Are you ready to fall down the rabbit hole? This Friday, Netflix's Stranger Things will premiere, the latest original series from the streaming service that hopes to fill the gaping showhole in your life left behind by Orange Is The New Black Season 4. Not that the two shows have much in common other than that they're both on Netflix; Stranger Things is a period throwback that cribs from Spielbergian sci-fi/fantasy/coming of age films like E.T., Gremlins, and The Goonies. So who will be leading us down this rabbit hole of '80s nostalgia, exactly? The Stranger Things cast is packed full of both familiar and new faces.
Netflix doesn't have any trouble drawing top talent and big names to its original programming these days; just ask Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, or Kyle Chandler, or the entire cast of Wet Hot American Summer. But for Stranger Things, creators Matt and Ross Duffer (Wayward Pines) didn't fill their cast with household names — with one notable exception — which will help maintain the sense of mystery and childlike wonder that's inherent to the story. Much like the aforementioned E.T. and more recent films like Super 8, the Netflix drama is buoyed by the performance of a group of unfamiliar young kids.
But let's start with someone audiences will be familiar with…
The one face almost everyone watching Stranger Things will undoubtedly recognize is that of two-time Academy Award nominee Winona Ryder, she of the late '80s and '90s classics like Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Reality Bites, and Girl, Interrupted. Ryder made the jarring transition to motherly roles in 2009's Star Trek reboot, playing the mom to Zachary Quinto's 32-year-old Spock at the age of 38. Since then, she has settled into more mature roles like a has-been dancer in Black Swan, a Yonkers politician in Show Me A Hero, and Joyce, now the frantic parent of a vanished boy in Stranger Things.
Harbour may not be a household name, but he's got one of those faces you just know you've seen somewhere — which you probably have, since he's appeared in supporting roles in a wide variety of film and TV projects including Brokeback Mountain, Quantum Of Solace, Revolutionary Road, Black Mass, and as indefatigable reporter Elliot on HBO's The Newsroom. Here he plays the local police chief investigating the strange disappearance of Joyce's son, Will.
You probably most recently saw the man playing sinister Dr. Brenner in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, as ill-fated cop Foley. His credits also include Full Metal Jacket, Any Given Sunday, and real estate developer Sullivan Groff in Season 3 of Weeds.
The last recognizable adult face belongs to Buono as Karen, the mother of Will's friend Mike. She has played a number of recurring roles on some of your favorite shows like The Sopranos, The Good Wife, Person Of Interest, and Mad Men — the latter of which earned her an Emmy nomination for her performance as Don's psychologist girlfriend Dr. Faye Miller.
The mysterious girl known only as "Eleven" is played by Brown, who was a series regular on BBC America's short-lived Intruders, and also played young Alice in Once Upon A Time In Wonderland, and appeared in a Season 11 episode of Grey's Anatomy as a young girl given instructions over the phone on how to perform an emergency surgery on her mother.
In Stranger Things, Schnapp plays Will, whose sudden abduction launches the events of the series. You may have heard him as the voice of the new Charlie Brown in last year's animated film The Peanuts Movie, or seen him as Tom Hanks' son in the Best Picture-nominated Bridge Of Spies.
Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin
Will's trio of friends are all relative newcomers. As Dustin, Matarazzo's (left) sole previous credit is an episode of The Blacklist. Mike's portrayer, Wolfhard (middle), has been in episodes of The 100 and Supernatural, and is currently filming the It remake. And you may have seen McLaughlin (right), who plays Lucas, in episodes of Unforgettable, Forever, or Shades Of Blue.
Heaton, who plays Jonathan, the son of Ryder's Joyce and Will's older brother, is an English actor whose primary credits are guest roles on TV shows across the pond. He will also appear in Shut In, an upcoming thriller starring Naomi Watts and Room's Jacob Tremblay.
Dyer's first and biggest credit is a role in 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie. Since then, she has appeared in a series of indie films such as Blue Like Jazz, The Between, and I Believe In Unicorns. Here she'll play Nancy, the older sister of Will's friend Mike.
It can be tough to cast compelling child actors — much less focus an entire television series around them — but you never know when you're going to find the next Quvenzhané Wallis or Jacob Tremblay (or Drew Barrymore, to bring our E.T. references full circle). Stream Stranger Things on Netflix this Friday to see this new generation of talent in action.
Images: Netflix (10)