Miles Heizer is Miles Ahead

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Miles Heizer is a professional high school student. Though 24, the Kentucky native with peroxide-blond hair and ceiling eyes has been careering as a sophomore ever since his start on NBC’s family drama Parenthood. Earlier this year, he appeared as Simon’s potential mystery crush in the gay blockbuster Love, Simon. But Heizer’s popularity exploded after he played Alex Standall, the dreamboat paralyzed by guilt (literally) in Netflix’s popular series 13 Reasons Why. All of this student posturing, and he hasn’t set foot in secondary school as a real freshman, attended a pep rally, or gone to a homecoming. Heizer has effectively Ferris Buellered his way into the real thing.

See the Exclusive Debut of „Without You“ by Miles Heizer

Playing a high school student onscreen has given Heizer the simulation of jockeying through the treacherous halls of youth without any of the resulting bruises. Looking back, he’s sure—not unlike his 13 Reasons character—that he dodged a bullet. “I view [the experience of high school] negatively,” he says over the phone from L.A. “I’m sure that there are a lot of positives to it, being around people your age—I didn’t really have that growing up.”

What he had instead were textbook quizzes in between takes while drowning out the pain of his insecurities with the music of his idols, Canadian lesbian pop duo Tegan and Sara. He bought clothes “strictly from Hot Topic” during that period. “Going through the emo phase, I was rebelling and trying to figure out the type of clothes I wanted to wear and my crazy haircuts. I wasn’t surrounded by other people that were going through the same thing, which makes everyone judgmental and hard on each other. I got lucky that I missed out on that.”

Don’t get it twisted. Heizer has done his homework. He was still going through all the hellish stages of teenage angst while completing his schoolwork remotely, and has emerged on the other end of it a stronger person. Despite refusing to discuss his own sexuality, the young actor has carefully mapped out his IMDb trajectory to make it that much easier for those who are trying to find themselves in the roles he takes on. He’s acting as a beacon toward which impressionable youth can gravitate, and he’s okay with that. Love, Simon, for example, was a saving grace for the closeted crowd. It was the first LGBT-centric film that a studio put a substantial advertising budget behind, that got a PG-13 rating and a wide release, and that didn’t draw ire from Middle America’s marriage conservationists. “It was the first time that [a gay film has] been in the mainstream in a way—it didn’t feel controversial or anything.”

There is a frustration that remains for many LGBT people in that every gay film is either an AIDS sob story, a closeted tryst, or a coming-out drama: HBO’s The Normal Heart, Call Me by Your Name, God’s Own Country…not much has changed in gay cinema since the release of 1987’s Maurice. Time, in an opinion piece, argued that though Love, Simon was “groundbreaking,” today’s teens no longer needed it. “Can a love story centered around a gay teen who is very carefully built to seem as straight as possible appeal to a generation that’s boldly reinventing gender and sexuality on its own terms?” it asks. Does Heizer share that frustration? “It doesn’t frustrate me, no,” he says. “I’m sure that story still speaks to people. It’s a topic that doesn’t get talked about that much in movies anyways. If that’s the story [writers] want to tell, go for it.”

Then there is the case of all of the controversy piled on 13 Reasons. A research paper stated that suicide-related searches online increased and were directly tied to the show. The apparent toxicity of a series that digs its razor edge into the trauma of suicide is one that its actors have to contend with daily.

“We feel responsibility to treat the storylines with care and respect,” he says, addressing the detractors. “When I was younger, I was so affected by movies and TV. They truly shaped me as a person. Even the emo phase. Like music, that was such a huge part of me, my entire identity. When I was younger, I would watch movies and want so badly to be those characters, and try to emulate them, and be so affected by it. If I’m able to disconnect enough from myself, where I realize someone feels the same way I did when I was young about this [series] that I was a part of, it’s kind of crazy.

“I didn’t have a show like 13 Reasons Why when I was a teenager,” he continues. “I would have benefited a lot from something like that to help me learn about myself and have people to relate to who looked like me, acted like me, were my age, and going through things that I definitely was not comfortable talking about, like anxiety or depression…It has a lot of potential to help a lot of people at the end of the day. But I understand the concerns and I’m not going to try to discredit anyone for having them.”

At the end of the first season, Standall, unable to deal with the guilt of Hannah’s death, attempts suicide. He is unsuccessful, but left partially paralyzed. Only after a locker room tussle with Zach does Standall’s character and his, ahem, lower half, truly awaken. Is he gay? Fans “ship” it, but will parents? As filming wraps on the third season, this is likely another point of contention Heizer will have to explain. But it’s nothing he’s not used to. Though Heizer has played the role of student for the better part of his life, he’s graduated and sliding effortlessly into the role of teendom’s unlikeliest teacher.

CR Men Issue 7 is available alongside CR Fashion Book Issue 13, and will be on newsstands starting September 13, 2018. To order a copy click here, and sign up for our newsletter for exclusive stories from the new issue.


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