Heartstopper stopped all of our hearts when it dropped on Netflix in April. The teen romcom series is adorable, heartwarming and — as British politician Luke Pollard recently pointed out in Parliament — extremely important for queer representation.
“Some of you will know that I am an unapologetic fan of Netflix’s Heartstopper,” Pollard said during a recent debate against trans conversion therapy in the U.K. “I remember being both Nick and Charlie at school.”
But it wasn’t Kit Connor or Joe Locke, who play Nick and Charlie respectively, who stood out to Pollard.
“For me, it’s Yasmin Finney, who plays Elle, who is not only epic in her acting, but the class and visibility of her as a trans actor, and her transfer to the Doctor Who universe, has not only inspired me; it’s inspired young trans people across the world, and it has saved lives,” Pollard said. “That visibility, that legitimacy, has saved lives.”
The 18-year-old actress reacted to Pollard’s speech on Twitter.
“This is a moment for the history books,” Finney wrote. “Nothing better than to be seen as a young Black trans girl just trying to make a difference.”
This is a moment for the history books…
Nothing better than to be seen as a young black trans girl just trying to make a difference❤️ https://t.co/E0r7FkRpjS
— Yaz (@Yazdemand) June 14, 2022
Finney has already made quite a difference in her short career. After finding popularity on TikTok, she had her big break when she was cast in Heartstopper as Elle, a trans teenager who transfers from an all-boys school to an all-girls school as part of her transition.
“From the point that I’d seen that casting call, my life changed forever. I read the description, and Elle was a trans girl of color, very femme energy,” Finney told Elle UK. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I relate to that.’”
Finney also related to Elle’s journey of transferring high schools.
“At my first high school, I was bullied because I was queer,” Finney explained. “At the time, I didn’t know I was trans, but for Elle to know that she’s trans and know basically who she is, and for her to go from an all-boys school to an all-girls school — for me that is just bravery on another level.”
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Finney knew she was destined to land the role. Now that the first season is out (Heartstopper is already renewed for two more seasons), she’s excited to see what an authentic trans story like Elle’s will mean for young audiences.
“It would have meant so much to younger Yasmin to have an Elle growing up, and to just see her on the screen just living authentically herself, unapologetically herself,” Finney said. “It’s about time that we have young, Black queer representation on the screen.”
A character like Elle existing on such a big show is a win for representation already. But what makes Hearstopper so special is its optimistic perspective on queer storytelling.
“It’s about time that we have young, Black queer representation on the screen.”
“I think when we would see trans stories back in the day, it would just be about gender dysphoria, bullying, all the dark parts that come with being a trans person. But with Heartstopper, it is literally a fantasy,” Finney said. “I think that’s so beautiful, just a trans story on the TV that’s normalized and that’s seen as natural.”
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Now that she’s made a name in the industry, Finney isn’t slowing down. As Pollard mentioned, she’s starring in an upcoming season of Doctor Who alongside Sex Education’s Ncuti Gatwa, who will be portraying the first Black Doctor.
Finney’s character is named Rose, but beyond that, we don’t know much about her role in the show — just that she’s been spotted on set filming with David Tennant and Catherine Tate.
“Thank you all so much for the love and support,” Finney tweeted when the news of her casting broke. “8-year-old Yasmin is screaming right now.”
Thank You All So Much For The Love & Support
8 Year Old Yasmin Is Screaming Right Now🌹
— Yaz (@Yazdemand) May 16, 2022
Finney says she’s honored to be working with showrunner Russell T Davies, who’s an icon in queer entertainment for creating shows like Queer as Folk and It’s a Sin.
“I am in awe of the fact that I’ve been seen by such a legend,” she told the Guardian.
Finney can’t say much about the show yet, but she said she’s happy that the Heartstopper and Doctor Who fandoms are apparently happy to share the starlet.
“I was worried about having two huge fan bases following me and whether they’d get along,” she said. “But I think it’s going pretty well so far!”
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As far as the future of her career, Finney is excited to keep breaking ground for Black trans representation. Eventually, she’d like to see a world where trans actors aren’t limited to only telling trans stories.
“I think we’ll really [have] change when I can play a character whose gender identity or sexuality isn’t specified,” Finney said. “That’s when the industry will start to see trans actors as normal actors like everybody else, and we can play any role that we want to. When I can play a cis role, it will be sunshine and rainbows.”
But don’t get it twisted: Finney loves being a beacon for the trans community, and she can’t wait to help tell more queer stories, hopefully inspiring other queer actors along the way.
“I just hope that the industry wants more queer people to be on their screens, because I really want to open the doors for every queer person who is interested in acting,” she said. “I think that’s the ultimate goal, is to have more queer representation on the screen.” ♦
INTO’s 20 Under 20 series celebrates Gen Z changemakers who are standing up and fighting for a better world. Read the full series here.