N.B. This post contains some spoilers for Stranger Things.
Probably the eeriest, borderline-supernatural aspect of Stranger Things wasn’t the Predator-esque monster, but how talented a cast whose four main actors hadn’t yet hit puberty were. Forget awkward child-star acting: when was the last time you saw a debut performance as compelling as Millie Bobby Brown’s incarnation as Eleven?
Which is what makes it so weird to trawl the cast’s Instagram accounts. Their performances were so convincing that it’s a little tricky not to assume they’re just the same people as the characters they played. Rest assured: they’re not.
Their Instagram accounts suggest there’s a whole lot more to these kids and also act as a balm to your concerns that as Hollywood’s latest and greatest, they’re trapped in some agent’s poky office, rehearsing lines 12 hours a day. Nope. Happily, despite their meteoric rise to success, most of the Stranger Things cast seem to be enjoying pretty rich, carefree, selfie-filled existences — at least according to their Instagram accounts.
Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven)
Millie Bobby Brown’s whole Snapchat selfie + “outfit of the day” suggests that unlike El, the actress is a totally normal 12-year-old. While El was the ultimate outsider, Bobby Brown’s ease at Snapping and pseudo-grunge styling suggests she’s probably okay at fitting in around other youthful millennials.
The rest of her Instagram is similarly reassuring: there are snaps of her snuggling on a sofa en masse with her family (she has one!), copious numbers of selfies (unlike El, she’s not insecure about her looks) and even a few pictures of her on holiday (she’s a prodigy, but unlike El, she’s not being exploited).
Extra points for the videos in which Bobby Brown announces the show’s debut in different Netflix territories: sounds boring, but curiously watchable if only to see that yes, Millie Bobby Brown is actually British and talks like she’s from the land of Harry Potter normally.
Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson)
This Instagram account was a revelation. For a start, who knew that Dustin Henderson was so profoundly patriotic? There’s a good four or so posts dedicated to his performance of the Star Spangled Banner.
But perhaps more unexpectedly, the main focus of Henderson’s Instagram aside from himself? His big sister. This is interesting, given the somewhat uneasy relationship the four leads in Stranger Things have with Mike’s older sister Nancy, only trusting her enough to confide in her midway through the series. But it’s a whole different story with Dustin Henderson who is the biggest fan of his sister, so expect unprecedented levels of sibling devotion.
The pair seem to often perform and hang out together and he writes captions like “Love my sis!#metsanthemsearch #powervocal#crushedit” in complete earnest. He seems to just be a really good person who has an amazing best-friend level connection with his older sister. Stranger things, indeed.
Noah Schnapp (Will Byers)
Since Will Byers was snatched away by the monster in episode one, Noah Schnapp had limited screen time in his role. And maybe this goes some way to explain the content of his Instagram, which is pretty Stranger Things heavy. Even in the one “normal” holiday post, Schnapp reveals he’s only filming because he promised fans he would and he gives them a shout-out.
His account is mostly made up of fan art connected to the show, backstage photos, memes and various promotional material. While this might suggest there’s little to learn about Schnapp personally on the account, this isn’t necessarily true. Arguably this account suggests that out of all of the cast, Noah Schnapp is the closest thing the show has to a typical, ambitious child star.
From the looks of the account, this won’t be the last time we see Noah Schnapp on the small screen: the boy’s like a pint-sized (even more pint-sized, rather) Tom Cruise in his energy and drive for promoting his own material.
Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair)
Caleb McLaughlin’s Instagram is full of heartwarming pictures, like the above with his best friend. Actually, everyone McLaughlin hangs out with seems to be pretty lovely. While there’s a snap of him with the beginnings of a goatee, it seems impossible that he could have hit puberty yet, mainly because his family relations are far, far too harmonious: like Gaten Matarazzo, he worships at the altar of his slightly-older sister, indulges his little sister and he adores his mother.
Follow for touching pictures of McLaughlin goofing around with his nearest and dearest, and for the revelation that yes, Caleb McLaughlin is in that J.Lo police drama, Shades of Blue.
Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler)
Finn Wolfhard is a boy of many talents, not only does he give a pitch-perfect performance as Mike Wheeler, but he’s a musician. Like Mike on Stranger Things, Wolfhard has a big heart: one of his latest posts is a video of him performing the #22pushupchallenge — 22 pushups, taken to publicize veteran suicide. According to a 2012 Department of Veteran Affairs report on suicide data, 22 U.S. soldiers a day commit suicide as a result of trauma from what they’ve seen.
Besides, this, Wolfhard’s Instagram account is a goldmine of unlikely information about him: he’s into Joy Division, he occasionally does food-blogger-style posts recommending off-the-beaten-path Chinese bun restaurants, and he’s starring in a new adaptation of Stephen King’s coulrophobia-inducing clown novel, It.
Charlie Heaton (Jonathon Byers)
Like Jonathan “I thought you were different from all those other suburban girls” Byers, British actor Charlie Heaton is pretty hip. Expect grainy analog-style photos of him and his inner circle hanging out in parks and London’s Dalston neighborhood, and ironic detail shots (sad pumpkins, funny bear posts etc.) Unlike Stranger Things’ highly strung leader of the Nancy Wheeler fan club, however, Charlie Heaton exudes serious levels of chill.
The other main revelation of Heaton’s Instagram is discovering who he was closest to from the cast: his onscreen nemesis, Joe Keery (Nancy Wheeler’s preppy boyfriend), who pops up in any number of Instagram posts, and who Heaton himself acknowledges he’s enjoying a bromance with.
Joe Keery (Steve Harrington)
Just like Steve Harrington, Keery’s all about his crew. Unlike Steve, Keery’s friends seem genuinely pretty cool. As one Instagram commenter already pointed out, this account gives off some serious Mac DeMarco vibes: skinny skater boys with long hair hanging out and goofing off.
This all makes way more sense when you realize that before Joe Keery was internationally famous, he was locally famous: he’s the drummer in Chicago psych-rock band Post Animal and as recently as three months ago, he was playing shows around Chicago. Keery fanatics with the right postcode: follow to find out when the next show is.
Shannon Purser (Barb)
Come for the selfies, stay for the songs. Yes, behind those enormous glasses and punishing hairdo, it turns out that Barb was a seriously unlikely plain sidekick for Nancy Wheeler. Purser definitely seems set on shedding her dowdy image with a series of selfies. She’s also big into makeup, so following Purser is like a visual guide to every type of parallel-universe Barb: hipster goth Barb, retro screen siren Barb, weepy eye makeup Barb and so on.
Purser is also a talented musician who sings, plays piano and guitar, so make sure you check out her videos. Other fun Shannon Purser discoveries via Instagram: she looks cool but she’s not afraid to be nerdy, she’s into space, cosplay and cross-stitch. If, unlike the rest of the world, you weren’t already in love with Barb, you will be after an Instagram deep-dive.
The strangest thing about Stranger Things? How down to earth and nice the cast seems. If you’re on Instagram, you could do worse than following these guys: whether you’re looking for inspiration for more harmonious family relations; Stranger Things backstage shots that you won’t see anywhere else; access to Chicago’s psych-rock scene; or for the chance to be serenaded by Barb, this list has you covered.
For more Stranger Things vibes, check out these 15 horror/sci-fi movies from the ’80s that inspired the show.