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How Meryl Streep Inspired Joyce In Stranger Things

While the young cast from the Netflix sci-fi horror series "Stranger Things" may get the most attention from audiences, the adults on the show are equally brilliant. From more minor, single season additions like Alexei (Alec Utgoff) or Bob (Sean Astin) to mainstays of the cast such as Chief Hopper (David Harbour), the older cast members of the acclaimed Netflix series continue to draw audiences in as much as their younger co-stars. Amongst the most beloved cast members in the entirety of "Stranger Things," young or old, is Joyce Byers, portrayed wonderfully by Winona Ryder. As a series that pays constant homage to pop culture from the 1980s, Ryder's casting feels spot on, as the actress is most fondly remembered by audiences for her iconic performances in such '80s and '90s classics as "Beetlejuice," "Heathers," and "Edward Scissorhands." Except now, rather than portraying the wide-eyed teenager, Ryder gets to flip roles and be the concerned, fire-eyed parent who will do anything to protect her son, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp).

Joyce brings a much-needed beating heart to the adult cast. Her determination to protect those she loves while also longing to find happiness herself makes her among the most enduring and sympathetic characters in the show. This is in no small part due to Ryder's powerhouse performance, which received numerous accolades, including a nomination from the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2017 (via The Hollywood Reporter). But few may be aware of the surprising way another noteworthy actress influenced Joyce's character. 

Joyce's look was inspired by an Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep role

It takes a tough woman to inspire another, and that is the case for Joyce Byers in "Stranger Things." Her frazzled hairstyle was taken straight from Meryl Streep in the 1983 film "Silkwood," where Streep portrays chemical technician Karen Silkwood. Directed by "The Graduate" helmer Mike Nichols, the film follows Silkwood as she attempts to expose information regarding unsafe work conditions at her power plant, only to have her efforts be silenced. The biopic drama would go on to be nominated for five Academy Awards, including one for Streep for best lead actress. Just as Streep plays a strong individual dead set on uncovering the truth, so does Ryder in "Stranger Things," as Joyce aids in uncovering the hidden world of the Upside Down in her desperate attempt to save her son. Joyce's character and Ryder's performance had other inspirations as well, including Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and Ellen Burstyn in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." 

This also isn't the end of the Winona Ryder and Meryl Streep connections in "Stranger Things." In an interview with E! News, Ryder, who starred alongside Streep in the 1993 film "The House of the Spirits," had only the highest of praise for her fellow "Stranger Things" cast member, Sadie Sink, who portrays Max Mayfield in the series. "Sadie is like Liv Ullmann," Ryder exclaims. "She's going to be like Meryl Streep."