Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Tragic Details About The Cast Of Stranger Things

The fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana isn't an ideal spot to raise a family. When weighing the pros and cons of the different livable locales throughout the continental United States, potential movers and homebuyers consider such natural menaces like tornados, earthquakes, and hurricane territory. But in the seemingly quaint town of Hawkins in Middle America, there's also a chance of vanishing into a dangerous dimension or being stalked by an inter-dimensional being until he decides to fold you up like origami paper. That's the burden the characters of Netflix's "Stranger Things" have had to deal with since the show's debut in 2016.

While the '80s-inspired stylings and whimsical characters behind this world's Goonies squad have wormed their way into the hearts of millions worldwide, the actors playing these intrepid youngsters aren't always very different from their onscreen counterparts — a fact made clear by scores of interviews. Despite their fame and success, many of the cast members in the series have endured real-life struggles of their own. Let's take a look at some of the adversity that members of the "Strangers Things" cast have had to endure.

Millie Bobby Brown's parents sold all they had to aid their daughter's career

Sometimes, an actor's talent is unmistakable. That became clear for Millie Bobby Brown when she broke out as the star of "Stranger Things" in the first season. While her peers in the cast were largely playing typical rambunctious young boys, Brown was tasked with portraying a very different young girl. Named simply Eleven, Brown's character never obtained a normal education. Once she escaped the horrors of the lab she was raised in, she was shaken to her core living in a world she simply didn't recognize or understand. Brown made us believe that El was truly a laboratory guinea pig lost somewhere beyond her cage.

Apparently Brown's parents had a great amount of faith in their daughter and her talent. According to the Daily Mail, they sold nearly all of their possessions so they could move their daughter to Los Angeles and give her the exposure she needed. The family didn't have much and nearly entered bankruptcy. Brown's manager even loaned them to help them get by — gamble that paid off when "Stranger Things" rocketed the young actor to stardom.

Finn Wolfhard fired his agent in 2017

Since making an impression in his breakout role as Mike Wheeler, Finn Wolfhard has become a heavily sought-after talent in Hollywood. As his star rose to fame, he joined big-budget projects such as 2017's "It" and 2021's "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." (Clearly, Wolfhard has a penchant for staring in '80s-era nostalgia trips.) On "Stranger Things," Mike became something of a leader among his small band of friends and, ultimately, Eleven's love interest — as well as a fan favorite.

Wolfhard's journey to stardom didn't come without a few struggles. In talking with the Washington Post, he revealed how difficult it had been to maintain his normal teenage friends and balance life as an actor. Furthermore, he had the ugly task of firing his agent in 2017 after hearing of multiple sexual misconduct allegations levied against the man. Despite the upheaval, Wolfhard states that it was one of the easiest decisions he's ever had to make. "He was abusing his power. When it comes to something like that, you can't be personal," Wolfhard explained. Clearly, no amount of stardom will keep him from having a good head on his shoulders.

Winona Ryder was subjected to antisemitism in Hollywood

Winona Ryder has been a fixture of cinema since her days as a young star sharing the screen with Michael Keaton's Beetlejuice. After her torrid rise in the '80s, Ryder largely receded from the spotlight for several years; more recently, she's made something of a comeback, largely buoyed by her casting in "Stranger Things."

Ryder's career has had more ups than downs, but it certainly hasn't been without its darker moments, including her experiences with antisemitism. She's talked about being subjected to remarks about her appearance, with one studio head claiming that she "looked 'too Jewish' to be in a blue-blooded family." In Ryder's experience, comments of this nature were sadly par for the course.

Ryder's family history has a remarkably dark cloud hanging over it, including family members who died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. While she doesn't consider herself religious, her heritage is precious, and her painful family history is ever-present in her life.

Gaten Matarazzo was born with a genetic disorder

Everybody loves Dustin. Really, what's not to love? He's playful, witty, and incredibly brilliant when it comes to figuring out this whole Upside Down business. Gaten Matarazzo, the young actor behind the character, exudes a charm and charisma that seems to be just part of who he is.

Unbeknownst to many, Matarazzo has lived with a condition known as cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD), which affects bone and teeth growth. As a result, the actor has experienced a lisp and stunted growth that impacted his ability to land acting roles until "Stranger Things" came along. In fact, Dustin's missing teeth in the first season is because of CCD; the showrunners actually incorporated Matarazzo's condition into the development of his character.

Matarazzo has continued raising awareness for the condition and has even worked with the non-profit organization CCD Smiles in an effort to raise money for those affected by it. If "Stranger Things" is any indication, he has a bright future ahead of him.

Winona Ryder was bullied in school

As an adolescent coming of age in front of the camera, Winona Ryder led a life different from most of her peers. In a tell-all sit-down with Marie Claire, she revealed that her family didn't have much growing up, but her parents accepted her desire to act as long as she maintained her grades in school. Her first big break came when she was just 13, in the high school drama film "Lucas" opposite Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen. Before her acting career took off, she was bullied in school and hoped that success in the film industry would help ease that problem.

In 1988, she starred as the odd teenager Lydia Deetz in Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice." The film made a splash in the box office, but the bullying persisted — and even got worse, as her fellow students referred to her as a witch. Despite her unique life as a movie star, she experienced one of the most tragically common aspects of childhood. On the other hand, if her former bullies could see her face-to-face now, it's awfully hard to imagine that they'd still be laughing.

Matthew Modine experienced professional conflict

Matthew Modine wasn't always Dr. Brenner in "Stranger Things" — he's appeared in countless films, including "Sicario: Day of the Soldado," "The Dark Knight Rises," "47 Meters Down," and "Any Given Sunday." He first became a professional actor in the '80s, landing a role in Stanley Kubrick's Vietnam War film "Full Metal Jacket" as Private Joker.

The film also starred a young Vincent D'Onofrio as Private Pyle. While Pvt. Pyle's character doesn't make it to the front lines, his time in basic training includes a standout sequence containing some of the most memorable dialogue and depicting the dark reality of the depreciating mental health among combat soldiers. Many years later, Modine discussed his time working on the 1987 film with The Independent, revealing that D'Onofrio dove deep into character. "In all those boot-camp scenes where I'm teaching him how to do up his top button, make his bed, lace his shoelaces... He just got weirder and weirder as he went into the world his character was entering into." Modine also said there was a bit of real-life emotion behind the scenes in which his character takes some aggression out on Pvt. Pyle.

The real tension began after D'Onofrio allegedly taunted Modine for joking and chatting with the extras and threatened him with a beating. Modine said he had the urge to take his prop rifle and wallop D'Onofrio. Needless to say, they didn't end the shoot on friendly terms.

David Harbour has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder

The rough and gruff former police chief Jim Hopper is brought to life by actor David Harbour, who landed an early big break at the turn of the century as the recurring character Officer Shanks on "As the World Turns." He soon started making small appearances in big-screen hits such as "War of the Worlds," "Brokeback Mountain," and "Quantum of Solace" before landing bigger parts in movies like "The Green Hornet," "End of Watch," and "Black Widow." He was also tapped to play the comic book hero Hellboy in the 2019 franchise reboot.

Throughout this rise to stardom, Harbour has learned to live with and manage his bipolar diagnosis. In an interview with NPR, he mentioned how he was institutionalized in his mid-20s before receiving a clear diagnosis and undergoing treatment. Harbour has gone on to talk about his anxiety over his medication affecting his acting capabilities, candidly opening up about the diagnosis as an example of success for those who fear living with the disorder. He hopes to have more candid conversations about bipolar disorder, helping others understand that a person's capabilities aren't necessarily defined by their mental illness.

Winona Ryder was told she wasn't pretty enough to be an actress

Winona Ryder is a worldwide star whose luminous appearance has helped make her a fan favorite for decades — but that doesn't mean she's been spared Hollywood's ruthless judgment.

Chatting with Interview Magazine, Ryder shared how roles in films like "Beetlejuice" and "Heathers" were among her most cherished. Looking back, she recalled feeling like those roles didn't call for an overly attractive person — which helped put her at ease, because at the time, she felt that she was "unusual looking." Ryder was led to believe that she wasn't considered attractive thanks to comments made by multiple casting directors.

She recalled one specific instance when she was auditioning and a casting director interrupted her to tell her that she wasn't pretty enough and wouldn't make it as an actor. Trying to understand the conversation in hindsight, Ryder speculated that the casting director was so blunt because she must have thought she was actually doing her a favor. Fortunately, Ryder persevered, and the rest is history.

Charlie Heaton's legal woes

Jonathan Byers, played by Charlie Heaton, is fiercely protective of his family. His dedication to protecting those he cares about draws the interest of Nancy Wheeler — an attraction that's been mirrored in real life as Heaton and Natalia Dyer, the actor who portrays Nancy, are actually an item.

He's part of a successful TV series, but Heaton has still run into his fair share of trouble. In 2017, just before the premiere of Season 2 of "Stranger Things," he was denied entry into the United States after authorities allegedly found a small amount of cocaine in the his luggage, and he was absent from the premiere as a result. The actor has maintained that he was never charged with a crime. As he told Flaunt Magazine, "It was hard. Everything happened so fast, and I hadn't come to terms with the fact that I was famous. When something steps in from the work you are doing and breaks into your personal life ... you feel kind of vulnerable."

Despite the upset, Heaton hasn't missed a beat as Jonathan continues combating all the monstrosities the Upside Down throws his way.

Maya Hawke's dyslexia

Maya Hawke, daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, had access to the best advice in the world when it comes to breaking into the industry. In her role as Robin on "Stranger Things," she serves as the voice of reason when hanging around Steve and discovering the horrors of the Upside Down; her quick wit is a welcome addition to the crew during the story's most dangerous moments.

As capable as Hawke is, she didn't always have the confidence to pursue an acting career. She revealed to The Sydney Morning Herald that she struggled with dyslexia growing up, recounting that she bounced around from school to school hoping to find the right place. During this period, she found inspiration from her favorite literary works, especially "Little Women." (Hawke went on to play Jo March in a 2017 adaptation of the novel; the kinship she felt with Jo is vibrantly expressed in the character's sense of wonder and determination.) She finally landed in a school that encouraged creative expression, which is where Hawke gained an appreciation for drama and acting. "Stranger Things" fans everywhere are grateful — Robin simply wouldn't be the same without Hawke playing the character.