CHARLIE R. HEATON
Charlie R. Heaton is best known for his role as Winona Ryderʼs on-screen son Jonathan Byers in Netflixʼs money-spinner show “Stranger Things”. Contending with a gang of suburban misfits, a morose policeman and a perpetually anxious mother (Ryder) Heaton plays a shy teenager with impeccable taste in music and a deep passion for photography.
The English-born actor sat down with us to talk about his childhood, his on-screen persona Jonathan and biggest British stereotypes.
Charlie, whatʼs your current state of mind?
I’m about to leave the UK again for quite a long period so it’s kind of on getting ready for that really. It’s always quite a transition, with your head in two places and just saying goodbyes and getting ready to switch back.
What did you want to be growing up?
Well, when I was really little I wanted to be an entomologist. I had all these insect books and I used to go round the garden and alleyways collecting anything I could find. Which is funny because I really donʼt like insects anymore.
Where did you grow up anyway?
I grew up in Bridlington. It’s a small seaside town on the east coast of England in Yorkshire.
What’s your happiest childhood memory?
Probably getting to spend time with my Dad. He lived away so it was always exciting getting to see him.
What’s the biggest British stereotype?
Erm, my friend used to think that we all have a specific time in the day that we sit down as a nation and all drink tea. I thought that was kind of funny.
How did you feel when moving to London?
At that point it was a massive change in my life, so it was a big step for me. But at the same time I knew that it was a move I was ready for. So I think it was a mix of feelings really.
What’s the meaning of making music?
Without trying to sound too pretentious. I think it’s about letting go and being honest with what you’re trying to say or put out - about creating something that can’t really be put into words. It’s a feeling that comes from inside that you need to express in that moment.
Last song that you listened to?
“Listening In” from Dr. Dog. It’s got this groove that just plods along with so much swagger. It’s my favourite track right now.
Does music inspires your acting?
Yes, actually. I use music a lot when I’m on set. Either before a scene to get me in the mood I need to be in and also just to keep me calm I guess.
How did you end up acting?
I fell into it, in a way. I was looking for work and started out doing commercials, and then that turned into small parts on British TV. I wasnʼt sure exactly if it was what I wanted to do at the time but I guess I was just running with what was in front of me and it just kept going.
“Stranger Things” is killing it. Is it true you didn’t rec- ognize Winona Ryder at first place?
Yes, that’s true. But to be fair she’d just come out of the make-up trailer wearing her Joyce Byers wig and clothes, I wasn’t expecting her to look like that. I was expecting Winona with the classic black hair wearing some old band.
She actually was one of my heroines when growing up in the late eighties.
I totally get it. I’m sure if I grew up in the late 80s she’d be mine too. I mean she is now so (...).
She always will be breathtaking. In “Stranger Things” you play her son, Jonathan Byers. You play it brilliant. Are there many similarities between him and you?
Yeah I’d say so for sure. I mean, we’re definitely not the same person but there’s a lot I identify with in Jonathan.
Well, has there been a role so far that you identify with in equal ratio to yourself?
I think you have to find something to identify with in every character you choose. Otherwise how are you supposed to understand that person? It doesn’t necessarily have to be a lot of things, it could just be one, or an idea of who you think he is but in my opinion I think you need that.
What project would you like to do in the future?
It’s pretty hard to think of one specific project I want to do. I wouldnʼt say “I want to do this, or donʼt want to do that”. I think it’s more about keeping it open and working with the right people, taking chances, and following your instinct. You never know when that one gem’s going to come along.
As a young artist, where did you believe you’ve ever failed, career-wise?
I don’t know if I believe in failure as an artist or necessarily the term failure in that sense. You learn from experience. It’s also about taking risks sometimes. You donʼt really know if what your going to do is going to be successful, but I think it’s important to not look at it in that sense. You do it because there’s a passion there and a reason behind it and then if it doesnʼt work out or turn out the way you expected. Then at least you tried and took that chance. Then maybe you look at it and what it meant at that time, assess why it didnʼt work and move forward.
London or Los Angeles?
They’re so different. I like spending time in both. London in the summer is one of the best cities in the world but then LA has the weather all year round. I also think LA is really beautiful.
What scares you?
Thinking about who and where I’ll be in ten years. The future scares me, but I guess that’s just fear of the unknown, which I think is pretty universal.
What’s your favourite thing in the world?
Dreaming. It’s fascinating.