Lachlan Watson, The Non-Binary Star Of Netflix’s “Sabrina,” Used Makeup To Navigate Gender Identity. The 19-year-old American actor, who soared to fame as transgender teen Theo Putnam in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, has developed a reputation as a trans and non-binary rights activist. We met up with them to talk about how to see the meaning in scars and why Instagram is so influential.
Lachlan Watson was one of those flashy theatre kids growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, always wandering around in makeup and stage outfits. Watson spent their adolescent years bouncing from one stereotype to another, starting as both a bisexual and a gay male before identifying as non-binary.
Watson’s queer experience has been shown on television in their breakthrough appearance as Theo (born Susie) Putnam, a transgender high schooler on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which also stars Kiernan Shipka. Watson felt limited by trying to stick to gender norms and wanted a place to express their true selves, despite the film’s progressive portrayal of a trans male teenager. Watson has been experimenting with makeup and genderless clothes on Instagram, sharing a slew of selfies and photoshoots with photographer friends that feature the star in a variety of gender expressions.
We spoke with the actor over Zoom about makeup, gender, and seeing the charm in scars ahead of the fourth and final season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s release on Netflix later this year.
What Was The Importance Of Makeup For You As A Kid?
“It was all about equality for me. When I was 11 or 12, I began experimenting with makeup. I used to do other people’s making-up and was often obsessed with making people’s faces look better. It was such a friendly little way for me to communicate with people.”
What Role Did Gender Play In This?
“At the moment, the idea of gendering it all didn’t even occur to me. It took me a long time to realize how those things shaped me and how they would become prisons for me. Putting on makeup was such a pleasurable experience for me. It never fell into the categories of ‘Oh right, I’m doing this to look more feminine,’ or ‘I’m doing this to look like someone else.’ It was all about feeling good about myself, learning something new, and experimenting with color for me. For one of my first theatre appearances, I recall wearing rainbow eyeliner. It was as if I were wearing combat armor.”
When You First Came Out as A Man, How Did You Feel About Beauty?
“I used to wear a lot of makeup — that was always my escape device in a lot of ways,” she says. However, now that I think about it, it sounds more like I was putting on a mask. I pulled my hair back to the undercut I used to wear the other day in the mirror — it’s the first time I’ve seen hair this long since I was nine — and had this moment when I was thinking, “This is what I looked like before I identified as trans.” Yet, I was in a completely different mood. Back then, it was the first time I realized I was holding myself in a cage. I had this expression on my face that I couldn’t seem to shake.
“Makeup, appearance, and clothes all played a part in that. For two years, I didn’t allow myself to wear pink and wore the smallest men’s size I could find, which meant they were way too large. Much of this is ridiculous. Since I figured it was the guy’s way of wearing makeup, I started doing drag makeup instead of just putting on makeup. I had a character in mind every time I put it on. I wasn’t allowing myself to be myself. It took me a long time to get out of the rut.
“I had this crisis that I will be in bed at 3 p.m., start applying makeup, and sit up until sunrise. I put on makeup almost every night. It helped me realize that makeup wasn’t just about me putting on a new face — it was also about pulling out my true self.”
Should the Definition Of Appearance And Gender Be Removed From Makeup?
“At the end of the day, it’s just color on a canvas.” It’s ridiculous to believe that women are the only ones who would adhere to this glamorous standard. I’ve always found it was weird that if you’re a woman of any shape or type and you leave the house without makeup, it’s always considered a revolution as if you’re revolting against the notion of becoming a woman. It’s backward because female-leaning people are enslaved by the notion of getting to look attractive. Not only do females not have to be attractive, but males have always been attractive and are welcome to be so.”
Scars are often disguised because beauty is inextricably tied to the idea of perfection. Despite this, you happily show all your scars on the internet?
“I’ve always believed that scars have a story to tell. In certain facets of my life, I’ve had to live with scars. I’ve lived with scars that were [caused] by falling in a canal, scars that I wanted deliberately to get removed by top surgery, and scars that I’ve given myself. And they all have different meanings for me, but they all reflect development. The common thread that runs through it all is how something happened to me and how I recovered from it. It’s not all about how bad things were before I had top surgery. It’s not just how difficult things were for me when I was self-harming. It’s about how I evolved because of it. That isn’t something I can hide.”
Where Do You Get Your Self-Assurance Confidence From?
“Part of it stems from my deep dissatisfaction, but diamonds are only formed under intense strain. I go back and forth on accepting my hardship and what it did for me to improve, but I don’t like instilling in younger children who will never face adversity the belief that the only way to achieve recognition is by pressure.”
How Would You Describe Your Current Attitude to Beauty?
“Because I have terrible self-control, I still go with my gut instinct when it comes to what I want to wear. Instagram is a great source of inspiration for me. Everywhere you look, somebody is experimenting with makeup. It makes me so excited to see other people do stuff like, “I want to look like a freakish alien baby,” or “I want to look like a freakish alien baby.” What other generation has the right to do shit like that?” it makes me feel excited about the future.