The kids are more than all right.
While the adult actors have their fair share of acting to do in season two of “Stranger Things,” much of the heavy lifting falls to the kids: Not just Millie Bobby Brown’s telekinetic Eleven, but the boys — Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair) — and the new girl in town, Sadie Sink (Max).
She fit in immediately, says Wolfhard. “We were like, ‘What could the new people do? Are they going to be comfortable with us?’ But we were so lucky to have people that were so nice and easy to work with.”
Sink went through four or five callbacks before she landed the role of Max, the skateboard riding tomboy who at first resists the boys, but eventually becomes one of the pack.
“I liked how the kids were one of the main focus of the show,” said Sink. “There’s not a lot of television dramas out there right now where the kids are such a main part of the show.”
The kids all bonded during their time on set in Atlanta, miles away from Hollywood — especially the girls, Brown and Sink (just check their Instagram accounts). “We’re all insanely close, because we’re all in it together,” says Wolfhard. “You’re not just by yourself in this weird new thing. You’re experiencing it with other kids.” On a day off, they all went to an amusement park in Georgia together, which was shut down just for them. “It was so cool because we didn’t have to wait on line,” Wolfhard recalls. “We could just go straight through it.”
The show’s creators the Duffer Brothers were like “big brothers” to them (“It doesn’t seems like we’re working when we’re on set with them,” says Sink), while David Harbour (Chief Hopper) and Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers) offered a “master class in acting,” reports Sink.
Faced with a difficult scene, Schnapp reached out to Ryder for help. “She brought me in her trailer, and she sat with me for an hour,” he says. “We worked together on it, and it looks awesome.”
Admittedly, much of the ’80s references were before their time. Wolfhard says his parents helped him brush up, as did Sink, who says her parents filled her in a bit about the decade — especially the music.
“I like how there’s not as much social media in the ’80s, no technology,” she says. “Kids also had more freedom in the ’80s. You see in the show, they ride their bikes everywhere they want — but now, you’re scared about strangers and what might happen.”
Schnapp, too, has learned to appreciate the decade. “If I could choose any time to live in, it would be the ’80s,” he says. “They had bikes, they had walkies. It was so cool.”
“If I could choose any time to live in, it would be the ’80s’…They had bikes, they had walkies. It was so cool.”
Even though Max is more of a tomboy than she is, Sink says she could relate to the character’s laidback attitude, though she did have to learn how to skateboard. “It was hard in the beginning just making it look like I’d been skateboarding my entire life,” she says. “But as I got better at it it was fun learning tricks and working with the instructor, and I learned to love it.”
he success of the first season took them by surprise, especially the immediate impact on their social media accounts. “I think the moment it hit me was when we won the SAG award,” says Schnapp, who says he hugged the trophy all night, and now keeps it in his room. “We never thought we would win. It was probably the best night of my life.”
Sink won’t reveal whether she’ll be back for Season 3, but says “I feel like this role has been the most fun role to play out of any other that I’ve had, particularly because I’ve never really been on a set where the cast is as close as this one. I was surprised how close everybody is. It’s not fake. Everybody really truly respects one another and wants to spend time with everybody.”
Schnapp’s Will takes center stage this season, and the young actor says the Duffer Brothers — who’ve said they were blown away by his performance — taught him not to be afraid of taking risks. “I had a lot of hard and emotionally challenging scenes this year,” says Schnapp. “I really just learned not to be afraid to do stupid and crazy stuff and I took risks this year. We’ll see if it paid off or not.”
But he thinks the second season is “even better” than the first. “I personally think the second season is amazing,” he says.
Wolfhard was confident fans were going to love Season 2, perhaps even more than Season 1. “We knew we had to go hard in the second season, just like we did with the first one, but a lot of things would be improved,” he says. “The only thing that’s different is that we’re exploring more what’s happening with Hawkins and his methods, and I think fans deserve that,” he says.
His chemistry with Brown — and that famous first season kiss — comes even more into play in the second season, with his Mike pining for the missing Eleven. “It was cool to see Mike shine in a different light this season because the first season he was a super adventurous and intense kid,” Wolfhard says. “In the second season, he has a sadder, moody teenager type vibe. But as the season progresses, he gets more into his Mike mode.”
And though they agree this season is more intense than the first (“It’s a lot darker and spookier and scarier,” says Schnapp), working on it didn’t faze them. “I’m scared of stupid things like spiders and isolation,” says Sink. “Being alone, that’s what I’m really scared of.”