Although the disappearance of Will Byers initially appeared to be an isolated incident, it was only the beginning of a series of sinister events in Hawkins, Indiana. In the premiere episode of Stranger Things, Nancy Wheeler (played by Natalia Dyer) didn't seem like she would be a major or complex character. She was mainly concerned with maintaining straight A's at school, her friends, and her new boyfriend. Although Nancy ultimately finds herself dealing with an, uh, unusual situation, some of her initial struggles are totally relatable to girls who have navigated the high school social scene. Nancy is flattered by the attention of one of the most popular guys in school and struggles to maintain her friendship with Barbara as she begins hanging out with a "cool" new crowd — a group where Barbara doesn't fit in even though Nancy makes an effort to include her. [Minor spoilers ahead for Stranger Things.]
But, when Barbara disappears in "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street," Nancy quickly establishes herself as a force to be reckoned with. The inept police department dismisses her as a runaway — so, Nancy takes matters into her own hands and sets out to find Barbara. She teams up with Will's brother, Jonathan, and puts herself in physical danger as they desperately search for their missing loved ones in a dark forest. (As one does in creepy movies and TV shows.)
Nancy's character is definitely well-written, but Natalia Dyer's performance is one of the most impressive on the series — especially because she evolves so much throughout the show. Dyer may not be a household name just yet, but I have a feeling that's about to change. Although Stranger Things isn't her first acting gig, it's a breakout role that's bound to get her a lot of positive attention.
According to Dyer's IMDb page, the 19-year-old actress landed her first film role in 2009 when she played Clarissa Granger in Hannah Montana: The Movie. It was a small part, but not too shabby for a film debut. Dyer has also appeared in a number of short films and she co-starred alongside Brooke Shields and Aidan Quinn in the 2011 movie The Greening of Whitney Brown. But, her biggest role prior to Stranger Things was in the 2014 indie film I Believe in Unicorns. It was Dyer's first starring role and the film received positive reviews from outlets including Village Voice, Variety, RogerEbert.com, and The Los Angeles Times.
Dyer says I Believe in Unicorns marked a turning point in her career. In an interview with HammerToNail.com, she stated:
"[W]hen I first saw the script, it was honestly the first script I read through that really kind of hit me in the face, in the best way possible. You could read these layers [the director] was building into it, and it was something I’d never seen before. It was honestly the first role that I was like, 'I want this. I want to go after this with everything that I have.' And I’m actually from Nashville, Tennessee, so the way that I’ve been doing it is I put things on tape, and send them."
Dyer is clearly passionate about her craft and seeks out new, challenging roles. And, after this impressive performance on a high-profile Netflix series, I think we'll be seeing a lot more of her. She may only be 19, but Dyer's career is already off to an amazing start.