Behind The Scenes Facts About The Cast Of Stranger Things

Almost three years exactly after season one captured audiences across the world, season three of the Netflix science fiction horror Stranger Things has finally been released! To celebrate the return of everyone’s favorite Demogorgon-fighting cast of kids, we’ve got some of the behind-the-scenes secrets and cast you may not know about the show that’ll turn your perspective upside down.

Did you know how unlikely the odds were of the kids being cast into their iconic roles?

The Inspiration Behind The Show

Ross and Matt Duffer, stranger things creators and directors
Photo Credit: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images

Stranger Things was created by relatively unknown twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. When creating their smash-hit show, the motivation behind the Stranger script – as described by the Duffers – was “What if Steven Spielberg directed a Stephen King book?”

The brothers drew a lot of inspiration for the show from King, and King himself actually tweeted about actress Millie Bobby Brown years before she was cast, saying “Millie Brown, the girl in INTRUDERS, is terrific.”

Committing To The Part

millie bobby brown just after shaving her head
Photo Credit / Instagram @milliebobbybrown

The Duffer brothers used Charlize Theron’s standout shaved head look in Mad Max: Fury Road to inspire Millie to shave her head for the role of Eleven, rather than wearing a bald cap. Brown has said in interviews on multiple occasions that her father actually cried when she shaved off all her hair.

At the time, Millie posted a video to her Instagram the day she shaved it, describing it as “the most empowering moment of my whole life.” By season two it had partially grown back so she did use a bald cap when filming flashbacks.

She’s Actually A Little Hard Of Hearing

millie bobby brown in front of stranger things lights
Photo Credit: Instagram / @milliebobbybrown

Speaking of Millie, did you know that Brown is deaf in one ear? She was born with partial hearing loss that worsened over the years until she went completely deaf on the one side.

Hearing loss hasn’t stopped her from showing off her singing and rapping chops though! On multiple occasions (particularly when she pays a visit to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) she’s shown off her talents, including her ability to rap Nicki Minaj’s verse from Monster from memory.

Beating The Odds

stranger things cast - Max, Will, Mike, Lucas, Eleven
Photo Credit: Instagram

For the roles of Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Will, and Eleven, 1213 child actors auditioned. Of those, 906 actors were boys and 307 were girls. The male actors we see today in those roles had a 0.44% chance of being cast, and Millie Bobby Brown had even less than that.

The Duffer brothers have said they had the hardest time casting an actress for Eleven out of any role, which is why the net was cast so wide for the one part.

A Deterrent For The Duffers

sean astin, who plays Bob Newby on Stranger Things
Photo Credit: Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Sean Astin wasn’t hand-picked for the role of Bob Newby — he actually forced his way in. Astin sent in an audition tape to the Duffer bros prior to Stranger Things 2 simply because he loved the show and wanted to participate.

The Duffers were reluctant to cast him because he was already famous due to the roles he had in The Goonies and The Lord of the Rings franchise. They worried he would be a distraction from the show.

Pleasantly Surprised

stranger-things season two sean astin and winona ryder scene
Photo Credit: Netflix

Sean Astin ended up doing such a good job in the role of Bob that the Duffers expanded his story arc.

Bob Newby was originally supposed to be killed off early in season 2, around episode 3 or 4 and his death would come at the hands of Evil Will. Seeing how lovable Sean was in the role of Bob though, the brothers changed the storyline to feature him until later in the season when he died a gruesome death.

The Problem With Child Actors

Gaten with Caleb - Dustin and Lucas stranger things actors
Photo Credit: Instagram / @gatenm123

A common problem with shooting a show that features child or teen actors is that they go through puberty, which can drastically change their looks, and for boys it means their voices change.

Gaten Matarazzo’s voice reportedly dropped four octaves during the course of Stranger Things season one alone. His voice changed so much during filming that they weren’t even able to use him for voice-overs or reshoots because it was such a noticeable difference.

Convincing Winona

hopper and joyce from stranger things
Photo Credit: Instagram

The process of casting Winona Ryder in her role of Joyce Byers involved a four and a half hour meeting between Ryder and the Duffer Brothers.

In an article for Entertainment Weekly, the twins said the meeting was mostly just to get to know each other. They claim that they barely talked about the script or the project at all. The day after the meeting, Winona signed on for the project. Clearly, they said something right in those 4.5 hours.

Dacre’s Dance

dacre montgomery in Stranger Things as lifeguard
Photo Credit: Instagram / @dakremontgomery

In order to standout in his Stranger Things audition tape, Australian actor Dacre Montogomery – who plays antagonist Billy Hargrove – danced shirtless to “Come on Eileen” in the middle of a random scene he was performing.

Lucky for him, the Duffers loved it! They’ve said in interviews that after watching dozens and dozens of audition tapes, it was nice to see something different. They found his quirkiness to be quite refreshing, and since they wanted this show to be different than others currently on TV, Montgomery seemed like a great choice.

The First Choice

Gaten matarazzo at Stranger things season 3 premiere
Photo Credit: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images

Gaten Matarazzo supposedly was cast by the Duffers in his role of Dustin almost immediately after auditioning. Matarazzo sent in an audition tape, was invited to read for the Duffers, and after the one in-person reading he was offered the role because the brothers thought he was a perfect choice.

Matt Duffer said in an interview that after they watched his first audition tape and then had his read through, they thought “this kid, we’re putting him in the show, 100 percent.” It’s hard to imagine Dustin being played by anyone but Gaten.

Blossoming Bromance

steve and dustin from stranger things
Photo Credit: Instagram / @tubxlarst

The Dustin Henderson-Steve Harrington friendship we all know and love never existed. Turns out, it wasn’t apart of the original script at all.

It was revealed by Ross Duffer in the TV wrap up Beyond Stranger Things 2 that the bromance was written in because “there are two characters that are both a little heartbroken, so we thought they that {Dustin and Steve] could help heal each other.” The relationship ended up being a fan-favorite to come out of the season.

Height Requirement

Stranger things child actors
Photo Credit: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for Netflix via Getty Images

Actress Sadie Sink, who plays Max Mayfield in season two and three of the sci-fi fantasy show, as well as the protagonist and girlfriend to Lucas, almost wasn’t cast because of something she had no control over — her height.

During casting, she was reportedly told that despite her acting abilities, she might not get the role of Mayfield because she was taller than all the boys she was acting alongside. Luckily a number of the boys had growth spurts prior to filming so everything worked out!

Changing Locations

stranger things hand drawn picture
Photo Credit: Instagram

The Netflix Original series was originally going to be named something completely different. The name the show was pitched under was Montauk, which was inspired by the alleged government experiment The Montauk Project. The project covers multiple alleged secret government programs involving time travel research and supposedly kidnapped missing children.

They changed the name of the show after the brothers realized it would be too difficult to shoot on location on Long Island during the winter months of the year.

Movie Magic

Millie Bobby Brown season one Eleven floating scene
Photo Credit: Netflix

Something you may not know is that there was some serious Hollywood movie magic responsible for Eleven’s (and Millie’s) ability to float in the Kiddie Pool in season one. The secret? It was all about Epsom salts.

In an article for Entertainment Weekly, the Duffers wrote that they dissolved over 1,200 pounds of Epsom salts into the pool of warm water in order to make Millie Bobby Brown float. We’re not sure how much that amount of salt costs, but it was probably cheaper than any sort of special effects.

What Almost Was

stranger things promo photo of kids cast
Photo Credit: Instagram / @noahseggos

Executive producer Dan Cohen revealed in an interview prior to the Stranger Things 2 premiere that the show originally was going to take a very different format than we know now.

At first, the concept for the series’ structure was to take the route of American Horror Story or Fargo. Every season of Stranger Things would’ve given us a new set of characters and relatively unrelated storylines, saying goodbye to Eleven and the boys at the end of season one.

They Couldn’t Say Goodbye To The Kids

stranger things set display
Photo Credit Kevin Winter/Getty Images For Netflix

Cohen said they thought about having each season take place in a different decade, with little-to-no crossover characters. Season one would’ve started in the 80s, with each new season going through the 90s, 2000s, and 2010s, and by season 5 the show would catch up with present-day 2020.

The reason they stayed away from this though was the actors. “There was this world that we loved… and we didn’t want to move away from these kids,” Cohen told Yahoo. These characters and actors were just too good for the Duffers to leave behind.

Alien Inspiration

millie bobby brown in character as eleven, eating waffles
Photo Credit: Instagram / @elevens_egos_

The Duffer duo asked Millie Bobby Brown to model her portrayal after one of the most famous aliens in all of Hollywood: E.T. The pink dress and blonde wig that Eleven wears in season one is meant to be an homage to that extraterrestrial, but it also goes beyond her appearance.

Brown said in an interview the brothers wanted her to model her behavior after E.T. and learn how to communicate without words in order to better develop her relationships with her on-screen friends.

This Wasn’t Natalia’s First Role

Natalia Dyer at Stranger Things Season 3 premiere
Photo Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

We know her now for her portrayal of Nancy Wheeler, but Natalia Dyer actually started her acting careers years before being cast in Stranger Things. There’s a chance that you saw her in her first role and just never realized it…

Dyer’s first role ever was when she was cast in Hannah Montana: The Movie at the age of 12. She’s had a number of roles between then and now, but the Netflix Original is undoubtedly her most significant one.

Justice For Barb

stranger things season one main cast
Photo Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Shannon Purser’s portrayal of Barb Holland in Stranger Things season one was Shannon’s first ever acting role, and is responsible for launching her career. The show opened doors for her to play the role of Ethel Mugs on Riverdale, as well as other Netflix originals.

Purser is an Atlanta local (which is where the show is shot) who came in to read for the Duffers, and received an email that same day offering her the part. Purser credits the “really great cast and crew” for making her transition into the Hollywood spotlight so successful.

Pranks On Set

Noah Schnapp and Sadie Sink from Stranger Things
Photo Credit: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for MTV

The twin creators played a cruel trick on Noah Schnapp’s mom during filming that could’ve really backfired on the brothers. Matt and Ross took Will’s fake body and propped it up in a dark closet then led Schnapp’s mom inside, claiming they had something to show her.

The Duffers described the corpse as “frighteningly realistic.” Schnapp’s mom was apparently very startled, to say the least, but had a good laugh about it after her heart restarted.