For the first season of Netflix’s Heartstopper, the key word seemed to be “adjusting.” Joe Locke’s Charlie Spring adjusted to being recently outed, Kit Connor’s Nick Nelson adjusted to becoming more acquainted with his sexuality, and Yasmin Finney’s Elle Argent adjusted to her new all-girls school after transitioning the year prior. Outside the hit series’ world of rugby games, wistful longing, and fluttering leaves, the young actors also adapted to unprecedented levels of fame. Fans around the world were falling in love with with Charlie and Nick’s story, all while rooting for Elle’s budding romance with Tao (Will Gao) to take flight. Fans dressed up as the characters for Halloween, brand deals came for the young actors, most of whom were in their teens. Finney herself, was labeled as “Gen Z’s brightest new star,” and earned a YSL Beauté ambassadorship.

"Nobody can really prepare you for an overnight thing or an overnight spotlight,” Finney says. “To have the cast to hold your hand and to be like, ‘We’re all going through the same thing,’ it’s just really nice. It’s refreshing to have and very important as well.”

With the success came pressure. What was to come from season 2? Could the show once again capture the magic of being a teenager, or the tantalizing scent of big dreams and unbridled hope? How could a perfect love story that felt complete continue?

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After a cotton-candy colored season 1, the second season, premiering August 3, embraces the challenges that naturally comes with being in love. It focuses on the issues that are common in one’s teen years: eating disorders, identity, homophobia in the home, and wanting more for yourself. It includes a disastrous first date, a hickey, and an uneven relationship, all while having those signature Heartstopper moments of gushing giddiness (and Taylor Swift’s “seven” as a backing track).

“This season tackles a lot of things normal teenagers go through,” Finney says. “Discovering yourself, identity crisis…love, friendships, and it goes through all of the little experiences that we’ve all had in life.”

Some of these situations strike a chord with Finney herself, who was bullied for her identity at a young age. Detailing her experiences as a young trans woman on TikTok, she amassed a strong following and gained recognition for her insight, activism, and transparency. Her presence initially caught the eye of Billy Porter, and after several auditions and hard work in the industry, her grit snowballed, resulting in a leading role in Heartstopper. She now is filming a spot in the BBC classic Doctor Who, set to star alongside series legends David Tennant and Catherine Tate, along with Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa. “I went from filming Heartstopper to then going on set and fighting aliens,” she says. “I’m running around. It was just a complete shift. No one can prepare you for that.”

Below, Finney talks with about her journey to the Whoniverse, her first on-screen kiss, and how Heartstopper has changed lives, including her own.

I binged all of Heartstopper again yesterday and it’s just so wonderful. My heart just soars throughout the whole series. I'm curious, how do you think teens will relate to Elle’s journey this season and what does playing Elle mean to you?

What I like about this season is that Elle has been put in this world where it’s trans people falling in love and that is such a powerful thing. We’ve needed it for so long, and we finally get to have this amazing sort of friendship that turns into a blossoming love that’s happy, it’s natural. It’s really, really good to have just that sort of representation on our screens now. I’m just so happy that the young kids out there can see how impactful it is and how important it is to own who you are. It’s really hard, because even on a day-to-day basis, Elle probably has to tackle loads of things that an average trans person goes through, like gender dysphoria, all of those things. What’s so lovely is [the show doesn’t] really capitalize on any of that. It’s all just this amazing friendship and this amazing love that you see blossom into something special from season one. It’s showing people that you can have happy natural love as a trans person and it should be normalized. It shouldn't be looked at as anything else. It’s really exciting that I get to play that role and to tell that story in the series.

yasmin finney heartstopper
Yasmin Finney stars as Elle Argent in Heartstopper.
Samuel Dore

I think you hit on something. A lot of queer art these days focuses on queer trauma, and I feel like Heartstopper is so focused on queer joy. While there is trauma in it, it's really such a joyful show. That’s what makes it so incredibly special.

We’ve needed it for so long, and I’m just so happy that now we finally get to come together as a collective of young actors and create this amazing story which needs to be told.

What was it like building this relationship with Will Gao, who plays Tao, throughout the season? You have some intimate moments. What was it like filming those?

That was really fun. I mean obviously quite daunting having your first kiss scene ever. But, what was so lovely about it was to do it with Will and to really have that relationship prior from season 1, that really good friendship, and to just go through it together. We had an intimacy coordinator and he really helped us navigate how we kiss and just boundaries and consent. It’s just so easy to do anything in Heartstopper, because the team is so understanding. They’ve got everything marked out already. It’s a nice little family we’ve got that puts safety and the cast first.

For Tao and Elle, it’s like this blossoming love that has been boiling up for a while. You can basically just see them grow together and fall in love together over a period of a few episodes. Everybody’s pulling their teeth—why can’t they get together sooner rather than later? We all worked really, really hard on it, so I’m just praying that it will pay off.

will gao and yasmin finney
Tao (Will Gao) and Elle’s romance blossoms in Heartstopper season 2.

What is it like filming with all these wonderful people like Joe Locke, Kit Connor, and Olivia Colman? Of course, there are so many more.

Everyone is just brilliant, and we’ve been acting together now for just over a year. It’s just nice to come back for a second season and see how everyone’s grown. I never thought I would have a Netflix series that I could play my true authentic self in, and I do. That is just the best thing ever, to have that and to be able to have that with an amazing cast.

Were you expecting the show to have this much success? There’s definitely a cult following.

When I got the show I knew it would have an impact on my community, but I didn’t expect it would have an impact on the world. I think we all had the same idea when we got the show: to just come together and create a show that’s just positive and fun and happy, and that’s what we did. We’ve had such an amazing response from that. So, that just speaks volumes. I think I’m still quite young as well; I’m in my teenage years. To be playing a character that’s still quite young, it’s just nice because I get to relive my high school experience and my high school experience definitely wasn’t like this.

It’s really hitting the bone for people because it’s just like, why haven’t we had this? And why can’t this be the reality? For most of us [in the cast], we are living as queer people, so it’s like we’ve got to sort of hold each other’s hand. It’s still quite hard being a trans woman, and it always will be. When I get to go on the set, it’s just nice that I get to escape from the real world into this world that’s positive.

Do you feel yourself really feeling or going through these experiences that these characters are going through? What is it like managing that as well?

What Heartstopper does so well is it doesn’t just reach one kind of person. It reaches a whole community, a whole range of people. You don’t have to be queer to relate to a character in Heartstopper because it goes into things like, how do you navigate falling in love with somebody? How do you navigate, for example, coming out, which can be hard? How do you navigate finding out you’re asexual? How do you navigate being in a world that technically wasn’t made for you, but you kind of just make it work? That’s what’s so nice about Heartstopper. It’s such an escapism show. You watch it, and you escape into this world of fantasy, because we all want this friendship. We all want this world to be real, but we’re still fighting to get the world we want. So, it’s really nice to be able to step out in the real world. We’ve got each other. We’re showing off our identity and being proud of it and not being ashamed of it.

I do relate to Elle so many ways in the sense that she’s very confident and she has a passion, which is art. She had so much fun going to Paris. I’ll never be able to forget filming in the Louvre and having it empty, probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m forever grateful and it’s just fab. It’s really, really, really fab. Just to be able to create something so magical in Paris, what more could you want in life?

“It’s still quite hard being a trans woman, and it always will be. When I get to go on the set, it’s just nice that I get to escape from the real world into this world that’s positive.”

You filmed a few episodes in Paris this season. What was that like? Watching it felt just like a dream.

It was my first time filming out of the United Kingdom, so it was a dream to be in a new space. I love it, and I love the vibe this season. It feels a little bit more international. It’s just really, really fun when you get to step out of your comfort zone and go to a new country and try new cultures, as well as doing your job. Although it’s quite intense, it’s still really, really fun. We had one week to film a whole three episodes’ worth of content, but we made it work. I’m not going to sit here and say it was all butterflies and rainbows. But yeah, it was really fun.

Elle showed her body more throughout the season. Did you have input in that and was it intentional?

I think she was definitely, she’s getting older as we all do. We all try things out, we all try and navigate ourselves and what we like to wear. You can really see Elle growing up this season. From outfits to hairstyles to makeup, she really goes all out. To be able to play a character like Elle who knows exactly what she wants to do, she’s very sure of herself, very confident, it’s just amazing. I think confidence is from within, and I think you can really see that she’s got all of that confidence within her now. I’m a very confident person as Yasmin.

yasmin finney
Elle is “very sure of herself, very confident,” Finney says.

I want to shift a little bit to Doctor Who. You get to star with David Tennant and Catherine Tate, two icons in this series. What it was like to film with them?

I didn’t go to drama school, I’m kind of learning on the job. I went on the set, and I sort of sat back. I just wanted to see how they all do it. It was just amazing to watch TV gold on set. David Tennant and Catherine Tate are two amazing, amazing actors. I grew up watching Doctor Who, watching David Tennant and Catherine Tate. That was my era in 2003. It’s crazy to be on a show that deeply has a lot f history with me. It’s just really, really fab.

With Heartstopper, you’ve got this amazing friendship group and you’re a young trans woman trying navigate the world around you, and then in Doctor Who, you’ve got this amazing family, which I’m not going to talk too much about, but you’re fighting aliens and it’s just a complete shift. With Rose [Finney’s character], she is very sure of herself and very confident. Both characters had a bone in me. One goes into family and one goes into friendship, and I guess they both go hand in hand. It’s just that one of the shows is sci-fi, Doctor Who, and one of them is Heartstopper.

The name Rose is a very important name in the Whoniverse. Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, was the first companion when the series returned with the Ninth Doctor. What does it mean to carry that name with you this season, even if you're not playing the same character?

I mean it’s obviously got a lot of history, hasn’t it? To play a character with such history, even just the name, you’ve got that pressure instantly that I didn’t have with Elle. It was a complete mind-blowing experience when I got cast. I can’t really relive it because I was so in the moment. At first, [the show] had a code name, and then I found out what the show was and I was like, “Oh my God, I’ve just been cast in Doctor Who.” It’s a trans character as well, and it’s such a blessing as well to be able to play such a monumental character like Rose.

“I’m a very confident person as Yasmin.”

What can fans look forward to in this upcoming season of Doctor Who?

You can look forward to a lot of scary things. I think when you think of Doctor Who, you think of the scariest episode, the weeping angels. It’s the scariest episode in history and the most popular. I think in this series, I was scared when I saw some of the things. It’s shivers down your spine. But, I can’t tell you too much. What I can say is it is going to be full of scares, full of laughs, full of all of it. To act with Ncuti Gatwa is just amazing because we are both very young as well, and it’s just really nice to have that. He’s making history literally, and I’m just really happy to be a part of his world.

heartstopper season 2
Kit Connor, Joe Locke, Tobie Donovan, Will Gao, and Yasmin Finney in Heartstopper season 2.

What is in the future for Heartstopper, should we expect another season?

I mean, Alice [Oseman, the Hearstopper author and creator] works so hard. Alice is another person that I look at and admire for their strengths and their sort of will to go on. I feel like [this season] tops the first [season] because the writing is just so special. I know that Alice didn’t have a lot of time to write the second series because it was just “go, go, go”—a lot of elements that should make a person give up, but it’s just added fuel to the fire. That’s what I love about Alice.

It’s like Russell T. Davies, [the Doctor Who showrunner] as well. What an incredible mind. To be able to write and to make an audience see what you see and feel how you feel. I think it’s just amazing. It’s honestly the best thing to be able to be doing one of Alice Oseman’s pieces, because she’s got so many other books as well. I’m just really happy to be making what she has been writing for the past few years a reality. It’s just amazing to be able to be in that world with her, the Oseman universe.

This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Headshot of Samuel Maude
Samuel Maude

Samuel is the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief at ELLE Magazine. His interests include music, theater, books, video games, and anything to do with Taylor Swift. He famously broke both his arms at the same time in fourth grade.