The Netflix Original series Stranger Things was released initially in 2016. It immediately became one of the most talked-about series… well, ever. One of the main concepts of the show that allowed it to differ from the plethora of other TV series was the fact that half the cast were kids.
While Winona Ryder brought legitimacy to the show through her extensive acting career, it was the young children and their performances that caught the viewers’ attention.
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Child acting already carries the weight of a terrible reputation in Hollywood, so how have Matt and Ross Duffer, creators of Stranger Things managed to create a space where children felt safe and comfortable to grow up on set?
How Have The Cast of Stranger Things Handled Life Under a Spotlight?
According to sources, the B-tier cast, which is made up of the child stars, cash in at around $250,000 per episode. That’s a lot of money for anyone, let alone children who most likely haven’t learned the true value of money yet. And then there’s the fame dilemma.
So, how are this new generation of child actors handling their immense stardom? According to an interview they did in Teen Vogue, they’re doing quite well. “The show is so well-received, and we’re just very grateful,” Millie Bobby Brown said, “We really couldn’t have done this without Netflix and the Duffers.”
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When asked about how they felt about their fame, the theme really was appreciation. “It’s a great feeling to know that so many people appreciate your work,” Gaten Matarazzo stated, “It makes me feel good that people will go out of their way to follow me and message me.”
It was Finn Wolfhard who truly acknowledged the craziness of it all. Very candidly, he said, “For me it’s sort of surreal… My Twitter followers went up and my Instagram followers went up, and I’m getting recognized on the street, which is also very weird for me.”
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Despite all the weirdness they have to navigate that comes with the territory of growing up on-screen, these kids are still down to earth. As famous as they were as child actors, and now as adults, we don’t hear any negativity or controversy coming from them — at least, not yet.
Why Does Child Acting Have A Bad Reputation In Hollywood?
Child acting has a horrible reputation in Hollywood. We’ve seen the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, Demi Lovato, and so many more child stars share their stories about what life under the spotlight at such a young age did to their mental health.
Demi Lovato is one of the most notable individuals to come out against Disney Channel and their handling of their child actors. Lovato has been open about her drug addiction which started during her time at Disney in her early teens and now continues into adulthood.
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She also speaks very openly about her eating disorder and how it was encouraged by her management and the studios. During the infamous #MeToo movement, Lovato shared her story about being sexually assaulted in the late 2000s while she was still working with Disney Channel. Lovato broke her six-year sobriety and overdosed in 2018, nearly ending her life. That’s when she took the trauma in her life and channeled it into healing.
This is not the only instance of Hollywood failing child actors, of course. There are too many stories like this: young stars falling into a dark world of drugs, alcohol, and more. So how are the children of Stranger Things breaking this pattern, what makes their experience so different?
How Have The Stranger Things Kids Remained Grounded?
The bonds we create and share in life heavily impact who we are. For the children of Stranger Things, their ability to create a tight-knit group and stay friends throughout the years have allowed them to lean on each other in navigating their unique experiences. “We all trust each other very much,” Wolfhard said in their Teen Vogue interview, “We’re all part of a big family now […]. We also have the Duffers and Natalia, and we have Joe.”
This sentiment was shared among the cast. Noah Schnapp, who plays Will on the show, said, “When they were trying to cast us, they looked for people who had the best chemistry together. It really makes sense because if we didn’t like each other; the show wouldn’t be what it would be.” Schnapp went on to attribute their close friendship to all the time they spent together filming, attending on-set school, as well as their infamous group chat.
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The bonds made on set extend to the show creators as well. “The Duffer Brothers formed a relationship with us so we could talk to them about what we thought was good,” Millie Bobby said. Allowing the children to express themselves freely and participate in the show in a multitude of ways contributed to their feelings of security and established good communication, care, and love.
Children need support, which is something the Duffer brothers seem to take seriously, not only by allowing the children themselves to form real bonds and life-long friends, but by treating them with respect and dignity. This should be the standard that Hollywood strives for moving forward. Rather than trying to ban children from pursuing an acting career, let’s continue to create a safe, healthy environment where they can grow, learn and follow their passion.
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