— -- The Netflix drama series “Stranger Things” became a smash hit in 2016 — something the show’s young stars, who aren’t even out of high school yet, never expected.
“Not many kids get to do this in one year,” Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas Sinclair on the show, said of all the opportunities that have come his way because of his role on the show. “I’m blessed to be a part of this. It’s been awesome.”
McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo and Finn Wolfhard, who all range in age from 12 to 15, shared their stories of how their lives have changed since starring on “Stranger Things” for the ABC News special “The Year: 2016,” airing on Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
The show focuses on a group of kids who go in search of their friend, who mysteriously vanishes into an alternate universe, and his distraught mother as she tries to communicate with the missing boy.
The young actors said they have been overwhelmed by the fame the show has brought them, and they adore their fans, but there have been some strange encounters.
“I got followed back from my house by a couple in Toronto,” said Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler on the show. “And the minute I got to my door, they were just like, ‘Can we take a picture with you?’ I was like, ‘No, you followed me back for four blocks, that’s super creepy.’”
Brown, who plays Eleven, the female character with psychokinetic abilities, added that one time a girl sat down next to her while she was sleeping on a largely empty plane on the way to the Philippines.
“You know when you just, kind of, wake up and she’s sitting right there? I’m like, ‘Hi,’” she said. “I just think that for me, because we’re so young at the moment, it’s like we haven’t experienced this stuff yet, so for us it’s like, ‘Whoa. That is just weird.’”
Matarazzo, who plays Dustin Henderson, said some in the cast have even received marriage proposals.
“The marriage proposals are a little weird,” he said.
But on a more positive note, somewhat unexpected was the A-list fans they got to meet — the president was one they’ll never forget.
“I’m expecting him to just be like, shake hands, take a picture, get out of there. He stops and he’s like, ‘No, let me talk to these guys,’” Matarazzo said. “He’s so cool. He’s like, ‘Yeah, I watch your show.’”
And McLaughlin admitted to being a little star-struck on-set working with Winona Ryder, who plays Joyce Byers, the mother of missing 12-year-old Will.
“In the beginning it was just like, 'Oh my gosh, Winona Ryder, oh wow, wow,' ‘Beetlejuice,’ ‘Edward Scissorhands,’” McLaughlin said, referring to some of Ryder’s earlier movies. “But now she’s, I want to say, our friend. She’s more like family now because everyone’s — we know each other, see each other every day.”
“We look up to her,” Matarazzo added.
For Brown, Ryder became a confidante on set.
“I think Winona is kind of like a mother,” Brown said. “She’s been there for me ... since Day 1, really. If I ever struggled on a scene, I would go to her and we would literally sit in her trailer ... watch movies, eat cheese and crackers — like, she got me.”