'Stranger Things' star says character's sexuality 'up to interpretation'

A development in season three of the hit Netflix series has reignited fan speculation about Will Byers’ sexual orientation.
Image: Noah Schnapp
Noah Schnapp in Stranger Things season 3Netflix / Courtesy of Netflix
By Alexander Kacala

Warning: This post contains spoilers for “Stranger Things” season three.

Speculation about the sexual orientation of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), one of the central characters on the Netflix hit series “Stranger Things,” has been swirling since the show began in 2016. Now, a development in the series’ latest season, which debuted July 4, has fueled additional fan chatter — and even has the actor who plays the part speaking out.

In the third episode of season three, titled “The Case of the Missing Lifeguard,” Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) yells at Will, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls.” The comment did not go unnoticed by fans.

"OK OK OK HOLD UP....Episode 3....... did Mike insinuate that Will is Gay??? Or is it just because he’s still 'young' and not into girls yet?" one fan tweeted.

Another fan added: “WILL BYERS IS GAY OH MY GOD NO WONDER HE’S MY FAVORITE.”

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When asked by The Wrap about the comment and the subsequent fan speculation, Noah, 14, neither confirmed nor denied that his teenage character is gay, saying, “It’s really up to interpretation.”

“While all the characters were out developing and growing up, Will was in the Upside Down and he was alone there, not interacting with or connected to his friends or the rest of the world,” he explained. “And when he got back, he expected everything to just go back to how it was before … I kind of just interpret it like he’s not ready to grow up and he doesn’t really want to move on to dating and relationships yet. He still wants to be a kid and play in the basement like he did in old times."

This isn’t the first time Noah has addressed the speculation surrounding his character’s sexuality. In 2016, the year “Stranger Things” premiered, he wrote on Instagram: "For me, Will being gay or not is besides the point."

"Stranger Things is a show about a bunch of kids who are outsiders and find each other because they have bullied in some way or are different," Noah added in the now-deleted post. "Does being sensitive, or a loner, or a teenager who likes photography, or a girl with red hair and big glasses, make you gay? I’m only 12 but I do know we all relate to being different."

While Will Byers’ sexual orientation may still be a question mark, the “Stranger Things” creators did introduce an openly LGBTQ character toward the end of season three.

In the seventh episode, Scoops Ahoy employee Robin (Maya Hawke) comes out to her friend and co-worker Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) as they’re coming down from “truth serum.” After Steve reveals he has a crush on Robin, she tells him she likes girls.

Fans took to Twitter to celebrate Robin’s revelation. One tweeted, “ROBIN IS GAY! I REPEAT ROBIN IS GAY! ROBIN IS THE TRUE LGBT+ ICON OF TELEVISION #StrangerThings.”

In a recent interview, Hawke told Entertainment Weekly she was “honored” to portray a queer character.

"She gets less sarcastic and more vulnerable and more herself, until finally, in the end, she has no choice but to be her complete self,” Hawke said. "I think that to have that scene [set] in the '80s, and to have that scene on TV in general, I feel really honored to have got to be a part it.”

“Stranger Things” seasons one through three are currently available to stream on Netflix.

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