Lachlan Watsonis currently making media waves as Susie, an ambiguously LGBTQ+’ character who has been reshaped and rewritten into a major plot point in the new Netflix show, the The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Lachlan is undeniably one of the most unexpected delights of the smash success of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which exploded onto the scene in mid-October and is already pumping out three more seasons and a Winter Solstice special. Lachlan, who is nonbinary, and uses the singular they/them pronouns, is humble, charming, dazzlingly funny, and leaves me confident they’re going to help change the way queer characters are represented in media.
Spectrum was able to spend the day with Lachlan in Seattle, when they came down for an interview and photo shoot, and that time together confirmed our adoration for them is justified. Driven, passionate, funny, a changemaker, a queer icon, a fashionista, Lachlan is a major force we will be hearing about for years to come. Truly, they are going to impact the world in a big way, whatever they are doing, and we’re happy to be along for the ride.
- Amelia Zeve, The Spectrum Apparel
The first thing I noticed about Lachlan Watson was the confidence they exuded, a dazzling sense of self that pushes forward through the screens of social media and fills a room even when they aren’t in it. A confidence that moves its way into the outfits they wear and the way they speak and write; there is an eloquence that comes with the knowledge of who they are.
My favorite thing about Lachlan, however, is their laugh because it glows and shines as brightly as they do.
I first reached out to Lachlan after seeing them in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ( CAOS), playing a character named Susie who started the season being assaulted by the football players at her school in order to see ‘if she was a boy or a girl.’ This scene was raw and relatable and although it’s a disheartening reality, it’s one that many queer people, especially people who violate stereotypical gender norms in one way or another, experience too often and a reality that media loves to glaze over or simply pretend doesn’t exist. As volatile as it was, watching that scene made me feel less alone in my own identity (as that kind of verbal or even physical assault about my own gender presentation is something I’ve experienced), and I followed Susie’s character with a vigorous affinity for the rest of the season, eagerly chasing after plot points.
Lachlan Watson for The Spectrum Apparel. Photo by Tywen Kelly
After finishing the show in a humiliatingly short period of time, I began my post-binging ritual of digging through the social media accounts of the show and my favorite characters. It’s common in Hollywood to cast non-queer people as queer characters, and I expected Lachlan Watson to be some sort of a refraction of the character they played on the show, or maybe I didn’t quite know what to expect, but, either way, I was shocked to see who they were in real life. Their Instagram is like a window into the type of confident-being many people would love to embody: Lachlan looking fabulous in a mustard-yellow beret, Lachlan modeling, Lachlan being their adorable self. I was stoked. Trying to find real-life queer representation in the entertainment industry is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I reached out to Lachlan, told them about Spectrum, our appreciation for them as an actor, and how I’d love to talk. I offered an email conversation, or a Skype call - after all, they were still actively filming CAOS, and a busy, important person. When Lachlan offered to come down to Seattle and do an in-person interview, I felt my heart drop to my stomach and I said “yes” without a moment’s hesitation.
So that led to me, standing at the door at my favorite Seattle breakfast spot, waiting for Lachlan to arrive, fidgeting with every element of my outfit that could be fidgeted with. We had been talking in the weeks leading up to their arrival and I felt I was beginning to understand who they were: passionate, sharply funny, eloquent, with a healthy dose of Southern charm (Lachlan lives in North Carolina) and the perfect complement of West-Coast wokeness. I was so lost inside my own mind, debating how I would act when I saw them (do I hug them? shake their hand? give a curtsy?) that I was almost surprised when I looked up and saw them. I started to stutter, what kind of greeting is appropriate? But they grabbed me and wrapped me up in an enthusiastic hug, both of us laughing wildly. “Oh, my God,” I exclaimed. “I feel like I’m meeting my Internet best friend in person for the first time!” “Me, too,” Lachlan laughed, and for the first, but certainly not the last, time that day, I noticed the way they seemed to emanate a warm, wonderful light whenever they laughed.
Any bit of nervousness I had about the day evaporated immediately after we started talking. Lachlan is a fabulous storyteller and also a great listener (so, basically, peak Aries) and I found myself immediately comfortable around them. We sat down at the restaurant, and I handed them a menu. “Any dietary restrictions?” I asked, and they smiled wryly. “I’m Southern,” Lachlan said, taking the menu confidently and beginning to look it over. “So…no. What’s good here?”
After breakfast, Lachlan and I went back to their rented apartment, which was to be our home base for the photo and video shoots scheduled to unfold over the day. The apartment was enchanting; a studio apartment in a building with a creaky staircase, peeling white paint, and a sweeping view of downtown and the Space Needle. “Isn’t it charming?” Lachlan asked, guiding me up to the fourth floor, stopping to admire the view on every landing. “Seattle is the best.” I had to agree. Seeing them fall in love with Seattle made me appreciate the city even more.
There was something special about watching the clouds build and boil, high over the city and the water, and seeing them watch it with awe and enthusiasm. There is a genuine wonder in the way Lachlan sees the world and their perspective seemed to spread into the way I was seeing the city, too.
The apartment setting ended up being so much more than just a jumping-off point; it almost completely inspired the way the shoot unfolded, with its expansive natural light and homey feel. Under the creative direction of our brilliant photographer, Tywen Kelly, Lachlan jumped on the bed, Lachlan leaned over the stairway banister, Lachlan sat by the window, Lachlan posed against a random mattress that sat in the hallway like an awkward houseguest, unsure if they can come in. The shoot was fun, goofy, natural. Everything that a photo shoot typically is not.
It took Lachlan and I awhile to transition to a more ‘formal’ interview attitude. Or, rather, it took us a while to stop goofing around and messing up the audio takes with laughter and pauses mid-sentence to draw the “Hi, you’re watching Disney Channel” Mickey Mouse ears in the air. “So,” I said after ten minutes of non-productivity (and an aerial attack from the single largest house spider in Seattle, which I DON’T even want to talk about). “Let’s talk about your acting career. Identifying as nonbinary, how does that affect your characters and the roles that you play?”
Lachlan paused for a minute, squinting a little as they thought. “Well,” they said, “funny enough, I don’t think it influences it at all. I feel like what influenced my characters and my craft was when I DID limit myself and wasn’t out as nonbinary yet, when I forced myself...to fit this ‘Man Mold,’ per se. That’s when I couldn’t get out of my head enough to play the characters I wanted to play. I forced myself into this little box in real life, and because of that, because of the place I was in, in real life, I wasn’t able to break out of that cage, much less break out of it in acting, and play a whole different character. So once I finally came to terms with being nonbinary, and finally came to terms with the way that it affected my acting, oh my god, it was beautiful.”
Lachlan paused for a moment, smiling widely. “It was…so free. I was no longer limiting myself, and then I wanted to play EVERYTHING. I wanted to play things I’d never let myself play before. I WANT to play a woman! I WANT to play a man! I WANT to play none of the above, just to show that being nonbinary means that you are a chameleon. The laws of gender no longer apply to you, or confine you, and THAT’S what I want to show the world. We’ve trapped ourselves in this box of ‘queer actors can ONLY play queer characters’ and ‘queer people can ONLY make queer art’ and ‘queer directors can ONLY make queer film’ and…that’s just not true. Because that’s not the case, we’re all human, and I can play human characters, make human art, make human films. That’s acting.”
I laughed in awe, almost at a loss for words. “Fantastic. Yeah, wow. It’s, it’s SO cool to have gotten to know you before this, and then to just hear you talk about something like this and just remember, yeah, wow, you really are going to shake things up in this world.”
Lachlan laughed, and I smiled. “No,” I added, “really. Just, the way you conceptualize gender, and the way you conceptualize identity, and then the way you present that to people, it’s amazing.”
“Well, I think it’s a direct result of never having been presented anything about it when I was a kid. It’s almost a rebellion of being like, ‘well, nobody ever told me this, so I guess now I’m gonna go and f*cking tell everyone!”
We both laughed at that.
“So, tell me a little bit more about your exploration and your journey with queerness,” I asked.
“Well,” they started, “it’s funny. It actually came in three cycles for me because, you know, the first part was definitely exploring myself and understanding what it meant to be queer at the time, and understanding the concept of ‘queerness.’ I needed to wrap my head around that before I could wrap my head around the way queerness relates to me, and more importantly, how I related to queerness.” Watching Lachlan talk, I could feel a deep sense of appreciation for them and the way they speak about this topic. It was so cool to see them and get to know them, first as this fun, goofy person laughing and lighting up the room with their presence, and then to ask questions like this and hear them have such a deep and wise understanding of identity, themselves, and what it means to be queer.
Lachlan Watson for The Spectrum Apparel
“I think it all started when I came out as gay,” Lachlan continues, “which was when I was thirteen. I came out as a lesbian, and I lived my life in that world for, what, a year? And, just the whole time, I kept feeling like that wasn’t it, I wasn’t done. So I started exploring more and thinking more and thinking about my childhood. Thinking about why I was so quick to put myself in the box of being gay, and I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t gay, I was actually transgender. You know, there were all those signs from when you’re little, all those signs that hint at the fact that you’re not as perfect in your gender as you think you are, and I thought those signs pointed to me being trans. So I lived as a trans man for about two years, and it was a really hard time in my life. I struggled a lot, and still didn’t feel complete or happy or satisfied. And I couldn’t figure out why.”
“I still felt trapped within my body, even though the whole idea of coming out was ‘freeness,’ and being your freest self. And I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel like I was there. I still didn’t feel like I’d ‘made it.’ You know, they tell you it’s a journey, you go from point A to point B and then you’ve MADE it. And I didn’t feel that.” Lachlan laughed. “And so…I think from there it was kind of just a slow descent into just a complete lack of gender. That was phase three.”
I started thinking critically about what boxes I was still putting myself in, and why…and why I felt the need to cage myself. And so, I think I REALLY started to explore that with clothes and with makeup, and realizing that clothes are just the things on your back. Just like your body, they don’t have to define you. So, through that, I started to see how I was still boxing myself in, and through allowing myself to be flexible and live free of those boxes, I was able to open myself up to the world of being queer.”
“I still felt trapped within my body, even though the whole idea of coming out was ‘freeness,’ and being your freest self. And I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel like I was there. I still didn’t feel like I’d ‘made it.’ You know, they tell you it’s a journey, you go from point A to point B and then you’ve MADE it. And I didn’t feel that.” Lachlan laughed. “And so…I think from there it was kind of just a slow descent into just a complete lack of gender. That was phase three. I started thinking critically about what boxes I was still putting myself in, and why…and why I felt the need to cage myself. And so, I think I REALLY started to explore that with clothes and with makeup, and realizing that clothes are just the things on your back. Just like your body, they don’t have to define you. So, through that, I started to see how I was still boxing myself in, and through allowing myself to be flexible and live free of those boxes, I was able to open myself up to the world of being queer.”
I smiled, dumbstruck. “I…I love that,” I managed to choke out, after shaking myself out of my stupefied haze. Watching Lachlan talk gave me the same sensation you get when you watch somebody really brilliant and eloquent give a Ted Talk on something you love; just being overwhelmed with admiration for the person who is able to put words to something meaningful with a prowess you wish you had. “Something I hear a lot, from people who are struggling to come out as queer, or as a certain identity,” I continued, “is that they’re afraid to come out because they’re not sure, that they don’t know, that they don’t have the full information about their identity, and if they come out as something, they’re stuck with that forever. It’s irreversible, you know. It’s like, it’s like you have this fear that once you put yourself in another box after you’ve ALREADY been boxed in your whole life as cis or straight, once you jump to that second one, then you’re there for good.” Lachlan nodded enthusiastically. “Right! Exactly,” they said. I smiled. “So…what advice would you have for someone who is struggling with that fear?”
Lachlan paused for a moment, looking thoughtfully up to the sky. “I think that…I think that the root of the problem is that we, as a society, have this problem that there’s this finality, this permanence to everything. That you have to understand and justify everything. And that’s not always the case. You don’t have to know and completely understand yourself. I mean, as humans, we won’t always, or ever, understand us or our purpose or our purpose on this earth.” Silently, I felt my head spin with profound agreement. “But that’s just a fact of life,” Lachlan continued. “So why would we expect to fully grasp our identities? Or our ideas of ourselves? Why should we hold ourselves to that kind of impossible standard? So, for me, the moment I really felt the freest was when I really stopped holding myself to that. When I stopped expecting more of myself than I was ready, willing or had the capability to give. And I think once I allowed myself to just be, truly, and freely, and unapologetically, that’s when I felt my happiness. That’s when I finally felt me, when I stopped forcing myself to box myself in and limit every single thing I do.”
The Spectrum Spotlight is a recurring artist interview series, highlighting different LGBTQ+ artists and influencers about their work, their inspirations, and their life in general. Know a queer creator, artist or awesome human who’d be a good fit for the Spectrum Spotlight project? Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion.
Written by Amelia Zeve, blog editor for The Spectrum Apparel.