'Stranger Things' Star Noah Schnapp Says Playing Will Byers Helped Him Come Out as Gay

The actor also opened up about celebs sliding into his DMs in a new interview.

For Stranger Things actor Noah Schnapp, life imitating art came as a surprise.

The 18-year-old actor publicly came out earlier this year, following the reveal that his character on the Netflix sci-fi series, Will Byers, was also gay. For Schnapp, his on-screen journey was essential in figuring out and accepting himself.

"Once I did fully embrace that Will was gay, it was just an exponential speed towards accepting it for myself," he tells Variety in their latest Power of Young Hollywood Issue, in an interview conducted prior to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. "I would be in a completely different place if I didn’t have Will to portray, and to embrace and help me accept myself. I think if I never played that character, I probably would still be closeted."

Schnapp first came out to his twin sister, Chloe, then his parents, and later, friend and co-star Millie Bobby Brown, all of whom were loving and accepting -- as well as somewhat aware already.

"I kept trying to do it in person with her, and it was too hard," he says of telling Brown. "So then I just FaceTimed her one day in the middle of a Party City and I was like, 'Millie, I’m gay.’ And she was like, 'Oh, Schnapper! You told me finally!'"

The reaction from Stranger Things fans -- following a season 4 storyline which saw Will struggle with a one-sided crush on his best friend, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) -- also helped pave the way for Schnapp to feel comfortable sharing his personal news with the public.

"It kind of blew up in the press, and everyone was like, 'Oh, Will's gay! Hooray!'" he recalls. "I saw all these comments on Instagram and TikTok. There was not one bad thing about him being gay. I was like, if he has all this support, then why should I worry about anything?"

Eric Ray Davidson for Variety

Schnapp admitted that after he came out in a TikTok video, he stayed off his phone for a bit, not wanting to be "waiting nervously" for reactions to roll in. Once he did check, however, he found an outpouring of support from family, friends and fans alike.

"When I opened my phone… it was, like, a thousand texts of hearts and congratulations and rainbow flags," he recalls. "I was crying. I was like, 'I made it. I'm done. I don't have to worry.'"

And while yes, there have been plenty of people sliding into his DMs following the news, Schnapp said he's taking it easy for now, preparing to film Stranger Things' fifth and final season, planning for college at the University of Pennsylvania, and working on TBH, the snack company he launched in 2021.

"I'm just enjoying life, and if someone comes by, then sure — but I’m not actively trying to find a match," he notes. "All of a sudden, there was this influx of all these people in my DMs. And definitely some, like, big names that I didn’t know about. I just take it as a compliment and move on."

Stranger Things -- which also stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Maya Hawke, Joseph Quinn and more -- is set to resume production on season 5 following the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.


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