Charlie Heaton is at the center of one of the most popular television series in the world thanks to Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” where he stars as aspiring photographer Jonathan Byers. The 26-year-old actor has appeared in all three seasons of the Netflix blockbuster and is currently filming the fourth season, but what comes next? Heaton is already finding himself being somewhat typecast based on his breakout role, going from playing the angsty loner in “Stranger Things” to the angsty loner in the upcoming comic book movie “The New Mutants.” Heaton tells GQ that typecasting and the possibility of being locked into a franchise for multiple years made him scared to join the X-Men spinoff movie.
“They see you as one thing, and you continue to do that,” Heaton says. “Do you want to play this really awkward, offbeat outsider? Yeah. I can — but I can do other things. It’s having people trust that you can do other things, or proving it to them.”
Heaton says he’s looking to Robert Pattinson for guidance on how to break free of his massively popular breakout role. Pattinson rose to international superstardom as a fixture of the “The Twilight Saga,” then redefined his image as an actor by leaving blockbusters behind for auteur-driven projects with Claire Denis, the Safdie brothers, Werner Herzog, David Cronenberg, David Michod, and more. Pattinson is now just returning to studio tentpoles with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” but in both cases he views these directors as visionary artists akin to the indie films he’s prioritized.
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When asked whose career he wants to emulate, Heaton tells GQ, “Not in an aspect where it’s like, ‘Wow, I want to be Robert Pattinson.’ But having seen him come off this huge [‘Twilight’ franchise], he’s made these really interesting choices. He’s done ‘The Lighthouse,’ and he did ‘Good Time.’ Obviously now he’s doing Batman, but I think he’s chosen to work with interesting directors, and I feel a lot of respect for him.”
Heaton is already trying to follow Pattinson by signing up to star in Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir Part II.” The “Stranger Things” actor shot for a week on the movie and Hogg’s improvisation-heavy style recharged his acting skills. Hogg’s script for a particular scene contains an outline of the moment, but she sets up her camera and leaves it to the actors to discover the dialogue in the moment.
“You start in the morning and you’d be absolutely terrified,” Heaton says of acting in Hogg’s film, “and then you shoot, and then every day you go home with this buzz. You’re like, ‘Wow, it was so alive. I can’t believe I did that.’ And then it would start again every morning, where you’re dreading going to work.”
A24 is planning to release “The Souvenir Part II” later this year. Head over to GQ’s website to read Heaton’s interview in its entirety.