What the cast of Stranger Things looks like in real life

As Halloween 2017 fast approaches, so does the highly anticipated second season of Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer's addictive blend of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and 1980s synth. The Easter egg-laden Netflix show became the unexpected hit of 2016 and propelled its young cast members to levels of fame they couldn't have dreamed of when they answered that first casting call. They formed a real bond on set according to executive producer Shawn Levy, who called them "delightfully mischievous and giggly — sometimes distractingly so." But what are the kids of Hawkins, Indiana like away from the cameras? This is what the cast of Stranger Things looks like in real life.

Millie Bobby Brown

Millie Bobby Brown was born in Spain to English parents and spent her childhood between the UK and the US, though she doesn't recall the exact moment she first considered becoming an actress. "The thing is, I get asked when I first knew I wanted to act so often, and I genuinely can't answer it," she told Vogue. "It's just… I got the bug and that's it." Before winning the part of psychokinetic runaway Eleven, Brown had made a few minor TV appearances in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Modern Family, and Grey's Anatomy, though Stranger Things was her first major gig.

As the overall breakout star of the show, she quickly booked a part in Universal's Godzilla sequel, King of the Monsters, set for release in 2019. The teen plays the daughter of Vera Farmiga and Kyle Chandler in what will set up the studio's first big crossover, Godzilla vs. Kong, for 2020. While Stranger Things season 2 details remain scarce, the first promotional images released confirm that the Eggo waffle-loving Eleven will no longer be sporting her laboratory buzz cut, instead rocking some very '80s curls.

Finn Wolfhard

Finn Wolfhard already had some sci-fi experience under his belt coming into Stranger Things, having popped up in an early episode of The CW's hit show The 100 in 2014, and then appearing in the network's long-running fantasy series Supernatural the following year. In his role as Mike Wheeler, Wolfhard took center stage alongside his mysterious houseguest Eleven, showcasing an impressive range for such a young actor — impressive enough to land him a part in the upcoming '80s-set adaptation of Stephen King horror classic It.

In real life, the curly-haired Canadian is an indie music aficionado who plays guitar and even has his own band. But Wolfhard has received some criticism for not responding to his fans as often as they would like. He explained his reasons in an interview with Coup de Main magazine: "I've had to change my phone number, and my friends have been harassed for their numbers so people can get to me," he said. "I do try my best to reach out to fans on Twitter and Instagram sometimes, but unfortunately it has to be random because I just don't have time to do that and act and go to school and set up directing projects and write and play guitar and all the other stuff that I do."

Gaten Matarazzo

He starred in the Broadway production of Les Misérables as a child, but Gaten Matarazzo only had a single screen credit to his name when he auditioned for the part of Dustin Henderson in Stranger Things, appearing briefly in a season 2 episode of NBC's The Blacklist. It wasn't through a lack of trying, however. The New Jersey-born actor suffers from cleidocranial dysplasia, a condition where you are born without collarbones. "It affects your facial growth, your skull growth, it affects your teeth," he explained. "I have teeth but they're all baby teeth. I needed a lot of surgery. I have a really mild case and a lot of people have it much worse than I do."

Matarazzo used his post-Stranger Things fame to raise awareness of cleidocranial dysplasia and received countless letters of support after he revealed that his disability stopped him from getting parts for a number of years. "My lisp, me being shorter, and having the teeth issue meant writers couldn't 'write in my disability,'" he told BBC during an interview. But the Duffer Brothers did just that, giving his character Dustin the same condition and even allowing bullies to use it as ammunition in the show.  

Caleb McLaughlin

Like Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin began his career as an actor on the stage, playing the young version of Simba in the Broadway production of The Lion King from 2012 to 2014. He came into Stranger Things with similar TV experience to most of his on-show friends, having appeared in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and completed a short stint on Shades of Blue. But getting the part of Lucas Sinclair in Stranger Things was the hardest audition process he's been through yet.

"First I had an audition and I had to do a self-tape," he told Broadway World. "I got a callback a week later and I went into the city to do two more auditions, but they weren't at the same time. Then I got another callback to go to LA to do a test to see how I interacted with the main character, Mike. And then I got the part!" While his character Lucas is the skeptic of the group and is initially wary of El, McLaughlin revealed that off-camera is was quite the opposite. "It was awesome! Originally it was 'Are we gonna get along? Is it gonna be fun?' We are all so outgoing, so it was easy for us to click. We're like magnets now."

Noah Schnapp

Noah Schnapp originally auditioned for the role of Mike Wheeler, but was equally excited to learn he'd won the part of Will Byers when he got a phone call from the Duffer Brothers while away at camp. "Honestly, when my parents called me, they were like, 'We have someone on the phone for you.' And I was like, 'Who is it?' And they were like, 'It's the Duffer Brothers, those people from Stranger Things!' I thought they were lying."

Schnapp made his film debut in Steven Spielberg's 2015 movie Bridge of Spies, not a bad first gig for such a young actor. "Working with Mr. Spielberg also was just such an amazing experience and he helped me a lot," he said during an interview with AOL. "He was always jumping in helping me." Schnapp went on to voice Charlie Brown in The Peanuts Movie before landing the part of Will, who he suspects will not quite be himself in the second season. 

"My guess is that maybe he's going to become evil in the next season," Schnapp told The Hollywood Reporter. "If he's coughing up these baby Demogorgons, or eggs, or something, maybe he's incubating or holding these eggs inside of him and he's trying to fight his good side against his bad side in the next season."

Natalia Dyer

Natalia Dyer's Stranger Things character Nancy Wheeler starts out as your typical '80s high school girl. But by the show's end, she's far from a teen stereotype, diving head first into the Upside Down in search of her missing friend Barb. The actress first appeared on our screens back in 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie, playing the daughter of a dastardly journalist intent on ruining the titular character's singing career by exposing her double life. Dyer (who performed in a surprisingly passable British accent) saves the day when she freaks out at the sight of Miley, forcing her dad to spike the story.

She went on to land the lead female role in teen indie romance I Believe in Unicorns (2014), and while the film did well with critics, it led to a smattering of similar offers. "I do see a lot of roles that are, like, the girlfriend or the love interest or the girl next door," she told Cosmopolitan. "Maybe not totally well-rounded kinds of characters — women who are more of a plot device in a way. It was really nice to see a character like Nancy. She does have that love triangle and boy drama aspect to her, but she's independent and strong, and her main focus is about finding her best friend and solving that mystery at any cost."

Joe Keery

Joe Keery had already taken part in a hit TV show when he won the role of Nancy's supercreep-turned-hero boyfriend Steve Harrington in Stranger Things. In 2015 he appeared in the first season of Fox's hip-hop drama Empire as wannabe rapper Tony Trichter III, a spoiled teen trying to launch a career using his rich grandfather's name. He made his feature film debut that same year in Henry Gable's Birthday Party, a critically acclaimed movie that shines a light on Christianity in America and its efforts (or lack thereof) to adapt to changing social norms and modern attitudes towards homosexuality.

While his Stranger Things character gets under your skin at the start, his change of heart and obvious remorse come as unexpected and somewhat refreshing — and even the actor himself didn't see it coming. The cast were given the scripts episode by episode and had little idea about the fate of their characters. Keery was certain he wouldn't be around for the second season after his questionable behavior early in the story. "I remember reading the original draft and being like, 'whoa, this guy sucks,'" he said in an interview with Marie Claire. "Just super aggressive — primarily the idea of the scene in the bedroom in the first episode, but a whole lot more aggressive. I was kinda monster food."

Charlie Heaton

The biggest loser in Steve's surprise turnaround was Charlie Heaton's character Jonathan Byers, older brother of the missing Will Byers. When they're not teaming up with Nancy to try and rescue Will and Barb from the Upside Down, Jonathan and Steve compete for her affections, and in very different ways. While Steve is the confident, popular type, Jonathan admires Nancy from a distance with his long-lens camera, earning himself a reputation as a bit of a creep. While Nancy is still with Steve come the end of season one, the actor has revealed that earlier drafts actually had Jonathan having the last laugh.

"In the screen test there was a scene where Nancy and Jonathan…that relationship happens originally," Heaton said. "They got together, there was a kissing scene in the screen test. But the way they've done it was much more interesting, and a credit to Joe's acting." Their love triangle looks set to continue in season two, but even if Jonathan isn't quite as prominent this time around, we'll be seeing a lot more of Heaton regardless. The British actor has been cast as the superhero Cannonball in Fox's upcoming X-Men spin-off New Mutants, in which he'll star alongside Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones) and Anya Taylor-Joy (Split).

Winona Ryder

Although she's remembered as more of a '90s icon, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands star Winona Ryder is very much a part of Stranger Things' retro nostalgia. In fact, Finn Wolfhard (Mike) and Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) had a Winona marathon during a sleepover in preparation for their roles in the show. That said, the part the Duffer Brothers wanted Ryder to play — the disheveled and distressed single mother of Will and Jonathan — was quite different from anything she's done before, as she explained during an interview with TIME.

"The first episodes, I'm just a wreck. And I'm sort of old school in my approach to acting. Like, if I have to cry, I have to really cry, I really have to go there mentally." she said. "Usually on a film there's a couple of scenes, but this was my first time doing eight episodes of something, and let me tell you, crying all day — wow." Ryder will reprise the role of Joyce Byers in season two and seems happy to concentrate solely on the small screen for the time being. "These days, it's either a small movie made with no money over the course of six years or the superhero movies," she continued. "I can't really envision myself in a cape getting chucked out of a window."

David Harbour

David Harbour is one of those actors who's been in way more big movies than you probably realize. Brokeback Mountain (2005), War of the Worlds (2005), Quantum of Solace (2008) and Suicide Squad (2016) are all part of a surprisingly well-rounded resume that stretches back to the late '90s, when he got his start on Broadway starring in the revival of The Rainmaker. His theater career has run parallel to his screen one in the near-two decades he's been active (he was nominated for a Tony Award for his part in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). But he still wasn't well known until he took on the part of Jim Hopper, the downtrodden Hawkins Police chief.

"The fact that they were willing to take a chance on me early was really remarkable," Harbour said. "It truly was the best pilot script I've ever read. They really wanted me and they really believed in me. I think that's a testament to their creative vision and that they were willing to take such risks." He'll return to Hawkins for season two, but you couldn't blame Harbour for having one eye on what's coming after that. He's been cast in the lead role for the upcoming superhero reboot Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen.

Shannon Purser

Shannon Purser's Barb was a minor character in Stranger Things, whose function was to disapprove of Nancy's relationship with Steve and encourage her to get into books, not boys. She vanishes pretty early on after being left alone outside by Nancy while she hooks up with Steve, and shows up again towards the end of the season when her body appears in the Upside Down, an unfortunate victim of the Demogorgon. Despite that, Barb became inexplicably popular among Stranger Things fans. Suddenly a showbiz career that Purser thought was a long way off came into being overnight.

"To say 2016 has been a big year for me is an understatement," she said in an interview with The Guardian. "It's been madness. And totally unexpected. I didn't even have a career before Stranger Things, it was my first acting job, my first time on a professional set, and my character wasn't even supposed to be a big deal. It all just exploded."

The #JusticeForBarb hashtag began trending on Twitter after her character was killed off, and she became one of the most popular Halloween costumes of 2016. Some truly dedicated fans went one step further in their tributes to the character. "I've been sent several pictures of Barb tattoos," Purser revealed. "People have actually had my face tattooed on to their bodies."

Talk about stranger things…