In the pilot of The Fosters, 13-year-old Jude Jacob, played by Hayden Byerly, is welcomed into Stef Adams Foster and Lena Adams Foster’s home after being tossed around the broken foster care system. In Stef, Lena, and a household full of other siblings, Jacob has finally found a home where he can feel safe and a family whom he can depend on.
This past seasons has been closely tracking the relationship of Jude and schoolmate Connor (Gavin Macintosh), whose close friendship has been gradually blossoming into first love. On Monday’s episode, the two shared an on-air kiss after weeks of mixed messages and flirtations from Connor. The kiss between 7th-graders Jude and Connor is being hailed as a momentous occasion for LGBT youth: the youngest lip-lock between two gay characters to ever air on national television.
The Daily Beast chatted with Byerly, 15, to find out the backstory behind the historic smooch and what he thinks of the “Jonnor” friendship moving into romance.
So, how did you and Gavin prepare for the big scene?
Over a long period of time. It took a while to get to the point where the writers were able to write it into the story just because Gavin and I weren’t really comfortable early on playing this role and doing such a serious thing with one another. It’s kind of interesting to kiss someone who you’re friends with who’s also the same sex when you’re interested in the opposite sex. They brought up the idea close to the end of Season One and that’s when they started talking to us more about it. And to prepare for it, Gavin and I started thinking about all the different people that would be watching this and the difference that it would make in the world. If that’s the motive of what you’re doing then you have a pretty good reason to do it. It was a long time of kind of coming to terms that we’d be kissing each other.
When you two finally pull back from the kiss, there’s a look of confusion on both of your faces. What do you think was going through Jude and Connor’s heads?
I think the confusion on Jude’s face was because Connor was kissing Daria and now he had kissed Jude. He was confused as to whom Connor liked and I think that really played through Jude’s head. Like, “Wait a minute. He just kissed me but he’s been kissing Daria. How does that work?” And Connor was sort of confused in the same way. He’s like, “I like kissing Jude, but I’m told I should be kissing Daria.” The confusion was a little different for both of them, but in the end they’re both confused about who Connor was actually attracted to.
From the pinky holding in the movie theater to the actual kiss, it seems like Connor has been making the first move a lot of the time. How’s this affecting Jude and Connor’s friendship?
It’s interesting. It’s like when Jude said that Connor was the one that kissed him in the tent, yet Connor has been initiating the contact between the two of them. But at the same time he’s not expressing how he feels. So I think Jude is kind of confused about that—he doesn’t really know how to handle that, or what to do. He’s just sitting back and letting Connor figure out what he’s comfortable with and how he feels and Jude’s just waiting for him to know how he feels because Jude understands himself and knows what he likes.
How might Connor and Jude’s parents react to the news that they’ve kissed?
I think that Stef and Lena have been through some of these issues before and they’re both gay so they’ll be very understanding and loving, and they’re more open about whether Jude is gay or straight. And they’re a lot more accepting of how he feels than Connor’s dad. I think that it’s going to be interesting to see them maybe butt heads a little bit because I don’t think Connor’s dad will be very accepting—we’ve seen he’s been kind of homophobic. It’ll be very cool to see how he and the moms react to Judd and Connor eventually telling them this.
How do you think LGBT youth felt watching the scene?
I hope they felt happy. It was very important to portray a character that is going through a struggle that so many people go through. I want people to watch the show and see the struggle that Jude goes though and feel more comfortable about themselves; to feel like it doesn’t matter whether you are gay or straight or bisexual or transgender or whatever you are, that you are happy with who you are, and that you are accepting of yourself. My hope is that people watch the scene and they are happy to see something on television that represents them. They can see themselves on television and say, “I’m just like Jude, I go through these struggles, I’m so curious about my sexuality, I’ve been through the foster system.” And they’re happy they can see that in front of so many people and feel as though it’s okay, and it’s not a bad thing.
There have been a lot of positive reactions from fans about the kiss. But how do you deal with the negative people out there?
I kind of just ignore it. If people have their own personal opinions about different things, that’s fine. Religion is one of those things that’s a very tough topic. A lot of people have their religious beliefs and they think that the Bible or whatever they believe in is the right thing to follow. I think that if people want to believe that that’s OK, I just think that they shouldn’t try to make those who feel differently change their minds or feel bad about themselves.
What are you excited about most in regards to Jonnor?
The impact and the difference that they make. I think that’s so exciting. This is the youngest same-sex kiss on national television. I’m very honored to be a part of that and be someone that can help all these kids going through these struggles and hard times and make them feel better about themselves.