In 2016, Americans and beyond were terrified by a looming, evil presence on their television screens… And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump at the presidential debates, but rather the diabolical “Demogorgon” on Netflix’s runaway smash hit, Stranger Things—the show we all binge-watched (and rewatched) this year.
Hearkening back to the nostalgic Steven Spielberg-era family horror of the ‘80s, Stranger Things became, ironically, the least strange and most comforting escape in a world gone mad when it premiered on the streaming service over the summer. Its cast of endearing, relatable kids anchored the show’s otherwise dark and conspiratorial premise with a sense of levity and heart. Natalia Dyer was one of those kids—or rather, teenager.
Playing Nancy Wheeler, the high school-aged big sis to Mike, the Eleven-crushin’, Dungeons and Dragons player trying to unravel the mystery of his disappeared friend, Dyer’s character started off as the typical vision of any early ‘80s cinematic coming-of-age teen girl: an eye-rolling, boy obsessed princess caught between the worlds of popularity and authentic friendship. Facing incredible danger, however, Nancy quickly evolved into one of the show’s most badass feminist players alongside Winona Ryder’s desperate, relentless Joyce Byers and Millie Bobby Brown’s fierce fan-favorite Eleven.
Below, the Nashville-bred, New York-based actress and I converse about what it was like landing her life-changing gig, getting caught up on ‘80s cinema (a decade she never personally experienced), learning how to navigate the industry with grace thanks to a certain iconic co-star, and, of course, justice for Barb.
Tag: 2016: Interviews
Natalia Dyer is straddling two worlds right now.
In one, she’s a 19-year-old student at NYU — she’s studying at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she explains her focus as “looking at semiotics, language, and art and how they interact with each other.” But in the other, she’s one of the stars of Stranger Things, the Netflix show that blends the great high school films of the ‘80s with the horror movies from the same decade — oh, and includes a terrifying monster from an alternate reality known as the Upside Down.
Her character, older sister Nancy Wheeler, has a lot to deal with. High school is never easy; imagine what it would be like if your best friend and your brother’s best friend both went missing. And imagine navigating college while also planning to film the second season of a hit show.
Which reality is the Upside Down? That’s for you to decide. And so far, Natalia and Nancy are both handling it all just fine. Teen Vogue caught up with the actress to talk about how her character turns a classic ‘80s trope on its head, what she’s learned from costar Winona Ryder, and what she hopes to explore when we return to Hawkins, Indiana.
Netflix’s new original series Stranger Things is the hands-down hit of the summer, thanks to its creepy storytelling, perfectly executed 1980s nostalgia and absolutely stacked cast. Refreshingly, that cast has included a range of fleshed-out female characters, including Nancy Wheeler, a perfectionist high school student, beleaguered older sister, quasi-girlfriend, and ultimately, dimension hopper. Cosmopolitan.com talked with Natalia Dyer, who plays Nancy, about the Nancy-Steve-Jonathan love triangle, getting acquainted with the ’80s, and what makes Nancy’s BFF Barb so lovable. (Spoilers throughout, but if you haven’t watched yet, what are you waiting for?)
This show pays homage to a lot of ’80s movies — Carrie, Firestarter, ET. Since you’re a little younger, were those movies you were familiar with before doing the show?
Here and there. My mom loves the ’80s. I grew up hearing a lot about the ’80s. But it was definitely an education for all of us younger people involved, to go back and watch these movies and hear everybody reminisce about props that were on set and to dress in the clothes. It was the closest I’m ever going to get to living in that era, which seemed like a really fun, more innocent way to live. Very different from our current information overload.