Kit Connor is the Secret Soul of HBO’s “His Dark Materials”

HBO’s His Dark Materials returned last night for the premiere of its third and final season. The series is a careful adaptation of Philip Pullman’s raucous trilogy about a girl from another world and a boy from ours getting caught up in a rebellion against heaven. For many, the best thing about the show is its star–studded ensemble cast. James McAvoy plays the enigmatic Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson is the relentless Mrs. Coulter, and Logan standout Dafne Keen stars as Lyra Silvertongue, a girl with the unique ability to read a mystical truth–telling “golden compass” known as an alethiometer. However, for my money, the best performance in all of His Dark Materials comes from Kit Connor.

Oh, you didn’t know that Heartstopper heartthrob Kit Connor was in HBO’s His Dark Materials? Well, that could be because Connor never appears onscreen as himself. Instead, he is the voice actor behind Lyra’s daemon, Pantalaimon. It’s his voice who has been encouraging and comforting Lyra over the course of the entire series. Kit Connor is the literal soul of His Dark Materials and deserves more shine for his brilliant voice acting.

In His Dark Materials Season 1, we are introduced to a parallel world where people’s souls exist outside their bodies in the form of animals called daemons. These daemons can shapeshift depending on their person’s mood until the age of puberty. After that, daemons are locked forever in a single form. Over the course of the series, we learn that there is a mysterious substance called Dust that is tied to this phenomenon. While the Magisterium — a ruling body that is part church, part dictatorship — believes that Dust is literal original sin, others, like Lord Asriel, see it as something more complex. Lyra finds herself pulled into a wild journey north to both save her kidnapped friend Roger and reunite with Lord Asriel. There are talking polar bears and immortal witches. Lin–Manuel Miranda has a hot air balloon. Eventually Lyra crosses into another world and meets a boy from our universe who has a magical knife. It’s quite the adventure.

Through it all, though, Pantalaimon, or simply Pan, is by Lyra’s side. He is the voice of reason when her impulses get the best of her and her constant cheerleader when she feels despondent. Pan has to be both a reflection of Lyra’s inner life and a unique personality in and of himself. Kit Connor, who is only 18, has been capturing these nuances with his voice acting for all three seasons of His Dark Materials. While Netflix’s Heartstopper might have catapulted Connor to mainstream stardom, His Dark Materials proves he’s a soulful performer with a big future ahead of him.

While Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson might be the faces of His Dark Materials, Kit Connor is undeniably the show’s heart and soul.