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We Skyped all the kids from Stranger Things

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It’s the surreal sci-fi show starring Winona Ryder that everyone’s talking about. One of the best things about it is that it’s anchored by five amazing actors in their early teens. Here, over Skype, we meet them all...

If you haven’t already, you must set aside some time to binge-watch the best show that’s happened in years: Stranger Things. In fact, no, don’t binge-watch it, ration yourself, because life after it’s over is pretty much just waiting around for Season Two (no, I’m not overreacting, it really is that good).

Since hitting Netflix a couple of weeks ago, the eight-part sci-fi series, set in a sleepy American town in the early 80s, has captured the hearts of people all over the world, children and adults alike. The story centres around the search for a missing 12-year old boy, son of Joyce Byers, played, superbly, by Winona Ryder. But this isn’t your average mystery; Stranger Things is an intricately woven tapestry of stunning tributes, nostalgically nodding at all your favourite coming of-age-films. Think The Goonies meets Stand By Me meets E.T… a heavenly combination of fantasy worlds.

Beyond the remarkably clever homage concept of the show, its impeccable casting is what has rendered it so worthy of its burgeoning cult following. The series is carried by a group of astoundingly talented 12 and 13-year-old future superstars, all of whom have a certain magic different from the other. I tracked them all down on Skype to talk sleepovers, first kisses and their amazing adventure as the stellar cast of this hit show – I’ve honestly never wanted a younger brother so badly.

FINN WOLFHARD (AKA MIKE)

Hey Finn, what’s up! You’re filming a remake of Stephen King’s It right now, aren’t you?

Finn Wolfhard: Yeah I am. It’s really cool. It’s a different experience from shooting a Netflix show for sure, doing a feature film.

You must feel a lot of pressure doing a remake of such a classic movie.

Finn Wolfhard: For sure. This is more a reimagining of the book though, than a remake of the film.

Have you ever seen Thinner?

Finn Wolfhard: No, is it good?

It’s definitely one of the more ridiculous Stephen King adaptations, but it’s sort of amazing. It's about a fat dude who gets a curse put on him so that he becomes thinner, to the point of wasting away.

Finn Wolfhard: Oh my God! I know, I know exactly what you're talking about. The old man is like (whispers) ‘Thiiiiiiiiinerrrrrrrrr!!!!’

Yes! Haha, okay, so you love Thinner. What about all the 80s coming of age films that Stranger Things is sort of a homage to? Are you into The Goonies and E.T and stuff?

Finn Wolfhard: Yeah of course, I love all those, and I think the whole thing with Stranger Things is that it was meant to be, like you said, a homage to those classic films you mentioned and others which are similar. There are even some tributes and shots that are almost the same, but all meant with complete respect to the originals.

It kind of feels like the whole genre is entrenched in nostalgia, like so much of what we see that’s about courage or friendship is set back in the 80s, or, at least, not present day.

Finn Wolfhard: Yeah, totally. I just saw a great movie called Sing Street, an indie from Dublin. Have you seen it?

No, I've not heard of it.

Finn Wolfhard: You gotta see it! It's on iTunes. The soundtrack is amazing. It’s another amazing story about friendship. It’s set in 1985 too.

It’s funny that all these stories are harking back to another time though, isn't it? What's the modern-day friendship story that defines our generation, or your generation? Is it, like, Frozen?!

Finn Wolfhard: No! God, I don’t want it to be Frozen. Although maybe right now it’s Frozen... for little girls anyway. I would so love it if even more kids my age were into shows like Stranger Things though. Even though we weren’t alive in the 80s, watching stuff that’s about that time gives you such a good feel for the way things were. I think people my age should look for those, more realistic, stories. I mean actually, I guess Stranger Things isn't that ‘realistic’ but...

I feel like it’s realistic in terms of emotion. The dynamic between the characters feels really authentic and the romance in it isn't cheap whatsoever.

Finn Wolfhard: Right, exactly. It builds.

It also seems to have such a broad appeal. Everyone I know is going crazy for it right now, my Facebook feed is basically all people talking about Stranger Things. I guess we’re a good 10 years older than you, though... How young do the fans go?

Finn Wolfhard: That’s so awesome. I mean, my friends who are watching it are 13, like me, but like you say, lots of adults are watching it. But I’ve also heard of kids as young as nine watching it. I guess with a Netflix show, if you’re a kid, it's all dependent on how you’re raised and if you have access to it. But I think the reason so many people of different ages love it so much is because of how many different elements there are to the show. It’s not just a sci-fi horror, there’s comedy, romance, there’s mystery and suspense.

It’s definitely genuinely scary at points. I’m surprised a nine-year-old is watching it and not freaking the hell out!

Finn Wolfhard: Yeah, no, it’s SCARY. When I was watching episode one for the first time I caught myself biting my nails. I was like, ‘I’m in this show, I know exactly what happens, why am I so scared that I’m biting my nails right now?’ In the beginning scene where the scientist was in the elevator I was, like, shaking.

Yeah, that part was epic. Also I feel like the love story between Mike and Eleven is, like, the love story of the century. I was bawling when that whole thing played out and I pretty much never cry at movies.

Finn Wolfhard: No way, really?!

Yeah! There was just something so visceral and innocent about it, it really got to me.

Finn Wolfhard: I think that’s what the creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, wanted. It’s that innocent, first summer love story, but within a John Carpenter film or something, does that make sense?

Totally.

Finn Wolfhard: You can sort of see from the start that Mike has feelings for her (Eleven), but at first it's like he’s caring for this lost puppy; feeding her, and making a bed, but then it ramps up, and it’s, like, full-on first love.

“After it happened and the directors shouted, ‘CUT!’ everyone started clapping, and Millie just got up and was like, ‘THAT’S kissing?! That’s it? That sucked!’” – Finn Wolfhard

How was that to act?

Finn Wolfhard: (Giggles) Oh! Um! That was fun… Like, Millie was so cool about it. I feel like if it was another actress they could have been kinda uncomfortable about the whole thing, but Millie was like, ‘Alright! Let’s do this!’

I read online that it was her first kiss? Like, in real life too.

Finn Wolfhard: Yeah, that’s right! It was so funny, we never rehearsed that scene, we just decided to do it when we were going for a take. After it happened and the directors shouted, ‘CUT!’ everyone started clapping, and Millie just got up and was like, ‘THAT’S kissing?! That’s it? That sucked!’

Ouch!

Finn Wolfhard: I mean, I think it's because there were all the people and cameras there and stuff.

Speaking of which – is there gonna be more?! You have to tell me. I need my fix. There’s a hole in my life.

Finn Wolfhard: Ha! Well, I don’t know ‘officially’. I know there’s a plan to do a sequel type second season, but I’m not 100 per cent sure it’s going to happen. I hope it happens. But the second I hear anything then I’m just gonna be blowing up my Twitter and Instagram shouting about it. When I know, you’ll know.

MILLIE BOBBY BROWN (AKA ELEVEN / 011)

How’s it going, Millie! You just got back to London from the states and went straight to Comic Con, right?

Millie Bobby Brown: Yeah, it’s been crazy. Comic Con was amazing, it was so much fun. Super hectic! I wish I could have gone round and seen every single little stall.

Were there loads of Stranger Things fans there?

Millie Bobby Brown: Yeah, LOADS. Which, considering the show only came out two weeks ago, is pretty mad.

Woah. Yeah, it’s got a cult following already, everyone I know is obsessed. Me especially. I was so happy when I found out you were British, because normally the American child actors destroy us, and you were so standout in the show.

Millie Bobby Brown: Oh, thank you so much! Yeah, I want to show people where I come from, and that no matter where you were born, you have a chance to make something spectacular. It’s always been my dream to be on the screen. And I made that come true!

Well done, seriously. One thing that I really love about the show is that there’s such a strong female lead character. Eleven is arguably the central or main role, did the girl power element of the storyline appeal to you when you came to hear about the project?

Millie Bobby Brown: I actually didn’t realise I was the heroine until, maybe, like, the fourth episode? It was really incredible. I kind of thought that Mike’s character was the lead and then the other kids were just supposed to follow him, and that the grown-ups were the real leads. I think us kids were kind of blinded as we began to see how relative we were to the story. I was suddenly like, wait, I’m the hero?! Wow! I can do this!

She’s totally the hero! It’s so cool to have such a badass character for your breakthrough role. How did that differ from your other performances?

Millie Bobby Brown: Well it’s funny, because, I’ll be honest with you, before Stranger Things I was auditioning for stuff like The Boss and The BFG, which are straight-up kids’ comedies and a very specific sort of younger role. The thing with Stranger Things is that the characters, young and old are so relatable, especially Joyce. I thought the way Winona portrayed her was amazing.

“I kind of thought that Mike’s character was the lead and then the other kids were just supposed to follow him, and that the grown-ups were the real leads. I think us kids were kind of blinded as we began to see how relative we were to the story. I was suddenly like, wait, I’m the hero?! Wow! I can do this!” – Millie Bobby Brown

To be honest I think it’s sort of serendipitous that you didn’t get those other parts. The show is such a cool thing to have a big first major role in, and the fact it’s a web series too… it all feels very now. Do you watch real TV at all? All the boys were saying they watch everything online.

Millie Bobby Brown: Ha, no I watch lots of real TV! When I’m in the UK I wake up early every day to watch This Morning and then Loose Women. I love Keeping Up With The Kardashians too. I guess they’re seen as guilty pleasures, but yeah.

Ok, so come on, who’s your favourite Kardashian then?

Millie Bobby Brown: Kourtney!

Me too!

Millie Bobby Brown: Oh my God! I’m so glad you love her too.

She’s so grumpy and deadpan, it's hilarious. Ok, let’s not get sidetracked... What sort of movies are you into? Do you like all the 80s movies that the show is inspired by?

Millie Bobby Brown: Yes, for sure. I’m a bit of a movie buff, and I’m kinda into 80s stuff. I just love the hair and the whole look! I also love Twilight. And I’m obsessed with Jodie Foster. She was a child actress too. I always dreamed of her directing an episode of Stranger Things!

I love Jodie Foster too. What’s your favourite role of hers? Have you seen Taxi Driver?

Millie Bobby Brown: I haven’t watched that one.

Yeah, actually, now I think about it, you’re probably a little young to watch that.

Millie Bobby Brown: Haha! My favourite of hers is Panic Room. Kristen Stewart is in it too, and I love her, so if I met Jodie Foster we could all be buddies.

Wow you’ve really thought this out!

Millie Bobby Brown: Yeah I have! I want me, Jodie and Kristen to create a new squad.

“I want me, Jodie (Foster) and Kristen (Stewart) to create a new squad” – Millie Bobby Brown

You already have a squad! What about the boys, how was it working with them? Did they terrorise you because you were the only girl?

Millie Bobby Brown: Ha kind of, but they’re like my big brothers. I’m super gullible, though, so I got pranked a lot. The boys would be like, ‘Hey, Millie, come over here!’ and, of course, I’d go and they’d totally scare me. But I love them all, they made me laugh so much.

So what’s on the horizon for you? I feel like you’re about to blow up right now, are you auditioning like crazy?

Millie Bobby Brown: I mean, no, not really. I’m just doing press for Stranger Things at the moment!

Well I have a feeling you’re about to become huge.

Millie Bobby Brown: Oh... well, thank you!

GATEN MATARAZZO (AKA DUSTIN)

Gaten! What’s up, where are you?

Gaten Matarazzo: Yo! I’m just at home in New Jersey.

I’m guessing you’ve had a crazy couple of weeks?

Gaten Matarazzo: Yeah, it’s been pretty amazing, the reactions from everybody. Especially Brazil! Brazil’s going nuts! It’s gotten a lot more hype than I thought it would, really.

Tell me about the casting process, and how much of a connection you feel with your character, Dustin.

Gaten Matarazzo: Well when I first auditioned I was actually going up for the part of Mike. I went to New York and read for that role, and they were like, we like you, but for a different part.

No way!

Gaten Matarazzo: Yeah! Then I got flown to LA and did some auditions with other kids, and that’s where I met Finn who actually plays Mike, and we had great chemistry from the start. I actually already knew Caleb from NYC, so he was already my buddy.

That’s super interesting that you read for another role, because you’re so right for the character you wound up playing.

Gaten Matarazzo: Well actually when they met me they hadn’t fully written Dustin yet. He was obviously going to be a nerd, but he was just a cliché at the beginning, with no specific personality. Then when I came along, they kind of morphed the role around me which was great. Like, they added my condition with my teeth that you hear me talk about in the first episode, and all the comedy and Dustin’s sense of humour actually comes from me.

Wow, so you’re like a direct inspiration for the character. You should get paid extra for that! Muse fees!

Gaten Matarazzo: Haha, well I kind of think all of us became muses for our characters really on the shoot.

This is probably a super annoying question you’ve been asked by every journalist since the show came out, but I’m obsessed with the friendship all you guys have in real life outside the show itself. I’ve been asking everyone if they can share me some funny stories from shooting, do you have any?

Gaten Matarazzo: I’ve actually never gotten that question, but I think it’s about to be my favourite question.

Ha! Go on...

Gaten Matarazzo: Well, I’m definitely the jokester of the group. I’m kinda mischievous I guess. For the entire shoot I kept on doing this thing where I’d call people into rooms then hide behind something and leap out to scare them. Everyone got so sick of it. There was also a staircase in the studio that wasn’t fully solid so you could reach between the stairs, and one time I grabbed Finn’s leg as he was walking down the stairs. (At this point Gaten starts laughing... a lot) His scream!! Best thing on the planet.

“They kind of morphed the role around me which was great. Like, they added my condition with my teeth that you hear me talk about in the first episode, and all the comedy and Dustin’s sense of humour actually comes from me” – Gaten Matarazzo

I can really imagine it. It sounds very funny.

Gaten Matarazzo: Millie always had good reactions to my pranks as well. She would scream super loud, and then get all angry and be like, (British Accent) “YOU’RE SO ANNOYING!!!”

That was a pretty convincing British accent! You’re so good. When did you start acting?

Gaten Matarazzo: I started acting when I was seven, and I didn’t get my first role till I was nine. So for two years I was just auditioning.

A long, rough two years...

Gaten Matarazzo: Yeah I was going up to the city three days a week, and we were this close to quitting! We were like, maybe this isn’t for me. Then I got a part and I was like, ‘YAY!’

I’m so glad. You’re like my favourite.

Gaten Matarazzo: Wow, I love hearing that!

Don’t tell the others.

Gaten Matarazzo: It’s funny, because I got a message recently online from someone and they were like, ‘Your character’s great... but I like Eleven better’. I was like ‘Yeah, me too’.

Have you seen Freaks and Geeks?

Gaten Matarazzo: I haven’t, no, but Finn is a fan of that show.

You should watch it, I think you’d like it. It feels a lot more 90s than Stranger Things, but it's cool… lots of younger brothers annoying their older sisters and stuff like that.

Gaten Matarazzo: That’s funny, because I DO THAT TO MY SISTER ALL THE TIME!

Wait, what, is your sister there with you right now?

Gaten Matarazzo: Yeah she’s right there! (swings round laptop)

Gaten, I’m about to interview Caleb in a minute, tell me a funny private joke I can ask him about.

Gaten Matarazzo: Umm... Ok, this one is for Caleb. Ask Caleb about the shriek that he let out when he was on a zip line at the amusement park in Atlanta. Oh boy, he’s gonna hate me forever.

CALEB MCLAUGHLIN (AKA LUCAS)

Caleb! What are you up to?

Caleb Mclaughlin: I’m on vacation in San Diego!

Oh my God, I was just there recently, I was filming with a bunch of furries. Have you heard of those?

Caleb Mclaughlin: What! Furries? What is that?

It's like a weird subculture of people who like to dress up as furry animals in their spare time.

Caleb Mclaughlin: Oh, OK! Well that’s something new!

Yeah, you could say that. So tell me about your experience with the show, how did you get the part?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well, for me, it all started with a self-tape me and my mom recorded. Then I did a bunch of stuff on Skype, then went out to LA, and that’s where I met Finn. I actually already knew Gaten though.

Oh yeah, he said, how did you guys meet?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well, we were both in plays on Broadway at the same time; he was in Les Miserables and I was in Lion King, and there’s this park where all the kids who are on Broadway always go.

What, just like a normal park, or a special actors one?!

Caleb Mclaughlin: No, just a normal one, with like a playground and basketball and sprinklers and stuff! That’s where I met Gaten.

Woah, cool. He was telling me about how similar he is to his character Dustin, was it a similar thing for you, do you feel an affinity with Lucas?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well, actually, in the beginning, I thought I was so much like Lucas, but then when I saw myself playing him on screen I realised that he’s a lot more sceptical than I am, and probably a lot more serious. He’s way beyond his years. I think a lot of people don’t understand Lucas is the way he is because of his background; his dad was in the military and stuff.

Wait, really?! Are you giving away plot spoilers from Season Two right now?

Caleb Mclaughlin: (Caleb goes silent) No! No, there’s no real Season Two yet anyways but this is what the Duffers told me. That’s where Lucas got his camo stuff, his dad. I’m not spoiling anything I don’t even know if there’s gonna be a Season 2 yet!

Ok, ok. So you think you’re less sceptical than Lucas, do you think you would have been more trusting of Eleven if it was you in that situation? In the show, they have some friction.

Caleb Mclaughlin: Yeah definitely, I would have been more welcoming. I would have been like, ‘Hey Eleven, do you need anything?’ Although, I would definitely still think she’s creepy. And I wouldn’t hide anyone in the basement. I would tell a parent what was going on in that situation.

Are you just saying that because your mom’s in the room?

Caleb Mclaughlin: No, I definitely would!

“I would have been more welcoming. I would have been like, ‘Hey Eleven, do you need anything?’ Although, I would definitely still think she’s creepy. And I wouldn’t hide anyone in the basement. I would tell a parent what was going on in that situation” – Caleb McLaughlin

So was shooting a series with a bunch of kids your age just the funnest thing in the whole world?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well of course! Especially hanging with Gaten, he’s like a total prankster. We’d be going for a scene, and they’d be like, ‘ok, sound check, everyone ready!’ and then he’d just make weird faces before we’d go to record and we’d ruin the take because we were laughing so much.

What’s next on the horizon for you?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well I just did this project about the group, New Edition. You know New Edition?

No, what’s that?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Oh, they’re like an 80s band, so I just did this BET project where I play one of the members, so I’ll be singing and dancing and stuff. That’s out in January 2017.

Wow! I gotta see that, I hope I can watch it in the UK. Oh, wait, before you go, when I was just talking to Gaten he told me to ask you about an infamous shriek you let out on a zipline in Atlanta?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Ohhh… Yeah... ok.

What happened?

Caleb Mclaughlin: Well, we were in this amusement park called Dixieland in Atlanta and there’s this ride, that literally puts you upside down and it's so fast! I was in the front part by myself, and Finn and Gaten were behind me, and I was like.. (squeals) ‘eeeeeeeeeekkkkk’!!

Wow! That’s quite a noise.

Caleb: I mean, I haven’t really hit puberty yet so my scream is kind of high.

NOAH SCHNAPP (AKA WILL)

Hey Noah! I can’t believe I’ve stolen you away from your Summer Camp activities.

Noah Schnapp: Yeah I'm at Camp Echo Lake! I’ve been coming here since I was eight. It’s fun to come here and get away from all the press and the acting stuff.  

And escape all your adoring fans?

Noah Schnapp: Well, yeah.

So I guess if you’ve been at camp over summer, you haven’t properly experienced the full outside reception to the show  yet!

Noah Schnapp: No, I haven’t. My mom told me that people from all over the world are watching the show, like people from Brazil and Argentina!

Yeah I’ve seen a bunch of Brazilian fan accounts on Instagram actually. Pretty cool! Tell me, are you into all the old movies that Stranger Things is inspired by?

Noah Schnapp: Well I actually came to shoot Stranger Things straight from filming a movie called Bridge of Spies, which is directed by Stephen Spielberg, so I was recommended to watch a bunch of his movies, like E.T and stuff.

Wow. Casual. What’s Stephen Spielberg like?!

Noah Schnapp: Oh he’s amazing. He actually directs just like the Duffer Brothers, who did Stranger Things. They all have such confidence in the actors. Like, in Bridge of Spies, Tom Hanks just made up this whole scene that wasn’t even in the script, and Stephen kept it in the movie! It was so cool. There’s this other Tom Hanks film called Castaway, which I really like...

WILSOOOON!!!

Noah Schnapp: Yeah, the ball, Wilson! It’s pretty cool to watch a film where the character barely says anything but you can see exactly what he’s thinking.

What about Forrest Gump?

Noah Schnapp: I’ve actually never seen it.

What! You have to watch it. It's a tearjerker, though, so make sure you don’t watch it when you’re feeling emotionally fragile.

Noah Schnapp: Um. Okay... I will see it though, now you’ve told me.

“I was trapped in the ‘upside-down’, so I wasn’t in the same scenes as the others, so I’d be going back to school and stuff, but every time I came back it was like a big reunion. When I’d drive into the studio they’d be there waiting for me, screaming. When we were all there together though, we’d all have sleepovers and stuff” – Noah Schnapp

So when you were shooting Stranger Things you were sort of separate to your co-stars, did you still have time to hang out and mess about together on set?

Noah Schnapp: Yeah I was trapped in the ‘upside-down’, so I wasn’t in the same scenes as the others, so I’d be going back to school and stuff, but every time I came back it was like a big reunion. When I’d drive into the studio and they'd be there waiting for me, screaming. When we were all there together, though, we’d all have sleepovers and stuff.

Tell me some funny stories!

Noah Schnapp: Well me and Millie used to make these scary videos on her iPhone at night, like scary ones. I think we pranked some people too and filmed it.

How did you prank them?! Please tell me it was something old school like a whoopie cushion.

Noah Schnapp: No! We didn’t use a whoopie cushion. I think we just threw water at someone. It was so long ago, I can’t even remember all of it. But it was so special. Like, shooting with adults is great, but being with kids my own age, it's different.

Oh man, that sounds so fun. It really comes across, that you’re all as close in real life, as your characters are in the show.

Noah Schnapp: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s because in a TV show you pretty much spend a whole year together and shoot episode by episode. With a movie you just film for a few months and when you say goodbye, sometimes you never see the people again. But we’ve all stayed in touch. We have a group message and stuff.

Oh, what, like a WhatsApp group?

Noah Schnapp: No its a group iMessage, but the name of the group is THE COOLEST OF STRANGER THINGS

Haha, oh yeah? Who's in it?

Noah Schnapp: Well, it's just the kids.

“It’s a group iMessage, but the name of the group is “THE COOLEST OF STRANGER THINGS”...It’s just the kids”

That’s amazing. God, when I was your age I didn’t even have dial-up Internet and we’re talking about the group chat you’re on with the people you met shooting a web series. Finn told me he watches everything online, do you too?

Noah Schnapp: Yeah, I do. Even TV seems old to me. My mom told me that they used to use these things called VHS tapes? Like, before DVDs.

Haha. Yup. So, Noah, can you tell me anything about the slug you coughed up in the last episode?

Noah Schnapp: Hmm I can’t tell you what’s gonna happen, I don’t even really know what’s gonna happen, but I know what’s going on with my character, Will.

OK let’s take some photos. Do the face you’d pull if you saw the monster from the upside down right now. Fuck, my computer keeps messing up. Shit, wait, hang on. Oh my God, don't tell your summer camp teacher about how bad my language is please!

Noah Schnapp: OK, OK, I won't (pulls monster from the upside-down face).