Bradley Riches is an up-and-coming actor who is joining the cast of ‘Heartstopper’ Season 2, and he is playing the role of James McEwan.
He made a brief appearance as Student 3 towards the end of the hit Netflix series’ first season, and he is now portraying the character of James, who is known to be a sweet-natured Truman student from Alice Oseman’s original graphic novel series of the same title.
Not to mention, James appears to have a crush on Charlie (played by Joe Locke in the series), and he is even dared to kiss him during a game at Tara’s (Corinna Brown) birthday party. On September 2022, Riches revealed about landing the role on Instagram, writing:
“So proud to announce that I will be playing “JAMES MCEWAN” in Netflix’s Heartstopper S2 Can’t wait for everyone to meet him @see_saw_films @netflixuk @aliceoseman @heartstoppertv”
In a previous interview with Metro, the actor shared that the viewers will get to know his character James a bit more in the series’ second season, compared to the original graphic novel.
“It’s really exciting to be part of the Heartstopper universe. James in the comics is only in one scene, so it’s nice to expand the character in ways that I can’t yet say, but whenever I have a character, I always like to bring part of myself to it, as well as escaping my own self. I like to find similarities between the character and myself, and that’s what made James.”
Getting to know more about Riches, he is a proud visible autistic actor. He found out about his autism at the age of 9, and he is passionate about autistic representation onscreen. He also hopes that sharing his experiences can help other people to feel seen and less alone.
“Acting is an escapism for me. I feel free and understood when playing characters when, most of the time, I felt misunderstood as Bradley. I am so happy that I can show autistic people that they aren’t alone and that they aren’t invisible – they are beautiful and magical,” the actor expressed.
His character James is reportedly not autistic, however, details on him are yet to be disclosed to the public. But as Riches said, there is a possible scope for it to happen. He also noted how important it is for people with autism to have onscreen representation, explaining:
“Obviously, Heartstopper is a massive platform and having that with Netflix too is amazing. I never had this when I was younger, I never saw an actor who was openly autistic, but we’re getting towards the right place with more autistic actors playing autistic roles, which should always be the case, otherwise it’s not truthful representation.”
“Someone who hasn’t had lived autistic experiences can’t do the role justice. Netflix and mainstream media at the moment is heading in the right direction which is really exciting. But there’s more to do,” he added.
The ‘Heartstopper’ newcomer also want people with autism to know that “neurodivergent minds are beautiful and magical.” He further expressed,
“I am so grateful that my mind works in the way it does. When I was younger, I often didn’t understand why I did certain things because of a lack of on-screen representation. I would love to see more neurodivergent actors on my TV because we all have different stories to tell and we need a space to tell them.”
Moreover, starring in ‘Heartstopper’ Season 2 is Riches’ major TV debut, as he previously did a lot of amateur musicals. He also shared that his mother encouraged him to audition for the role of James, as at first, he was reluctant because he didn’t want to miss out on his studies.
Sources: metro.co.uk, thepinknews.com