Stranger Things is a media phenomenon. Since it began in 2016, the show has swept the world with its perfect blend of horror and nostalgia. Now entering its third season, it has revitalised the careers of long-loved actors, as well as bringing brand new unknowns into the spotlight.
However, despite the press being all over these new Hollywood arrivals, and them going on to star in various projects away from Hawkins, there is still a lot to learn about this multi-generational cast. That’s why we’re counting down the things you probably didn’t know about the Stranger Things cast in real life.
20. Finn Wolfhard
All the kids from Stranger Things have gone on to do incredible things, but no-one has made a more public splash in the entertainment world than Finn Wolfhard.
Soon after the first season aired, he was scouted to play Richie in part one of the It reboot, which gave him a reputation as a hilarious comedic actor.
As if that wasn’t enough, he also formed a band out of friends he met on the set of other people’s music videos, and has released an EP with them – as well as gigging regularly at some of the most prestigious rock and roll venues in America.
He also has Weezer’s seal of approval, featuring in their music video and even covering one of their songs with his band Calpurnia.
Essentially, he’s come a long way from his first jobs as a child actor, which his family actually found for him on Craigslist.
They included playing a minor character called Zoron in The 100, followed by a stint on the long-running horror series Supernatural, as Jordie Pinsky.
19. Winona Ryder
Winona Ryder has been a staple of the movie world since the mid-eighties, which made her the perfect choice for Stranger Things, a show that draws heavily on eighties nostalgia.
However, her time on the show was received as kind of a glorious comeback, as since she was sentenced to grand theft for shoplifting in the early 2000s, she had been laying pretty low.
Since her reemergence though, she has starred in rom-com Destination Wedding with Keanu Reeves, someone who also played her love interest in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
In a series of interviews, she has even confirmed that she married him in real-life on-set of the movie, and they might still be married now.
It’s odd that her re-emergence was in a show called Stranger Things, which is centred around spooky happenings in a suburban place.
This is because her original rise to fame happened in movies with a similarly creepy but heart-warming tone, such as Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Heathers.
18. Millie Bobby Brown
There’s no arguing that Millie Bobby Brown was the breakout star of Stranger Things, with Eleven quickly becoming as iconic as any character from the eighties.
Her awesome work with the character was recognised by critics too, with her receiving two Prime Time Emmy Award nominations at the age of thirteen.
She didn’t break the record for youngest person to be nominated for a Prime Time Emmy, but she did become the youngest ever person to break the Time 100 list of the most influential people on the planet.
She also became the youngest person ever to be appointed as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
With all of that going on, it wouldn’t be surprising if her acting career was limited to just focussing on Stranger Things right now, but that is simply just not the case.
She also made her film debut in 2019, with a cherished part in another monster story, Godzilla: King Of The Monsters.
17. David Harbour
It’s not unusual that the child actors in Stranger Things saw their recognisability skyrocket after appearing in the show, but the same isn’t normally said for the adults also participating.
David Harbour, however, despite acting for decades both on screen and on stage, saw his own career revitalised after appearing in the show.
Before the show, he was most famous for his Tony-nominated performance in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf on Broadway, and for minor roles in everything from Elementary to Brokeback Mountain.
Since the show, he’s been tapped to star alongside Scarlett Johansson in the solo Black Widow movie, and has even been cast as the new iteration of Hellboy.
Maybe the most important thing to come out of his appearance on the show was him developing a whole new fandom, who became just as attached to him as they were to his grizzled and grouchy character.
This has led to a flurry of media outlets attempting to feature Harbour and learn more about him, which he seems flattered and baffled by in equal measure.
16. Natalia Dyer
Natalia Dyer’s portrayal of Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things is so expertly done that it’s hard to imagine her not acting for her entire life.
The truth is way more complicated, since she has technically been acting since 2009, but mostly in short films or with smaller parts.
Nancy was her breakout role, allowing her to go for much bigger characters and projects, such as appearing in the Netflix horror movie Velvet Buzzsaw.
Aside from that, she has made headlines for dating her costar and onscreen love interest Charlie Heaton, with the two becoming recognised names as trendsetters in street fashion.
Dyer went to a performing arts school and even studied drama at university, so she easily has the chops to have an awesome acting life ahead of her.
That’s why it’s good that her career is picking up speed, with her first ever starring role in a movie being in this year’s Yes, God, Yes – where she plays a young Catholic teenager struggling with her sexuality.
15. Sadie Sink
Sadie Sink’s character Max was one of the later additions to Stranger Things, only appearing from season two onwards.
Despite this, she actually has a more seasoned portfolio than most of the actors in the cast – playing the understudy to Annie on Broadway from the age of just eight years old.
She also starred alongside Helen Mirren on Broadway in 2015, playing young Elizabeth II in The Audience.
She also decided to go vegan around that time, after becoming very close to Woody Harrelson and his daughter, who are both vocal vegans.
To continue her work around animal campaigning, she even took part in a documentary exposing the cruelty of animal agriculture, and has been vocal about her support for veganism on social media.
On the other end of the spectrum, she has also starred in a horror film called Eli set for release this year, which follows the story of a young boy with a rare disease trapped in a haunted hospital.
14. Charlie Heaton
Charlie Heaton is another actor who was relatively well-known before appearing in Stranger Things, at least in the UK.
This is thanks to him having long-running arcs on three separate procedurals: DCI Banks, Vera and Casualty. He fit the show in between touring with his two bands, Half Loon and Comanechi.
Stranger Things opened the door for him to act as Cannonball in New Mutants, a comic book adaptation set to hit cinemas in 2020.
His casting was somewhat overshadowed by his trouble with US customs though, which denied him entry for the Stranger Things premiere thanks to finding traces of cocaine on his belonging.
His acting career isn’t just limited to the world of fiction though, as he’s also acting as The Elephant Man in a two part dramatised series about the man and his story on the BBC.
The role is a super controversial one, but also one that ended in an Oscar for the last man to play it, and is an opportunity for any actor to be seen as more serious and prestigious.
13. Maya Thurman-Hawke
In case it’s not completely obvious from her name, Maya Thurman Hawke had ties to the acting world before she was even born.
That’s because her parents are Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke, two actors who have been renowned for their skill and talent for decades.
Thurman-Hawke bounced around between primary schools due to her dyslexia, and eventually landed at an art school that encouraged her love of acting.
She then studied at prestigious acting school Julliard before being forced to drop out due to her role in the BBC drama Little Women, which led to her casting in Stranger Things.
Building on the success of her last two projects, Thurman-Hawke is also set to appear in Quentin Tarintino’s next movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
She balances all of these acting commitments around her parallel career in modelling, which include her appearing in campaigns for Vogue and AllSaints, and even Calvin Klein.
12. Gaten Matarazzo
Out of all the kid actors in Stranger Things, it was Gatan Matarazzo that immediately became a fan favourite, thanks to his formidable blend of adorableness and fierceness.
It’s the same blend of qualities that led him to star as the firecracker revolutionary Gavroche in Les Miserable on Broadway, which is what he did before Stranger Things.
He also starred as Benjamin in Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – and is set to go back to theatre in order to play Jean-Micheal in Pinelands Regional Theatre’s production of Cinderella.
When he is not stage or screen acting, he’s raising money for CCD Smiles, a charity that raises awareness and funds for his own disorder, cleidocranial dysplasia.
His Imdb page is looking pretty scant for the coming months, except for a new Netflix prank show which he will host – which centres around employees having the first day from hell at their new jobs, thanks to spooky or supernatural disturbances.
Far from taking a break though, he’s been starring in music videos left right and centre, from Darren Criss to Katy Perry.
11. Dacre Montgomery
Dacre Montgomery has always known exactly what he wanted to be, which is why his high school classmates voted him Most Likely To Become A Hollywood Star.
He trained extensively in the dramatic arts, which eventually led him to an audition to be in the 2017 Power Rangers reboot – which was successful.
He is now working on a project with Russell Crowe and Nicholas Hoult, called The True History Of The Kelly Gang.
He is also dating model Liv Pollock, giving the two of them a pretty good chance of being the hottest couple at any red carpet they set foot on.
Far from only being an actor though, he loves creativity of other forms too, which is why he has started releasing his own podcast named DKMH.
The podcast isn’t what you might expect, and instead features his own music compositions which are used as a backdrop to turn his handwritten poetry into art.
10. Noah Schnapp
Noah Schnapp has been a part of Stranger Things since season one, even though he wasn’t actually considered a regular cast member until he took the spotlight in season two.
However, despite him being relegated to featured extra status for the whole of the first season, he’s actually one of the more seasoned and prestigious child actors to be on the show.
Before he was battling demogorgans and teaming up with telekenitic kids in Hawkins though, he was voicing Charlie Brown in the 2015 movie The Peanuts Movie.
Then he went from one end of the spectrum to the other, when he joined the cast of Bridge Of Spies, Steven Spielburg’s historical drama film.
Since the show, he’s expanded his reach from just TV into music videos too, starring in the video for Panic! At The Disco’s LA Devotee and Drake’s music video for In My Feelings.
He also has more projects in the pre and post-production stages than any other of the Stranger Things child actors, proving that he’s only gearing up after season three.
9. Caleb McLaughlin
Caleb McLaughlin is the kind of star who was bound for success from the start. After attending a few casual dance lessons as a kid, he quickly moved on to stage school, where he met his mentor.
His mentor turned out to be the past producer for one of the best productions of the Lion King in recent history, which obviously led to other jobs.
In particular, it led to a job on Broadway, playing the part of Young Simba eight shows a week.
From there he moved into TV, playing bit parts on Unforgettable and Law and Order until he was confident enough to move on to bigger and better things.
Most recently, he’s been working on Final Space and Summer Camp Island, but has apparently taken a break to recharge after the hectic schedule of Stranger Things.
No doubt he’s got big things coming though, whether in TV, film, or his burgeoning modelling career.
8. Joe Keery
While not the breakout star of Stranger Things, Joe Keery’s fame was amplified by the show, since his character has slowly become one of the most beloved.
It might not have happened instantly, but since his character has gone from bad boy to best friend across the seasons, Keery has found more and more people tuning in to watch him.
Keery didn’t always have so much success however, as despite studying at a prestigious drama school, it was a while before he landed a part on anything he went out for.
In fact, he actually went on over 100 auditions that didn’t come to fruition before landing the part of Steve in Stranger Things, and even then, he’d already auditioned to play Jonathan first.
Since securing Steve, he’s worked on everything from Molly’s Game to Slice, and has another feature in the works – Free Guy – which also stars Ryan Reynolds and Taika Watiti.
In between shooting movies, he’s also back to being a rockstar, working on more music for his band Post Animal, a follow-up album to their last release When I Think Of You In A Castle.
7. Cara Buono
The cast of Stranger Things vary from fresh into the industry to household names for decades, and Cara Buono (who plays the hot mom with wandering eyes Karen Wheeler) falls somewhere smack in the middle.
That’s because she’s nowhere near the instantly recognisable name that Winona Ryder is, but she’s also got a laundry list of acting credits that spans the decades.
Her credits also vary in quality, since she has appeared in some seriously questionable releases – such as the Hulk movie, Waterworld and a universally panned comedy movie called Artie Lange’s Beer League.
However, she’s also been in some universally loved pieces of media, such as Mad Men and even The Sopranos, as well as lesser-known critical darlings such as Let Me In.
Even now, she’s fond of working several different kinds of projects at once, appearing in historical drama The Romanoffs while filming Stranger Things.
All of this stems from her blue-collar, working-class upbringing, which she said has contributed immensely to her work ethic and determination to succeed.
6. Joe Chrest
Of all the kinds of characters to appear in Stranger Things, the parents are the ones given the least opportunity to shine. Especially when you take Joyce and Hopper out of the equation, the grown ups actually get given very little to do.
That’s the most true of Joe Chrest’s character Mr Wheeler, who is mostly painted as a slow, stupid and oblivious father who’s always the last person to catch on to what’s going on around him.
Despite his minimal impact on the actual plot, his character’s inadvertent comedic timing and pitch perfect idiocy have made him a fan-favourite, something Chrest’s career was previously lacking.
His other credits are well-known, such as appearing in 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street, but they weren’t exactly memorable and beloved.
With that said, Stranger Things has allowed him to push his career in a whole new direction, with more projects in the works for the upcoming months than almost any other member of the cast.
As well as another slot as a series regular, this time on Hulu’s Looking For Alaska series, he’s also working on two film projects concurrently, both as Tommy in Average Guys and Red Robe Man in the Lovebirds.
5. Cary Elwes
Cary Elwes’ character of the corrupt and slimy major of Hawkins was a brand new addition in season three of Stranger Things, and one that added an awesome secondary villain as well as a new air of summertime creepiness.
However, despite Elwes’ stellar character acting and pivotal role in making the season so terrifying, he wasn’t instantly recognisable to the majority of audiences.
Instead of being the kind of actor that everybody recognised off the bat, he had viewers everywhere wondering exactly where they knew him from.
As it turned out, it could have been anywhere, as his credits are so varied that they encompass both Ella Enchanted and Saw.
His other noted roles include appearing in The Jungle Book, The X-Files and The Princess Bride just to name a few, as well as the hilarious and off the wall Robin Hood: Men In Tights.
His varied back catalogue means it’s almost impossible to predict where he’ll go next or what part he’ll play, but as of right now he’s working on a reboot of Black Christmas, as well as voicing John P. Jones.
4. Brett Gelman
Brett Gelman’s wacky conspiracy theorist journalist might not appear in every episode of Stranger Things, but there’s no denying that the ones where he does appear are easily the best.
The vindicated tinfoil hat-wearer plays a much bigger part in season three, which has led fans to get excited about the character (and the actor) all over again.
The good news for fans of the character is that Gelman has had a long and storied career, spanning everything from Twin Peaks to voicing a character in the Shrek spin-off The Aventures Of Puss In Boots.
He’s also been part of a number of sketch comedy and improvisation troupes over the years, with colourful names like Mr. A$$ and Cracked Out.
His newest projects are still on the weirder side of the mainstream, but they’re definitely less infantile sounding than his older stuff, including a serious drama called Magari and a movie called Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins.
The latter project stars Gelman as the lead, and follows an inner-city turf war between an old powerful family and a brutal street gang, which apparently will decide the fate of the flat Earth conspiracy theory as we know it.
3. Priah Ferguson
Priah Ferguson has been a mainstay of Stranger Things right from the start, but she’d somewhat flown under the radar until recently.
Mostly acting as a vehicle to the D&D party’s missions in seasons one and two, she finally got to help save the day by going on her own mission, without her big brother even knowing!
Her more pronounced role brought many fans flocking to see her other work, despite her young age and relative infancy in her career.
They weren’t disappointed either, since she’s actually been working since 2015, which is a long time in child actor years.
Since 2015, she has starred in TV shows like Atlanta and BB Brown & Friends, as well as numerous short films across various genres.
That, plus the fact that she’s taken on what has become her biggest role to date in her stride, only proves that there are bigger things to come from the actress.
2. Alec Utgoff
When it comes to season three of Stranger Things, there’s no denying who the sleeper hit was, since by the end of the last episode there was only one character anybody was talking about.
It wasn’t Robin or Heather, it wasn’t even Billy or Hopper, instead it was the Russain scientist turned carnival enthusiast, Alexi.
Also affectionately known as Smirnoff, the adorable slushie-drinking scientist became an icon with his hilarious facial expressions and sheer, unadulterated joy.
Viewers immediately clamoured to know more about the actor, leading to a flood of listicles and blog posts scraping together everything they knew about Alec Utgoff.
In response, Utgoff posted a message to all his new fans on Instagram, welcoming them and thanking them for coming along for the ride.
Fans of his can now catch him in the TV miniseries adaptation of Dracula, the classic story of the most famous vampire in literature and pop culture.
1. Francesca Reale
Francesca Reale’s character of Heather wasn’t one of the biggest new additions to the third season of Stranger Things, but the transition from her innocent, girl-next-door to creepy pod person adds a new level of eerie to the whole series.
Her being the choice for the character makes sense, since she starred in another Netflix production, Haters Back Off.
A nostalgic horror series and Miranda Sings comedy production might be world’s apart, but Reale gives a solid performance in both, one that has set her up for other productions.
In particular, she’s now joining her Stranger Things costar Natalia Dyer in Yes, God, Yes – a Catholic drama centering on sexuality and guilt.
Reale has also been involved in the cinema world in a way that nobody would expect, as a professional costumer.
In two shorts in 2013 and 2014, Hunger and Furies Of War, Reale acted as a professional part of the Wardrobe department, which explains their awesome fashion.