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William Gao

1st June 2022

Photographer & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Interview & Digital Editor: Pankhuri Bhutani

Styling: Rory Mcnerney 

Grooming: Natalie Stokes

Logo Design: Emily Curtis

A big thanks to Niall and the team at Curtis Brown Talent and to Cavendish Arms for looking after us!

William Gao’s debut into the television industry was explosive, to say the least. In our latest cover, we recently sat down with William in order to talk about his involvement in the mega-sensational Netflix series ‘Heartstopper’, how it was like playing the role of ‘Tao Xu’, discussing introspective growth for the character, insights into his music journey alongside his sister through ‘Wasia Project’ as well as what the fans can expect from the future installment of the highly beloved show.

William wears @atikalondon / @briandecarvalho / @plooma 

Hi there William. So lovely to have you here at ReVamp! How are you doing? 

I am doing well, thank you. I really enjoyed the shoot today! I’ve had a great few weeks. 

I obviously have to start by mentioning your surreal performance as Tao in the sensational series ‘Heartstopper’. Huge congratulations on the success! Since this is your debut on-screen performance, what was it initially that made you accept this role? 

I’ve never done screen before and I thought this was an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s something I never thought was possible. I assumed I’d do theater and sort of go up from there. I knew I had to take this opportunity since it was now or never. 

What sort of approach to research did you take when you started to explore your character? I know you had some personal insights directly from the wonderful Alice Oseman. Did you and Alice share any similar traits regarding the character in your mindsets and was there anything that you specifically added to the character which wasn’t previously in the script?

We had a lot of scene studies with Alice. Throughout that process, we built Tao elaboratively and I really liked that. The only thing which I think was different (for me) is the fact that I’m really tall and Tao in the books is really small so we had to edit some of the lines around that particular element. That was the only thing we changed. Alice was really great! We talked thoroughly about Tao and his arc within the show. I felt really liberated since Alice said I didn’t have to follow everything according to the book and I could make him my own way. 

William wears @atikalondon / @fiorucci 

Did you anticipate the show garnering such a massive influence from all around the world? How are you dealing with such a remarkable response? 

It is amazing, the response has been crazy. I am so grateful for the fans as well as the reception that I have received. I never thought it will get this big, it was just our little show. It then became this big thing that it has and it’s very overwhelming so I am happy with that. I appreciate how this story has been moving for some people and I am really grateful that we could bring this beautiful story to life. 

One of the best characteristics of Tao (for me personally) lies in his extremely quick wit and his ability to silence his enemy only using a few words. Do you think you are similar to the character in that specific aspect as well in general and are there any qualities you aspire to possess from Tao himself (or wish Tao could have any of your real-life personality traits)?

I am quite different from Tao in the sense that I am not that opinionated or judgmental and I feel like I’m not as confrontational as he is. One thing that I would take from Tao would be to be a bit more honest, to know where you stand, to have an opinion, and to never be afraid to share them with people. That’s definitely one of the things I wish I could take from Tao.  

If Tao could take a personality trait from me, I’d tell him to be calmer and to let him know that things happen for a reason so really just chill out. School can be a weird place so just keep your chill. (laughs) 

We know Tao’s worst nightmare scenario is Charlie bringing home the Rugby team to the group’s film night and making him watch ‘The Avengers’ but what is William Gao’s nightmare scenario?

My nightmare scenario will most likely be being in a dark room with no one else there. Like a dark space or a dark church. Probably that or being in a turbulent plane. Definitely one of those things! 

Let’s talk about the latest EP Wasia Project recently dropped- ‘How Can I Pretend?’. Listening to it for the first time felt so ethereal! All of the tracks feel like they’re projecting a distinct yet novel vibe from them. What was the overall creative process like with this particular project? 

Me and my sister Olivia (Hardy), who’s a very talented artist decided this project to be reflective of the first-ever songs we wrote. ‘Impossible’ on the EP is Olivia’s first-ever song that she wrote and ‘Why Do You Love Me’ was my first ever song and I think it’s been a long process of recording, reevaluating what each song means to us and how we should be using them. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making that EP but I’m so glad we did it. I’m so grateful to the fans of Wasia for listening to the EP and to have such a positive response to the project.

The way you and your sister, the talented Olivia Hardy’s artistic abilities blend together perfectly in all your tracks is something truly exceptional. How has the experience been like creating and pursuing music alongside your sister?

It’s very inspiring. Olivia inspires me every day. Personally, she has been that person who has always been there to support me. Professionally, we work together really well and we balance each other out. She’s very talented and upcoming and I can’t wait to continue to work with her through Wasia. We plan to do a lot more, we are planning an album and a lot of things together. It’s great that we have each other to protect and to look out for each other while going into this crazy world that is our industry. 

As far as acting and music go, I’m going to keep a balance. I believe balance is the most important thing. I do a lot of acting but I also do a lot of music so it’s all about managing the time and I had to learn that from a really early age in school. I never really enjoyed school, I only enjoyed music or drama over there and never really the math or science. That was all a balancing act and I believe it helped me set things now that I am at a stage where I have to balance things. 

How do you ensure that both your visions and artistic approach are contributed equally towards a project?

Me and Olivia (Hardy) chat a lot before and throughout the process about where we want our aims and opinions. We are very honest and open with each other. If Olivia believes any of my lyric needs to be changed or even a whole song, she’ll let me know and just like that, I am honest with her as well. I believe honesty and communication is the biggest part of a relationship. We’re growing really fast, I am 19 and she’s 17, and it’s a crazy thing we are doing so we just have to be honest with each other and communicate as openly as possible. 

William wears @sean_suen / @plooma 

If you could introduce someone to The Wasia Project for the very first time merely through one track, which track would you like it to be? 

I’d have to say a song called ‘Misfit Biscuit’. It’s a fusion of so many genres. It tackles a big theme of loneliness and the toxicity of school. It’s such a teenager song made for the teens who are currently going through shit and feel like they’re an outcast. It captures like four different genres together and I believe that’s what Wasia Project is- it is pure emotion and pure songwriting through the lens of five different genres in one. 

Now that we have two more seasons of ‘Heartstopper’ officially confirmed by Netflix (Massive Congratulations!), what according to you can the fans expect from Tao’s future? Any particular storyline you’d really like to explore?

I can’t wait to see Tao’s relationship with Elle blossom into something special. I believe it is going to blossom in such a beautiful way and who wouldn’t go to Paris? It’s not like they’re in a romantic relationship and I believe that’s the place to do it! (laughs) 

I can’t wait to work with the wonderful Yasmin Finney and to explore that particular storyline with her, the director and the whole team. 

What fans can expect is DRAMA, LOVE, LAUGHTER, TEARS, and finally… WERK! (laughs)

William wears @chetlo / @plooma 

Lastly, are there any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about as well as anything you wish to convey to your fans reading this interview currently?

With the Wasia Project, we’re going to do a lot of live shows, selling sneaky little merch and physical copies of our EP. Definitely look out for ‘Heartstopper’ and the wonderful things happening in that aspect. 

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