Glass interviews the young actor Lachlan Watson

LACHLAN Watson, an 18-year-old actor from Raleigh, North Carolina, was finishing their senior year of high school last fall when they landed a role in the Netflix series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It was an exciting opportunity, but one originally meant to pass by quickly. With just a two-episode arc on the show, which films in Vancouver, Watson expected to be back home in Raleigh within a couple of weeks — plenty of time to finish out the school year.

Instead, Watson wasn’t home for months.

“I was supposed to die in the second episode, but I guess they figured it was a bad look to kill off the queer kid so quickly,” Watson jokes, whose character ended up featured in all but one of Sabrina’s first 20 episodes.


Lachlan Watson. Photograph: Sacha Maric


Fans of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the popular series that ran from 1996 to 2003 based off of the Archie Comics character of the same name, may struggle to recognise the original in Netflix’s grittier reboot – think fewer talking cats and more casual devil worshiping. Both stories follow the antics of the half-witch, half-human, Sabrina as she navigates her adolescence amid mortal and magical worlds. But the new version, equal parts camp, drama and fantasy, is much harder to classify than its sitcom predecessor.

This ambiguity suits Watson just fine. “Our show thrives in these grey areas,” Watson says, whose character transitions to a trans man named Theo in the second part of the series. “And that’s perfect for me, because my whole life is basically one big grey area.”

That might sound like a bold claim coming from a teenager. But Watson, like the character they play, has lived a lot of life already. An actor since childhood, Watson grew up in the local Raleigh theatre scene. Bigger breaks came with bit roles on shows like Nashville and Drop Dead Diva. And now, thanks to Sabrina’s success, Watson has become one of Hollywood’s most visible nonbinary actors – with the platforms and pressures such a position entails – all before reaching the legal drinking age in the United States.


Lachlan Watson. Photograph: Sacha Maric

“I didn’t realise how often I’d be asked to speak about my personal gender identity when I first got this role,” Watson admits. But they suspect the show’s creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, had a hunch. Prior to officially casting Watson as Theo, Aguirre-Sacasa scheduled a Skype conversation between the two. The screenwriter listened, over the course of an hour, as Watson talked in detail about their path to discovering their nonbinary gender identity – a journey that included pit stops at either end of the traditional male-female binary before they realized neither fully felt like home.

“Looking back, it makes sense that [Aguirre-Sacasa] was kind of vetting me,” Watson said. “I think he was like, ‘if I cast you, with the way you identify, in this specific role – you’re going to be talking about this a lot.’”

Whether Aguirre-Sacasa foresaw this scrutiny or not, it’s a reality that has nonetheless come to pass. Over the last year and a half, Watson has fielded countless interview requests from outlets like Out Magazine to Teen Vogue. This past autumn, they also appeared in a Netflix digital exclusive, What I Wish You Knew: About Being Nonbinary, alongside prominent genderqueer advocates like Jacob Tobia. In each of these instances, Watson has talked about their gender identity in honest, earnest detail.

“It’s tricky,” Watson says, about whether they were tired of fielding questions about their identity. “I really do appreciate the opportunity to advocate for queer and nonbinary people, but if I’m being honest, I’m also kind of done talking about my past.”

Trans, nonbinary and genderqueer people, Watson explains, are constantly being asked to validate their gender identities through the telling, and retelling, of their former selves — what their bodies once looked like, what their birth names used to be, or what barriers they overcame on their paths towards self-acceptance. “But none of that really has anything to do with who I am now,” Watson said. “If I had the terms about being nonbinary at 13, who’s to say I wouldn’t have just jumped to it right away, and skipped all the hard stuff in the middle?”


Lachlan Watson. Photograph: Sacha Maric


As Watson’s spotlight burns brighter, they are starting to push back against the gender paradigm in ways that don’t focus unnecessarily on their past — like through fashion. Watson intentionally set out to raise some eyebrows last fall, for instance, when they arrived at the premiere of Sabrina outfitted in a sheer black REDValentino dress and fascinator. “A lot of people still think that’s not the way someone like me is supposed to look,” Watson said, noting nonbinary people are often expected to show up to events wearing something “genderless,” like a potato sack.

Of course, Watson can still appreciate a good androgynous moment – David Bowie, for instance, has long been a major fashion inspiration. But recently, Watson has brought a more critical eye to the source of this childhood admiration. “I think I loved what Bowie represented,” Watson said, which was this “seven-foot tall, rail thin androgynous, assigned-male person.” In their attempts to emulate this look, the five-foot tall Watson spent years searching for ways to appear bigger – a process that involved wearing a lot of boxy, oversized shirts and shoes that were three sizes too big. “I couldn’t walk for like a year because I was clomping around in these big combat boots.”

Ultimately, these tropes of masculinity felt forced. “It can be easy to forget that clothes don’t have a gender,” Watson said. “It’s the pressures we put on them that are the problem. A dress shirt for me feels like I’m literally wearing a paper bag, but a dress is so comfortable – why not wear what’s most comfortable?”

In the spirit of not dwelling unduly on the past – what comes next for the ascendant star?

“I’m giving this a lot of thought,” Watson says after a pause. “If I take another Theo next, then I’m worried those are the only roles I’m ever going to play – I’ll always be the queer kid.” Partly for this reason, Watson said they’d love for their next project to be within a genre normally thought of as highly gendered – like a Western. “Just picture me in a corset,” Watson said, suddenly wide-eyed with the mental exercise. “Give me those ringlet curls and let me go train hopping. That sounds like so much fun!”

Their “dream role,” Watson says, would be to star in “some over the top, cheesy romance movie.” Much like Love, Simon, the 2018 box office hit with a same-sex teenage courtship at its centre, finally gave young queer men a love story they can see themselves in on the big screen, “it would be cool to give nonbinary kids the chance to relate to that kind of a guilty pleasure – I know I’ve never seen anyone like me represented in any of those stories.”


Lachlan Watson. Photograph: Sacha Maric


Recently, Watson was even vying for a part in such a romantic comedy – but predictably, the producers ultimately cast a straight, blond woman in the role. “She deserved it,” Watson says, diplomatically. Still, throughout the audition process, Watson admitted to hoping that Hollywood just might be ready to see a nonbinary actor, like them, as a romantic lead.

If Sabrina’s success is any indication, maybe we’re not so far off from seeing a nonbinary actor in such a role in the near future. With reboots all the rage these days, how unimaginable is it really to picture Watson in a gender nonconforming version of something like 10 Things I Hate About You? The hardest part for Watson, anyway, might be deciding which role to throw their hat (or fascinator, as the case may be) into the ring for – Heath Ledger’s cool kid or Julia Stiles’ loner?

Watson at least is ready for the challenge. But just fresh out of high school, they’re also not in any particular hurry, either, to take Hollywood by storm. It can be easy to forget this actor – who has spent the last year filming a major television show, gracing magazine covers, and schooling the media on the intricacies of feminism, sexuality, and gender identity – is still very much a teenager. But Watson is very much aware of their current life stage, and hopes to take advantage of it while they still can.

“I had this realisation the other day that the last summer of my childhood kind of passed me by while I was filming last year,” Watson says. “I missed out on a lot.” So before returning to Vancouver to shoot the next two instalments of Sabrina, Watson intends to stop by their old high school to participate in a quintessential teenage experience – one that often provides a backdrop for the type of romantic comedies Watson one day hopes to headline – senior prom.

“I couldn’t make it to prom last year,” Watson adds. “So I’m really excited to go back this year with some friends.”

And yes – they plan to wear a dress.

by David Dodge

Photographer: SACHA MARIC
Fashion assistant: TREVOR MCMULLAN
Production: DEFACTO INC

Look 1
Jacket, Sweater, Pants:  BOTTEGA VENETA

Look 2
Boots: R13

Look 3
Shirt: NIHL

Look 4
Jacket: NIHL
Boots: R13