Like the '80s franchises that inspired Stranger Things, Netflix's hit sci-fi series is going bigger than ever for round three, adding new monsters, new romances, and new faces to the town of Hawkins, Indiana. One of those new faces is Robin, played on Stranger Things 3 by Maya Hawke. But who is Robin, exactly? What role will she have to play in the inter-dimensional conflict brewing throughout Hawkins? And who is the young woman portraying her?
Stranger Things 2 injected some new blood into the proceedings by introducing fierce teen Max and her bully of an older brother, Billy. Similarly, Hawke's Robin will shake things up in Stranger Things 3 by introducing a new dynamic to the well-worn rhythms of the established group. Robin is a fellow employee of the Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor inside the brand new Starcourt Mall alongside Joe Keery's fan-favorite Steve; and, unlike the fans, she finds it a bit odd how much time the high schooler spends around 13-year-olds.
Hawke made her debut appearance as Robin in the first official Stranger Things 3 trailer, although she and Keery are most prominently featured in this tongue-in-cheek '80s-tastic commercial for the Starcourt Mall, delivering cones to the viewer with an awkward "Ahoy!"
Rolling Stone critic Alan Sepinwall singles out Hawkes' Robin as one of the standout pleasures of Stranger Things 3 in his review of the new episodes, saying that she "steals every scene that she's in," and that her relationship with Steve (who obviously ends up crushing on his cute coworker big time) is its own "delightful show-within-the-show."
So who is this newcomer swooping in and stealing scenes from the show's already memorable cast of eclectic characters? Like Stranger Things 2's big additions — Sean Astin of the hit '80s movie The Goonies and Paul Reiser of the hit '80s sitcom Mad About You — Hawke's casting is yet another brilliant '80s reference on its own. But how is that possible when Hawke herself, at 20 years of age, was only born in 1998, a full 13 years removed from when Stranger Things 3 takes place?
That's because Hawke is the daughter of two famous Hollywood actors, the first child of Oscar nominees Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) and Uma Thurman (Pulp Fiction), who were married from 1998 through 2005.
It's incredibly appropriate — almost too appropriate to be coincidental — that Maya's father appeared in his very first movie at the exact time Stranger Things 3 takes place: the summer of 1985. On July 12 of that year, Ethan Hawke and co-star River Phoenix would both make their feature film debuts in Explorers, a coming-of-age sci-fi film about young teens who build a spaceship, directed and scored by '80s mainstays Joe Dante (Gremlins) and Jerry Goldsmith (Poltergeist). Why isn't Explorers more famous? Well, it had the misfortune of having its thunder stolen by a little-known movie called Back To The Future, which came out in theaters just one week before Explorers. Still, that film would help launch Hawke to even great fame with roles in films like Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, and Gattaca.
Thurman herself got her own start not much later; one of her first major roles was the 1988 high school comedy Johnny Be Good, as the title character's girlfriend. (The film also co-starred a young Robert Downey, Jr.) Like Hawke with Explorers, Johnny Be Good would help launch Thurman's career to big heights, with Thurman earning an Oscar nod for Pulp Fiction just six years later.
So Maya Hawke is the literal product of the marriage between '80s sci-fi coming-of-age stories and '80s high school comedies — just as Stranger Things itself is the spiritual successor of those same genres. Is it any surprise she was tapped for the role of Robin? The series has always been rich in '80s homages, and Hawke's casting is a particularly meta Easter egg in the pantheon of Stranger Things pop culture references.