A Stranger Things future

Sadie Sink, Maya Hawke, Gaten Matarazzo, Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, and Caleb McLaghlin on the set of season four. Picture: Instagram

By Emily-Rose Toohey

When Netflix’s Stranger Things premiered in 2016, no one could have guessed what a phenomenon the show has turned into.

With millions of streams across the globe coupled with television industry awards love, four seasons later audiences are still captivated by the kids from Hawkins and the perilous inter-dimension monsters they fight year-to-year.

At the show’s heart was – and still is – a band of young actors who made their big breaks on the acclaimed show and have set themselves up for promising careers in Hollywood.

Now in their late teens and early 20s, their stars are on the rise but only time will prove their staying power in the cultural conscience.

In honour of season four and the pop culture hold Stranger Things currently has, here’s a breakdown of the star’s careers so far and a non-expert’s take on their potential futures.

1. Millie Bobby Brown

Although Stranger Things has always been an ensemble show, it was clear from the get-go that Millie Bobby Brown as the power-wielding Eleven was the break-out star.

She immediately shot into superstardom on a celebrity and prestige actress level.

After receiving two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for seasons one and two in 2017 and 2018 respectively, the now 18-year-old has accomplished a lot in her short career.

The British actress made her acting debut in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (2013) as a young Alice, and subsequently made small television appearances on NCIS, Modern Family, and Grey’s Anatomy before breaking onto the scene with Stranger Things in 2016.

Since then, she has starred and produced in Enola Holmes (2020) and its upcoming sequel alongside two Godzilla movies, with a slate of more movie projects in development.

Aside from her filmography, Millie also has her own skincare and makeup line.

But perhaps what separates the star from other young celebrities is her influence on Generation Z, particularly girls, with more than 50 million followers on Instagram alone to prove it.

However, Millie has also been subject to the dark side of fame and has been a victim of public scrutiny and online bullying about her appearance and public persona.

While she appears to have all the tools to ensure a long career in Hollywood, it’s entirely possible that the star becomes known for her celebrity status more than her impressive acting skills.

2. Sadie Sink

Despite Sadie Sink’s character Max making her first appearance in season two of Stranger Things, the young starlet has quickly made a name for herself as an emerging actress to watch.

But before acting on television, Sadie started out on Broadway in the titular role of Annie.

She also starred in The Audience alongside legendary screen actress Helen Mirren.

In the movie world, she acted opposite Woody Harrelson in 2017’s The Glass Castle and starred in the second and third movies of Netflix’s Fear Street trilogy.

However, when she was cast as a young Taylor Swift in the singer’s All Too Well short film (2021), it felt like Sadie made a mainstream impression and was able to fully display her impressive acting chops.

Alongside her scene-stealing turn in season four of Stranger Things and a potential looming Emmy nomination, it feels like she’s having a ‘moment’.

Of the show’s existing cast members, Sadie seems like the one who’ll go on to have a lauded, prestigious dramatic actress career and this could be formally launched by Oscar-bait director Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale coming out this year.

She’s also set to star in Dear Zoe, an upcoming emotional drama.

But one thing’s for certain: the next 12 months have the potential to elevate the star’s career if all the insider’s whispering turns out true.

3. Finn Wolfhard

Canadian actor Finn Wolfhard who plays Mike on Stranger Things has been working a lot over the past few years, including starring in the It reboot (2017) and its sequel (2019), Dog Days (2018), The Goldfinch (2019), and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021).

Finn has also dabbled in music, being part of the band Calpurnia which broke up in 2019.

He has since joined a new indie band called The Aubreys.

However, at the present, he doesn’t have a lot of announced films coming aside from three voice roles, including the Pinocchio live-action reboot for Disney.

It’s currently unclear where the actor’s career will lead him, but his army of fans coupled with his Timothee Chalamet-esq appearance and acting skills will likely present Finn with plenty more opportunities.

However, season four of Stranger Things didn’t give him much to work with, but maybe volume two will allow the actor to show his acting prowess.

4. Caleb McLaughlin

Much like Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin has starred in other films since his debut as Lucas in Stranger Things, such as Concrete Cowboy (2020) with Idris Elba.

However, he initially got his start on Broadway as Young Simba in The Lion King musical.

He has also released two singles, but it’s unclear whether he will pursue a music career.

A notable project the star is working on is Demon House as part of a jam-packed cast starring the likes of Glenn Close, Rob Morgan, and Octavia Spencer.

Caleb is also active on the social media platform TikTok, which is popular among young celebrities looking to spread their influence.

While the actor doesn’t have too much on his resume at the present, it’s hard to project where his future is heading.

It is also important to note that Caleb is an actor of colour, and Hollywood is notorious for not having the same opportunities for people of colour compared to white actor counterparts.

Caleb has undeniable talent, so here’s to hoping we’ll see him in more projects.

5. Gaten Matarazzo

The Stranger Things cast is stacked with ex-Broadway stars, including Gaten Matarazzo who plays Dustin.

His credits include Gavroche in Les Miserables and Benji in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

In the film department, Gaten hasn’t acted in a lot so far but is next set to star alongside Australian actress Angourie Rice in the Honour Society, alongside a few voice roles.

The actor’s natural charisma and comedic timing is notable as Dustin in Stranger Things, but who knows where his career is heading at the present.

It’s important to remember that all these performers are only young and have their entire careers ahead of them – anything is possible at this point.

6. Noah Schnapp

Noah Schnapp first came to prominence for playing Will in the show, and as the haunted character, the actor has been able to display his limitless acting capabilities.

However, Noah is also the perfect case study for the modern-day celebrity: the TikTok influencer.

With millions of followers on the site, a case could be argued that Noah has become more famous and gained more young fans through his involvement on the app.

The way actors can now connect with their fans and the amount of access the public has to famous people has changed drastically in 20 years.

While he has a movie called The Tutor coming out, Noah is also studying at the University of Pennsylvania – a prestigious Ivy League school.

So at the moment, Noah’s attention is likely on school and Stranger Things, but the sky is the limit.

While I could also go on about the show’s older cast members, including Joe Keery, Maya Hawke, Charlie Heaton, and Natalia Dyer, there simply wouldn’t be enough space.

Only time will tell if these actors become mega movie stars or instead fall into the Harry Potter child star category and largely be known for their Stranger Things characters.

Let’s hope it’ll be the former.