can connect us but I worry it’s pulling us more apart.

MJP: We’ve almost lost the ability to have the conversation. You’re not allowed to be wrong or make mistakes.

CH: No, you’re not. You post something and it’s instantly judged. So, yeah. It feels like a dark world.

MJP: When you’re on set, whether it’s Stranger Things or New Mutants, who to look to for guidance?

CHARLIE WEARS SWEATER GUCCI, PANTS STELLA MCCARTNEY

CH: It is the director’s vision, but as an actor I find it hard to walk away from any scene and be like, that was fucking great! Did you see me do that? You always walk away with self-doubt. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to please myself. The scene [in As You Are] when Mark and Jack kiss, we worked on that for quite a while, struggling in between takes, hands in hair... [Something] didn’t feel right. But it ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

MJP: None of us knew if we had it... I also remember the first time I asked you to do a series. You were so mad.

CH: I was more hurt than mad. It was my second day on set. It was like, “Great, Owen.” And then, “Okay, Charlie do that again. Say that line again.” I was like, I can’t act. I’m fucking it up.

MJP: And it was just because we had so little time... Does it make it easier having [girlfriend and co-star] Natalia [Dyer] there [on Stranger Things]? Does having someone there that you trust, not just work-wise, but that’s also like, “You’re my person,” make the process easier?

CH: Yeah, because there are times when you do get stressed. So to go home with someone you work with, and say, “I think they hate me...” They’ll say, “No they don’t.” You can break the walls down with your partner. Because we work in the same industry and have had similar trajectories, we’ve gone through it together. Sharing that does bring you closer. They understand something that maybe no one else would. You go into high-pressure situations together but you can share those insecurities or whatever they are. The great, happy times, too... Really fucking sweet!

Credits: HAIR TOMO JIDAI (STREETERS), MAKEUP ARTIST MARIKO ARAI (THE WALL GROUP), PRODUCER CARLY LOUISON (SERLIN ASSOCIATES), PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT DANIIL ZAIKIN, DIGITAL TECH JEANINE ROBINSON, STYLIST ASSISTANT MACKENZIE THIRY

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