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Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina's Lachlan Watson On Showing A Different Kind Of Queer Story

'A powerful, strong, queer character who never has to be saved'

It should have been obvious, given the way Lachlan Watson views identity, that Part 1 of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina showed but one piece of their character’s gender journey.

Part 2 of the Netflix show also turned out to be Act 2 of the character's own opera, to borrow Watson’s terminology. In the second installment’s premiere episode, after their character magically dominated basketball tryouts, he humbly came out to his friends by telling them his chosen name: “Actually guys, it's Theo now.” And that was pretty much it.

“The character is trans, through and through,” Watson told MTV News, offering the language that was never quite verbalized, but strongly assumed. “It was interesting because I knew Theo was a trans guy … but [in the] last part, since I hadn’t come out yet, everyone assumed that Susie was non-binary just like me, and I couldn’t correct them.”

Watson was privy to Theo’s journey throughout the entirety of Part 1. They had talked to the writers and showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa not long after being cast to play a trans male character, then named Orlando, about the possibility of slowing down the transition.

“By existing and showing up and being a different person, a different identity that the writers may not have even known about before, I think in that way, I influenced Theo’s character,” they said. “I showed that it was possible to just hold off a second, and to just live in the gray area.”

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Beyond his gender, over the course of the season, we also see that the character is an athlete, a student, the glue to his friendship group, and a literal lifesaver multiple times over.

Theo’s story — an honest look at what one person might experience as they explore their gender right alongside the general balancing act that is high school in a town with a serious demon problem — is an example of what queer stories could be, if we approached them with the same thoughtfulness and care that we’ve given to straight stories forever.

Rather than Theo’s queerness being his story, his gender is used to bolster his overall character growth. In Part 2, Theo's story is one of strength and self-acceptance. As he becomes increasingly comfortable in the way he presents himself, he experiences triumphs that range from his teammates’ acceptance all the way to saving the world.

It was a marked difference from the unassertive character we had met in Part 1. “Susie didn’t really know who they were, and … the strength got a little lost where I ended up getting saved like four times in a row,” Watson said. “What was really, really important for me with this upcoming season was to show a powerful, strong, queer character who never has to be saved. They can, in fact, save other people.”

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Part 2 begins its climax with Theo literally stopping the gates of Hell from opening, but had he not fully embraced himself earlier in the season, he may have still been stuck in his more timid state. In small but heartfelt snippets, Theo went through a series of subtle motions — things like telling his friends his name, asking his father to take him for a haircut, learning to tie a tie — to regain his confidence and, ultimately, establish his sense of self, all of which built to those more robust, adrenaline-filled scenes. Each of those smaller moments highlighted experiences many queer people can relate to and, really, show things we haven’t seen enough of on television.

One such moment was Theo coming out to his dad. The quiet scene offered an alternative to the big, dramatic idea we’ve been fed before about coming out stories, instead showing an honest, open conversation between father and son that organically came up in response to his dad asking if he’d like a new dress for the school dance.

Theo, naturally, benefits from Watson’s real-life experience exploring their own gender. The moment was infused with their belief that coming out doesn’t have to be “this crazy moment that has to be the most important of your life,” they said. “To me, that has always sort of confirmed the idea that queer people are different, are weird, are less-than … it’s almost like an apology, that you have to have this big sit-down intervention where you’re like, ‘I’m sorry for being who I am.’”

For themself, Watson has found that a simpler, more human approach is better. “It should just be a matter of letting people that matter the most to you into a new part of your life,” they said. And to continue allowing those people into your life, even if there is an adjustment period.

We saw this play out with Theo. When his friends were first getting used to his name and pronouns, every so often they’d use his deadname. They’d apologize, and Theo would understand, accept it, and they’d both move on.

There are a ton of feelings surrounding being misgendered, and being that this is TV, Theo is generously bestowed with a high level of emotional maturity that, in real life, might take longer to achieve — even Watson admitted that they “grew up so afraid to correct people on pronouns” having lacked any precedent for how to correct someone. But now, they realize that “it’s literally the thought that counts.”

Much like Theo’s cool reaction to his friends’ inevitable slip-ups, Watson’s rule of thumb is “if you’re trying and you really care about the person enough to work on it, that’s what matters. It’s not whether or not you’re perfect or you never mess up.”

And then there was Episode 4, “Doctor Cerberus’s House of Horror,” in which a tarot reader comes to town and offers damning glimpses into each character’s future. Theo’s divination saw him stealing a potion from the Spellmans that transforms his body, giving him a muscular chest, broader shoulders, and a deeper voice.

As Theo admired his new form in the mirror — a moment that at one time Watson could deeply relate to — the actor felt for their character. “It was this really emotional moment where I knew that that’s what the character wants,” they said.

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It’s a relatable fantasy, to use magic to be seen the way you want to be seen, but it's not real life. And for many, physical changes are not realistically attainable by surgical means either. What it really comes down to is finding it within yourself to reject gender normativity or any notion that you “should” look any certain way.

That’s the realization that Theo has by the end of Part 2. In Episode 8, right before his most pronounced heroics of the season, Theo has an exchange with Sabrina — or rather, who he thinks is Sabrina, but is actually her mandrake double — that Watson called, “a rebellion against the system.”

In the scene, mandrake-Sabrina offers to change him into a boy. “I already am a boy,” Theo replied. As she persisted, he clarified twice, with increasing anger, saying, “I already see myself as a real boy,” and “I don’t need to change my body to feel like a boy.”

As Watson noted, “The world sort of puts you down and tells you that you’re not good enough and that you have to look this way and you have to be this way, and the moment that somebody says, ‘No, I am enough for myself,’ is seen as a revolutionary act.’”

That revolution is the epitome of Theo’s internal strength. It’s when he finally verbalizes the lesson we all need to reach at some point in our lives in order to move past our insecurities, love ourselves, and truly grow into the person we are going to become. That’s really what this whole story comes down to: That you are who you know you are, not who people see you as, and when you are enough for you, then you are enough for the world.

“It’s a story that just plain and simple doesn’t get told — that you can be enough for yourself,” Watson reflected. “It’s cool that even through the queer lens of Theo, we get to tell a story that affects everyone.”

And just like that, a queer story becomes, well, a story.