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The untold truth of Priah Ferguson

"You can't spell 'America' without 'Erica,'" and you can't have Stranger Things' Erica Sinclair without the charming and talented rising star Priah Ferguson. She stole the show with her handful of scenes in Stranger Things' second season as Lucas Sinclair's (Caleb McLaughlin) exquisitely sassy little sister, leaving fans ecstatic to see her taking on a larger role in the third season. From talking back to her brother to crawling through mall vents to crack a secret Russian plot, Ferguson has firmly solidified Erica's role in the show. It's clear that this hard-working and hard-playing talent has what it takes to be a huge star, especially considering she scored her first big career break before she was even a teenager. While we look forward to seeing the projects she tackles in the future, it's well worth doing a deeper dive into what Priah Ferguson's life looks like, on and off the Stranger Things set.

When did Priah Ferguson start acting?

Though Stranger Things was Ferguson's big break, she landed a number of other roles leading up to her casting as Erica Sinclair. As early as 2015, she played a young Kai in the short Suga Water, which weaves a tale surrounding the older Kai's memories about her grandmother and her childhood. From there, Ferguson scored roles on various television series and made-for-TV movies. A native of Atlanta, Georgia — not coincidentally, the same city where Stranger Things filmed its first three seasons — Ferguson expanded her resume in 2016 when she took on the role of Asia in the FX TV series Atlanta, an acclaimed hit fueled by the creative vision of Donald Glover. More recently, Ferguson signed on to play Tiffany Haddish's daughter in the comedic thriller The Oath, a film rife with satirical political commentary.

Priah Ferguson goes back to the '80s

Born in 2006, Ferguson is far, far too young to remember the 1980s, or probably even to have any relics of the era lying around her house. Still, she claims that she's been a fan of the decade for some time, and that she did extensive research when preparing to audition for the role of Erica for Stranger Things. Her mom, who grew up in the '80s, helped to introduce her to music and movies from the time period, getting her up to speed on the kinds of things young Erica might take for granted as a later member of Generation X. It's amusing to watch Ferguson in this video, in which she tries her very best to guess at the origins of toys and gadgets from the '80s and earlier, proving that sometimes research just isn't the same as living through the times. Still, children are children, and Ferguson does a convincing job of utilizing the ancient technologies required of her on the Stranger Things set.

Priah Ferguson's just a regular kid

Though Stranger Things is one of the more widely viewed series of recent years, Ferguson claims that sudden fame hasn't affected her life much. The show shoots in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, making commuting to and from the set less of an ordeal than it is for her castmates who come from all over the country — and in some cases, the all over the world. (Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers, is from the U.K., for instance.) Ferguson attends a public middle school, and says that her friends don't really watch Stranger Things, so she's never been tempted to leak them any spoilers, thus her status at school hasn't really changed. Since season three has debuted, she's had a few more run-ins with fans out in public, but it sounds like she's keeping things very down to earth and trying to keep leading a normal 12-year-old life — something many child stars have found themselves struggling to accomplish.

Expanding on Erica

Erica Sinclair was really only supposed to be a bit character with a couple of small scenes in season two of Stranger Things. But even knowing this ahead of time, Ferguson prepared for the part as though the character had a deeper backstory, helping to charm audiences and secure her spot in the third season. Established as the bratty little sister to Lucas and a girl who thinks her brother and his friends are all "nerds," Erica takes her smart mouth and savvy attitude into season three with aplomb, becoming an unlikely ally to Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery), and Robin (Maya Hawke) as they infiltrate a secret Russian base in their small Indiana town. Ferguson says she feels closer to the character now — and continuing to add to that private backstory, she's added that she believes Erica is actually a little jealous that her brother spends so much time away from her. Her inheritance of his old Dungeons & Dragons player's guide at the end of season three seems to indicate that viewers will get  to see her continued involvement in any future seasons of Stranger Things.

NERD

Erica's loudly proclaimed distaste for her brother's nerdy hobbies doesn't extend to Priah Ferguson's real-life interests. Ferguson believes that everyone is a nerd about something, and for her it's history. She's fascinated with the Vietnam War and the Cold War and claims she can name tons of facts if you just give her the time to do so. She says she's nerdy about acting as well, and it's clear from her performances that she's deeply invested in doing her very best at her job. Perhaps surprisingly, she also claims to be nerdy about painting nails — not something that a lot of people consider a nerd hobby, but after all, what is nerdiness except a deep dedication to something? Even Erica, reluctant to admit it though she might be, is a math nerd with some serious smarts. We've all got something that brings us unbridled joy, and Priah Ferguson helps us to embrace it.

Priah Ferguson's BE Time

One of the ways Stranger Things has inspired Priah Ferguson is through providing her with an example of what childhood was like for kids growing up in the '80s. Unfettered by smartphones or handheld game devices (just arcade games and Atari), children played outdoors, hung out with friends, had adventures in the woods, and basically just acted like kids. With this in mind, Ferguson has partnered with the applesauce and yogurt company GoGo squeeZ on their "BE Time" campaign, the purpose of which is to encourage children to have unstructured play time in their day to day lives. Ferguson enjoys riding her scooter, playing with her younger sisters, and generally just having a good time in the great outdoors. And we've already learned that Ferguson loves painting her nails, and being creative is one of the best ways to exercise a young mind.

Anti-social media

Every line out of Erica's mouth is perfect meme fodder, and Priah Ferguson's adept delivery of those lines makes her a natural must-follow for fans. But in real life, Ferguson's social media accounts are all understandably managed by her mother, and Ferguson says that she doesn't really keep up with the hype surrounding her or Stranger Things. Her mother will tell her things that happen online, both good and bad, but it seems that Ferguson herself is too busy just being a kid, taking her BE Time spokesperson duties to heart. She seems to have a very realistic outlook on the negative comments about her, too, understanding that the people who leave those comments can't separate her from the character she plays. It's heartening to know that at least one young star isn't feeling the constant pressure of being loved by the internet. 

Priah Ferguson, action star

The scenes Ferguson filmed for Stranger Things season three included her long crawl through the mall vents to open the door to the Russians' secret cache of assumed nuclear weaponry. For Ferguson, this was simultaneously the most exciting and the scariest scene she had to shoot. She was excited to play the action hero, scuttling through vents much like Bruce Willis in Die Hard — except far cuter, equipped as she was with her My Little Pony backpack and a bevy of beaded braids. And though she claims that she isn't at all claustrophobic, she was understandably nervous about squishing herself into a small space, concerned she might actually get stuck while filming. By the time shooting was done after a few days, however, she felt good about her work, and enthusiastic about having shot such a cool action sequence. After all, what kid wouldn't be thrilled with playing the action hero?

Giving back with United Way

In addition to her work with GoGo squeeZ, Priah Ferguson has partnered with the United Way of Greater Atlanta as their official "Spokeskid." She's aware of her potential impact as a child star, and she wants to help promote support in her community for the arts, design, and technology. She's especially interested in helping bring awareness to, and working with, underserved communities in Atlanta. In this video from 2016, Ferguson breaks down the ways in which the United Way helps individuals within the greater Atlanta community in an effort to aid the big picture. By helping one struggling family, United Way helps to feed the local economy and strengthen the entire social structure of an area. Ferguson is an excellent spokeskid, enthusiastic about her mission to dig deep and use her stardom to impact part of the world.