The actor, who stars as a sexually fluid teenager in the new Netflix series, opens up to PEOPLE about how important representation is on screen — and how far it has come.
“I think about what an impact as a queer teenager it had on me to see Kurt on Glee,” he says, referencing the openly gay character on the hit musical drama series. “And how affecting that was, a character that was very much defined by their queerness because that was the time that it was in. That was incredibly revolutionary just for the moment.”
But in The Politician, his character’s sexuality is an assumed part of his identity, rather than a leading plotline in the show.
“Now to see a character that [their sexual preference] is an assumed part of their identity and it’s not the subject matter of the piece, that would have been I think even more affecting,” he adds. “Everyone is somewhere on the spectrum, and that’s part of the landscape. We don’t have to make that the subject of the piece.”
In fact, many of the characters on the show are openly gay or sexually fluid.
“There’s not ‘the queer character,’ ” says Platt, 26. “It’s all over.”
“I think it’s immeasurable to know the impact that can have on a teenager who is coming into their own,” his costar Zoey Deutch also tells PEOPLE.
The Politician follows Payton (Platt), a rich teenager who has equipped himself with a blueprint to earn him success upon success and ultimately land him in the White House. First up: winning student-body president. But as the election proves to be more of a minefield than he expected, he begins to blur the lines of morality in order to achieve his goal.
“Much like Payton, I’ve had a very superficial, exacting idea of exactly where I wanted to go, and a one-track mind and a drive and ambition for that one goal,” says Platt. “Payton has the one thing he knows he wants to do, but anything that veers from that, he kind of feels like he’s sort of getting a little bit on thin ice.”
“I can certainly relate to that when something doesn’t go as I planned it, or if something is in a different direction than I envisioned and I feel kind of upended by it.”
The eight-episode first season of The Politician is streaming on Netflix.