Chloe Hayden

Chloe Hayden 

Benjamin Hardwick
James Majoos as Darren, Ayesha Madon as Amerie and Chloe Hayden as Quinni

James Majoos as Darren, Ayesha Madon as Amerie and Chloe Hayden as Quinni

Lisa Tomasetti/Netflix
Chloe Hayden as Quinni and James Majoos as Darren

Chloe Hayden as Quinni and James Majoos as Darren

Lisa Tomasetti:Netflix
Chloe Hayden as Quinni

Chloe Hayden as Quinni

Lisa Tomasetti
Fill 1
Fill 1
March 31, 2023
Online Originals

Chloe Hayden's High School Redo

The costar of Netflix's Heartbreak High brings authenticity to her role as an autistic high schooler — and finds healing in the process.

Dinah Eng

Chloe Hayden has been acting for a long time now.

"I had to act my whole life in order to fit in," says Hayden, who was diagnosed with autism when she was thirteen. "I found the only place I could be myself was when I was pretending to be someone else."

While her parents called her their "quirky little genius," their acceptance didn't make the bullying she received at school any less hurtful. So Hayden, who also has ADHD, taught herself how to act by watching the mannerisms of popular film and television characters.

When the native Australian was still a teen, her father drove her ten hours round-trip to acting classes and workshops every week, and she auditioned for every community play, musical and short film she could. When she won the role of Quinni, an autistic high school student, in Netflix's Heartbreak High, she was ecstatic — and terrified.

Hayden, who was home schooled since she was thirteen, was scared to be with people her own age, fearing that she would be bullied again by her peers.

"I felt sick with anxiety the night before we started filming," she says, "but as soon as I walked into the room, I was hit by the feeling that I was with family."

Hayden even worked with the show's writers to develop her character. She made the point that her character's autism should be identified outright on screen, and not just hinted at. She also wanted the audience to understand that autistic people experience a spectrum of strengths and challenges.

Hayden says the writers considered not giving her character a meltdown scene, in consideration of the actress's mental health, but she wanted autistic viewers to see themselves in Quinni and to know that such moments in life can be handled with extra support.

"We made sure the scene was filmed on a closed set, during the last time on a Friday, so that I would have the weekend to recover," Hayden says. "Even if you're playing pretend, your mind thinks it actually is in a situation of panic, so I needed that weekend."

The actress says working on Heartbreak High allowed her to relive her high school years and heal emotionally. She was also empowered to bring an authentic representation of autism to television screens. In this role, Hayden says, "I could say what was real, raw and beautiful about autism."

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