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What you don't know about the kids of Stranger Things

The kids of Netflix's Stranger Things have been all over the place since they banded together to defeat the supernatural while paying homage to some of the most iconic cinematic elements of the '80s. Unlike the pack of Hollywood teens that claimed the spotlight back then, though, these children seem like anything but brats. And even though their careers are even younger than they are, there are still some fascinating factoids about each of them. Here's a look at what you may not know about the kids from Stranger Things.

Gaten Matarazzo

Like his onscreen alter ego Dustin Henderson, Gaten Matarazzo really does live with cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare bone disorder he developed as a child. Matt and Ross Duffer, co-creators of the hit series, decided to write that detail into the show and character after meeting Matarazzo, and the young actor credits them with giving him a platform from which to raise awareness for his condition.

On The Jonathan Ross Show, Matarazzo noted that he has a relatively mild case of the disorder, but he's still never developed collarbones (hence why he was able to show off such flexibility in the show) and possesses only baby teeth. Matarazzo opts to wear fake teeth in public but still speaks with a lisp. Correcting these issues on a permanent level will require "a lot of surgery."

"I feel like putting it into the show has really raised awareness for it," Matarazzo said of his disease's mention on the show. "I just wanna raise awareness for it and let people know it's not something that they should be afraid of showing." Before the Duffer Brothers cast Matarazzo, though, he had a tough time getting considered for Hollywood roles as a result of his condition. As he told BBC Radio 5, he was rejected for "hundreds of jobs" and "knew why" he was being passed over. "It was always because of my lisp, me being shorter, and having the teeth issue meant writers couldn't write in my disability into the show because they had already written the script."

He did previously have some luck on Broadway, starring in 2011's production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and 2014's run of Les Miserables, and he also had a bit role on TV's The Blacklist in 2015. Still, Stranger Things was the first full series to give him a shot at stardom. Despite his disorder and whatever ego bruises he's incurred along the way, Matarazzo's funny bone has remained intact, and he was supposedly the biggest prankster on set.

Finn Wolfhard

Some kids are just born to be a part of the biz. Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard inherited the entertainment bug from his father, who happens to be an aspiring screenwriter. And while his dad helped him develop an early interest in movies, he's now trying to use his own newfound influence to give his old man an "in."

Wolfhard told Vulture, "My dad is a screenwriter, so he always used to watch movies for inspiration when I was a baby. I would watch movies with him … I just wound up getting inspired by all these movies I grew up watching. I just wanted to get into show business." He added that his dad has been on the cusp of success before, but has as good a shot as ever now, thanks to Finn's role in the 2017 It adaptation and the subsequent increase in his pop culture profile.

"He has like four scripts he's been trying to make," Wolfhard continued. "He's had deals that have gone through and then they've dropped out. It's insanely hard for my dad …. A lot of the reason why I also got into this was to sell his scripts. Hey, if I was in show business, I can promote: 'Hey, check it out—you're in the film business. That's cool. My dad's in the film business.'" Meanwhile, young Finn's keeping busy on his own — aside from the It sequel, he quickly landed a role in the adaptation of the bestselling novel The Goldfinch and joined the voice cast of 2019's animated Addams Family movie.

Millie Bobby Brown

Although Eleven is a young woman of few words, the actress who portrays her, Millie Bobby Brown, is a loquacious little lady and she's got some impressive pipes. On her YouTube page, the British actress has uploaded more than half a dozen impressive cover versions of songs by artists such as Amy Winehouse and Adele, so already she's proven herself to be a true double threat.

It's her impressive acting chops that have people excited about her breakthrough performance as the telekinetic superheroine of the series. Her stock has invariably risen since she sheared off her long locks and became El for the show, but her father may have created a bit of a career setback for her. He reportedly got caught trying to hustle potential agencies for an $100,000 upfront cash payment for the opportunity to represent Brown, a "completely unorthodox" move that had the agencies scoffing and hitting up the press to spill the beans. Still, it wasn't enough to put a dent in her career momentum — as she proved when she landed a major role in Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Caleb McLaughlin

Another member of Stranger Things' multi-talented bunch is Caleb McLaughlin, who got his start playing Young Simba in Broadway's run of The Lion King around the same time Matarazzo was in Les Mis on the same circuit. The pair knew each other before Stranger Things, and McLaughlin, like Matarazzo, can act, sing, and dance—he even studied at the Harlem School of the Arts. He also hasn't forgotten the paw-esome gig that got him started. In fact, The New Edition Story star belted out the familiar chorus from "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" on-cue during an Entertainment Weekly chat, adding that he and Matarazzo were constantly singing familiar show tunes during their downtime on the shoot. The "Circle of Life" jokes write themselves, don't they?

Joe Keery

Joe Keery, who played Steve in Stranger Things, can thank his real-life niceness for inspiring a complete overhaul of his character's fate. He was also savvy enough to take advantage of some unexpected viral shenanigans inspired by Steve's visual similarity to a character in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation.

Given their shared flair for big hair and similar facial features, Stranger Things viewers couldn't help but sense a connection between Keery and Parks and Rec's Jean-Ralphio (played by Ben Schwartz). Embracing the doppelgänger gag, the two hammed it up in a big way with a cheeky photoshoot and Schwartz even made a viral video confirming that Steve is Jean-Ralphio's secret father. For a guy who accidentally stumbled into acting and expends a lot of his creative energy on his band Post Animal, this was extremely well played.

Noah Schnapp

Will Byers might have been rescued from the Upside Down by the tail end of Stranger Things' first season, but the actor who plays him, Noah Schnapp, was once again kidnapped by a monster onscreen in Panic! At the Disco's music video for "LA Devotee" (This kid can't catch a break). The video, which shows Schnapp tethered to the chair of a Satanic cult whose members sport creepy horned masks, was conveniently released right on the heels of Stranger Things, and we're guessing it'll be just the first in a long line of projects following in the wake of his breakout performance.

Natalia Dyer

Natalia Dyer, who played the lovable Nancy Wheeler, made her theatrical debut in Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009, and even though she was still just a teen when Stranger Things dropped, she'd already been in the business for quite a few years.

Dyer told The Tennessean that she quite literally fell into acting when she was a child, after she sprained her ankle on the first day of sports camp. Afterwards, her parents "put me in something a little less active," she remembered. "Which was drama camp. My mom says I came out loving it." After getting her high school degree from the Nashville School of the Arts, she went on to study language at NYU, but had to put her studies on hold due to conflicts with filming Stranger Things. Dyer said she identified with her character's willingness to "straddle groups" and says that she was also something of a societal "floater" in her high school days … which she should remember quite well, since they really weren't all that long ago.

Shannon Purser

Before her ill-fated character Barb inspired some of 2016's most memorable memes, Shannon Purser was working at a movie theater. Once the internet blew up with its demands for "Justice for Barb," though, Purser decided to quit her day job and give the biz a real shot … and the Barb frenzy was responsible for that in more ways than one. She told Glamour she actually had to let go of her gig at the theater once her newfound fanbase started bleeding over into her workplace. "People started showing up at work, and I figured maybe I should lay low for a while," she said. However it happened, Purser has already started to pad her résumé by nabbing a role in Melissa McCarthy's Life of the Party, as well as the part of Ethel Muggs in Riverdale and the lead in the 2018 Netflix film Sierra Burgess Is a Loser.

Charlie Heaton

If you thought Jonathan Byers seemed to have a lyrical soul—ya know, whenever he wasn't taking creepy pictures of Nancy—it's because in addition to acting, he's also a musician. He played drums for Brit noise band Comanechi until 2014, when they concluded an 18-month world tour and called it quits. It was his sister who first prompted him to pursue acting, so he started out by taking work as an extra while bartending on the side. He told Interview Magazine that he really lucked out with his first acting gig, saying: "My first job was a commercial for a Swiss insurance company…It was an eight-minute short with a proper story arc, and it ended up getting a spot at Cannes Lions; I was lucky to avoid the commercials where you're their puppet."

Heaton wasn't so lucky in October of 2017, when he was detained at Los Angeles International Airport after security examined his belongings and detected a "very small amount" of a substance later determined to be cocaine. Refused entry into the United States, Heaton ended up being sent back to the U.K. and was unable to attend the premiere party for Stranger Things 2—a gaffe for which he apologized in a public statement released days later. "I was not arrested or charged with a crime, and cooperated fully with the U.S. officials at LAX," Heaton pointed out. "I'm sorry to all the fans and my Stranger Things family for missing the premiere. We are all so proud of this season and I would never want this story to negatively impact the show."

Tinsley and Anniston Price

The twins who portrayed Holly Wheeler on Stranger Things might've looked a little familiar to fans of AMC's The Walking Dead because the pair starred as baby Judith Grimes on show's fourth season. They also shared a small role in The Divergent Series: Allegiant, so they've certainly had no trouble nabbing critical parts. Whether this tiny twosome will become the next Olsen twins remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn't hurt that the girls proved themselves skilled at improvising reactions to certain moments on the show.

Sadie Sink

Joining our Hawkins heroes in the second season is another young lady with a supreme set of skills, albeit nothing to do with telekinesis. Max, a transplant from California, can outwit everyone on Dig Dug at the local arcade, where she takes the top score under her pseudonym "Mad Max," and skateboards well enough to dub herself the resident "Zoomer" of the group, even if some members are more reluctant to include her than others.

The actress behind all that sass, Sadie Sink, grew close to Millie Bobby Brown on the Atlanta, Georgia set of Stranger Things 2, despite the fact that their characters share very little screen time. The two enjoyed slumber parties together, dueted on pop music covers, and spent downtime from the shoot together. But despite how close the pair grew behind the scenes, Sink reportedly took a lot of social media heat from fans who were afraid Max might drive a wedge between Eleven and Mike — which might have helped prepare her for the controversy that erupted after she revealed that her kiss with Caleb McLaughlin's Lucas toward the end of the second season was an unscripted surprise.

Dacre Montgomery

Last but not least, we have Billy, your prototypical mean teen with a mullet, no shirt, and zero respect for speed limits. He looks like a cross between Rob Lowe in St. Elmo's Fire and Jason Patric in The Lost Boys, but with fewer redeemable inner qualities.

In real life, Dacre Montgomery is hardly the depraved character he portrays on the show. The Australia native spends his downtime haunting hip-hop clubs, and audiences saw him in 2017's big-screen Power Rangers movie before he appeared in Stranger Things' second season. His initial audition for the role consisted of one very thematically on-point mini-film he made for the Duffer Brothers; as he told Complex, "I had one day to get my act together, so I made a short film rather than a self-tape. It had an opening score, opening titles, and I may or may not have put on a g-string and danced to 'Hungry Like a Wolf.'" Nabbing the role was what made him decide to move to the U.S. to pursue his budding screen career once and for all—meaning unlike Billy, he's not afraid of a major move. 

Priah Ferguson

There's a reason Priah Ferguson got a promotion between Stranger Things' second and third seasons: her portrayal of Lucas Sinclair's sassy little sister made her an instant favorite during her brief time in the series' sophomore run, as fans delighted in her unbridled passion for syrup (a not-so-subtle parallel to Eleven's Eggo obsession) and sharp demeanor.

Behind the scenes, Ferguson is just as intriguing. Although her young career started to flourish once she landed her role in the Netflix sci-fi series — she's also appeared on other small screen series like Atlanta and Mercy Street, for example — her backup career plan is also pretty impressive. "It would probably be a doctor," she said of her dream job outside Hollywood, adding that she'd like to specialize as "a surgeon where you go inside people's bodies and check." Demogorgons everywhere should be on high alert if they ever catch her running around with a scalpel in hand.

Ferguson's other ambition is to be a philanthropist, and she's already well on her way. After landing a spokesmodeling gig with United Way, she told Talk Nerdy with Us, "I want to do more, especially for homeless children. Last year,  my little sister and I collected books for a women's shelter and read stories to the kids. In the future, I still see myself as an actress, but more focused on the casting or directing side and helping children."

Maya Hawke

Although she didn't start acting until her late teens, Maya Hawke has been a part of Hollywood since the day she was born. Hawke is the eldest child of actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman and, after spending her childhood visiting the sets where her parents worked, said she finds acting to be natural, "like swimming or breathing or kissing." However, she's made a concerted effort not to ride her parents' coattails.

"It's very ordinary to pursue a career that your parents do, but when it's in the public eye it becomes a complicated thing. I am not in denial about the fact that if it weren't for them I wouldn't be here today," she told Vogue UK. "I've thought a lot about how to deal with that, and one way was to not take any opportunity unless I was absolutely positive that I'd earned every scrap of it."

Hawke, who struggled in school early on thanks to her diagnosed dyslexia, earned a breakthrough role as Jo March in PBS Masterpiece's miniseries adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. And since the character was so important to her throughout her formative years, even helping her to "develop a love of reading and writing, even when it was challenging," Hawke was willing to quit her studies at Juilliard to take it.

Francesca Reale

Before becoming the well-liked lifeguard Heather in Hawkins, Indiana, Francesca Reale starred in another big Netflix series: Haters Back Off! To get that role and her part in Stranger Things, though, the NYU grad had to first qualify for her Screen Actors Guild card, which meant ignoring the opinions of her peers and being willing to start small.

"I went to school with a lot of actors who really thought that anything outside of theatre or outside of New York was garbage and was not qualified for their talent," she told AOL. "They were just closing themselves off to how the world is adapting, and how art is forming in new ways. [...] You have to be resilient in that you just take the grunt work and the tiny parts and the one day on the crime show or whatever. I did it! I died on Blue Bloods for a day, I literally went and laid in a pile of dirt to get SAG eligibility so I could audition for shows like Haters Back Off!"

She's still done her fair share of artsy short films, but she's not afraid to dream big. Citing Audrey Hepburn as her ultimate Hollywood inspiration, she has aspirations to eventually take her television successes to the silver screen, and she's already well on her way. For her feature film debut, she was cast alongside Stranger Things castmate Natalia Dyer in Karen Maine's full-length adaptation of her short film Yes, God, Yes.