From teen pregnancy to drugs, “The Fosters” has always tackled potentially controversial topics, confronting them head-on with characters that express varying points of view. The fifth season of Freeform’s family drama finds Callie (Maia Mitchell) involved with a student group that plans to protest a conservative campus speaker, arguing that someone spewing hate speech should not be given a platform. Callie’s boyfriend, Aaron (Elliot Fletcher), surprised her — and the audience — when he revealed that he believes all speech should be protected as free speech, and therefore he wasn’t in agreement with the protest plans.
“When I got the script for that episode, it did take me aback a little bit, I won’t lie,” Fletcher tells Variety. “I was surprised that Aaron felt that way, but I did as much work as I could internally with the character to develop why he felt that way and what had happened in his past to make him feel like it’s always good to hear from both sides.”
While some characters on “The Fosters” looked at Aaron’s stance as just another example of a white man exerting his privilege, the truth is much more complicated. Aaron is a transgender man who began transitioning as a teenager, and as someone who struggled to be heard as his true self for a number of years, he was standing up for that right for everyone. Still, it was an unexpected position for the character, even for Fletcher, who says he would love to see the show explore the why at a later time.
Since the episode aired, Fletcher has released a statement on Twitter explaining that he and his character differ in that stance. It was something he said he planned to do no matter what was going on in the world when the episode aired, but recent events only made it feel more important that he speak out.
“With what’s going with Trump right now and Charlottesville, I wanted to make it very clear that I do not and will not stand for that kind of completely violent, ignorant, and discriminatory hate speech. It doesn’t do anything except create more violence and create more hatred,” Fletcher says.
As season five of “The Fosters” continues, Fletcher says the show will delve deeper into the idea of “free speech versus hate speech,” though the show is not ripping directly from real-life events. But Aaron’s story will pivot slightly. Having said what he needed to say, Aaron’s storyline will be more focused on taking his relationship with Callie to the next level.
“In this next episode we definitely do see Aaron and Callie get a lot closer and get a lot more comfortable with each other, not only physically but emotionally, and I think that’s great,” Fletcher says. “There are a lot of scenes where we get closer and then we fight, or we make up, and then we fight again. So it was really fun to film just a beautiful hike where Aaron and Callie were looking at each other and getting to know one another on a separate level from everyone else.”
As their relationship progresses, Fletcher notes it is still most important to Aaron that Callie “feel safe.” But he will also help her dig deeper into herself to find out and feel comfortable with who she is, and in turn, she will help him with his own confidence and self-image, as well.
“It is very weird to me that everyone in the show, especially Callie, says, ‘You’re so confident in who you are’ because I think Aaron does struggle quite a bit. Maybe he just doesn’t show it as much,” Fletcher says. “There are ways that Callie helps him already, maybe without her even knowing it. Maybe we do see more of Aaron helping Callie, but I think Callie helping Aaron is more internal.”
“The Fosters” airs on Freeform Tuesdays at 8pm.