Who Is Eleven From Stranger Things

For a show that so aptly captures the feel and fears of the 1980s thriller scene, Netflix's Stranger Things sure boasts a lot of leads who weren't even alive during that decade. (Or the one after, for that matter.) In fact, at the show's core is a preteen character named Eleven (called "Elle," for short) who's a powerful force against the monsters, human and beast alike, that threaten the safety of the town's children. Millie Bobby Brown, the 12-year-old actress behind that electric performance, looks like a major star on the rise.

She's wowed everyone from the start

Brown was born to British parents in Barcelona, Spain in 2004, but the family temporarily relocated to Orlando, Florida when she was seven years old. She learned to speak with an American accent thanks to her exposure to the Disney Channel's programs (and also picked up a twangy Southern drawl that she likes to use on strangers for kicks sometimes).

Brown, who participated in acting workshops in her free time, was discovered by an agent who suggested the family move to Los Angeles, to pursue her potential as a performer, reportedly telling her parents "she has instincts you can't teach." Her parents took that advice and headed to Hollywood, where she soon obtained representation and got started working on TV.

You've seen (and heard) her on popular shows recently

Brown's first big gig was a recurring role in ABC's Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, wherein she played Young Alice (a character who, like Elle, has certain spooky-slash-supernatural gifts), and she was also chosen to lead up the BBC's short-lived thriller series Intruders. She also booked cameo roles on NCIS and Modern Family, as well as a turn on Grey's Anatomy.

In the show, Brown appeared as Ruby, a girl who calls into the hospital for help after an earthquake injures her mother and 911 is busy. Her heard-but-mostly-unseen presence in the role is a direct contrast to her mostly silent Stranger Things work as Elle—and just as the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" was the survival anthem of Will in Stranger Things as Elle mentally triangulated his location, the Grey's docs all gathered 'round to soothe Ruby with a (terrible) rendition of the BeeGees' "Stayin' Alive" while trying to zero in on her coordinates and send help.

She had to do a ton of auditions for Eleven

When she was called in for her Stranger Things audition, Brown was actually back in England at the time; in fact, she's said that she "didn't get a lot of auditions" while she was there, so she was taken aback by the opportunity. In addition to her first "very emotional audition," Brown had to do a taped follow-up, a video conference call with showrunners the Duffer Brothers, and another audition in L.A. Only at the very end was Brown told she'd have to get a buzz cut for the part.

But she was pretty into shaving her head

When Brown learned she'd have to shave her head for the role of Eleven, it was her mother who first resisted. "I called my mum after the audition, and she said, 'You're not doing it, that's wrong, they can't do that to you, you have beautiful long hair!'" She was inspired by other actresses she'd seen pull off the look before, however, like Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road and her own co-star Winona Ryder in Alien: Resurrection. ("I thought Winona looked cool back in the day with the pixie cut, and I thought maybe I could bring it back," said Brown.)

Ultimately, it was the social implications of the buzz that won her over. "Shaving my hair, it threw me off a little bit ... but I thought, 'No, society's telling people that girls have long hair, boys have short hair.' I didn't want to rebel, but I thought, 'I've got to change something, I've got to make sure everybody knows that it's OK to have short hair,' because it is!" (If and when she is talked to as a boy, she said she just rolls it with it and goes by the name John.)

She had to brush up on her '80s cinema to prepare

Among the professional homework Brown had to do for her part, she was asked to watch some of the show's biggest pieces of inspiration, like Poltergeist, Stand By Me, and The Goonies. Most importantly, though, she was told to study up on E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. She explained to IndieWire, "They told me that the performance that they wanted me to resemble was E.T. and that sort of relationship between E.T. and the kids."

Show execs just love her

Before Stranger Things took her budding career to the next level, the people who worked with Brown on the BBC's Intruders predicted her inevitable success, declaring that "she's going to be a superstar." Even author Stephen King, whose material would later serve as unofficial inspiration for Stranger Things (or, as he called it, "watching 'Steve King's Greatest Hits") praised her Intruders performance on Twitter in 2014, writing, "Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific. Is it my imagination, or are child actors a lot better than they used to be?"

The Duffer Brothers, who created Stranger Things, credited Brown with helping them to rest assured that their character creation was in good hands. "Millie's something special, all right, with a downright spooky and preternatural talent," they wrote. "She inhabits every moment so intensely, with some alchemy of intelligence, preparation, and instinct."

She's got one heck of a singing voice

As if being gifted with such impressive acting talent isn't impressive enough, Brown's also got some pipes, and she's not afraid to share them. In fact, she's got an entire YouTube page devoted to herself belting out big numbers, with covers ranging from Adele to Amy Winehouse to John Lennon.

Her extracurricular activities are completely badass

When she's not owning the small screen, Brown likes to do boxing training just for fun because, much like Eleven, she's tough stuff. She told Vulture, "Because I'm homeschooled, I get kind of lonely sometimes. So I like to go the gym. I do Thai boxing Mondays, jujitsu Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Wednesdays I do boxing ... I actually have a punching bag right outside my garden. I'm obsessed with working out." She also likes to write casual essays about whales and dolphins because she has a healthy appreciation for all-things-aquatic (minus sharks, which scare the daylights out of her).

Eggos aren't really her favorite

One thing you probably won't find Brown doing in her downtime is scouring the frozen section for Eggo waffles, the way her Stranger Things counterpart does onscreen. "I love the brand. I think we might have actually brought them back a little too. They're just not one of my all-time faves to eat," she said of Eleven's go-to snack—which she actually had to eat, in decidedly un-fresh form, while filming the show.