Whenever a new series comes out and starts captivating the hearts and minds of people, critics and everyone else keep trying to find words to describe this given series best. In the case of Netflix’s Stranger Things, we cannot think of a better word than ‘phenom.’ That is the easiest way to describe this juggernaut that came out of left field and soared through the skies to become one of the most beloved series of 2016.
Just so you can get a good idea of how big Stranger Things became in a slim amount of time, it went from a surprise to the third most-watched season of a Netflix original series to debut in 2016. Yes, Stranger Things ended up getting more views than series like Making a Murderer, Daredevil Season Two, Jessica Jones, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season Two, The Ranch, and House of Cards Season Four. At the time, Symphony Advanced Media calculated that in only 35 days since it was released, the show managed to captivate the attention of 14.07 million adults. Those are some ridiculous numbers, if you ask me…or anyone out there.
Still, as impressive as the numbers might be, there is a good reason for it. Stranger Things is a fantastic series with an amazing cast. Even established movie and television criticism websites like Rotten Tomatoes have given Stranger Things topnotch grades. As of the writing of this article, the series had a 95% rating provided by critics, as well as a 95% audience score.
The numbers are easy to sort out, but there are things about Stranger Things that people might not know. And we are here to bring some of them to light. Here are 15 secrets behind the making of Stranger Things.
15. Nobody Wanted The Show
It might seem ridiculous when we talk about it now, but while they were giving an interview to Rolling Stone, the creators of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer (a.k.a. The Duffer Brothers) said they were rejected by networks more than a dozen times before Netflix decided to pick up the project. So, we are to assume that there are at least 15 or more dumba** network executives who thought they were too good for their own shoes, who are now sucking their own fingers and realizing the terrible mistake they made when they turned these two guys away.
The reasoning behind them getting turned away is even more ridiculous than you probably thought. At the same time, it is definitely something you would imagine. Apparently, the networks couldn’t understand nor accept the premise behind a show where the kids were the main characters, but the show wasn’t a kids’ show in itself. Yes, that seems 100 percent like something a network would think. Thank God for Netflix and their willingness to let go of the archaic network methods.
14. The Auditions
Some of the most entertaining things for fans of a show to watch after a while are the audition tapes their favorite stars had recorded while they were trying to get the gig they ultimately became famous for. We saw that with Game of Thrones and several others, but Stranger Things doesn’t seem like it will fall too far from the tree. These audition tapes might be even more hilarious because the main characters are kids, and when they grow up, they will undoubtedly change. But, here’s the funny part. They weren’t only given scripts from Stranger Things to read in their auditions. As fate would have it, they had to read some scenes from what was perhaps the greatest movie with kids as the protagonists in its time. Yes, they had to read bits and pieces from Stand by Me. Who read which parts, we don’t know yet. But judging from the fact that more than 900 boys and 300 girls auditioned, the ones who got the gigs must have nailed those Stand by Me lines.
13. Charlize Theron Should Get Her Share Of Recognition
Charlize Theron had nothing to do with the making of Stranger Things, nor did she take part in filming, producing, or anything as far as we know. However, Charlize ended up being a vital part of the show. Why? Because if it wasn’t for Charlize, there is a good chance that no one would have convinced Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven on the show, to shave her head.
For some reason, even after she got the gig, Millie had no idea that she would have to shave her head, and that became quite the problem for everyone in the production. Apparently, she was reluctant to do so, and it took a good amount of convincing for her to go along with the idea.
12. The Upside Down Is Quite The Place
While it was the big reveal of the series to go along with the whole experiment with Eleven, The Upside Down is still as mysterious a place for us as any. But apparently, this mystery is not extended to the Duffer Brothers. The creators of Stranger Things actually have a 30-page document outlining everything about The Upside Down. And we can be fairly sure that they did not cover all 30 pages with the little they revealed in the first season. We still want to know several things. Where the hell did those monsters come from? Is The Upside Down really a reflection of our world? What happens to humans who stay in that place for too long?
Now, leaving all these loose ends might have been a tactic by the brothers to make sure that there would be a season two of Stranger Things. Even if the series had not gotten as much widespread acclaim as it did, we could not imagine the Netflix people who watched it not bugging Netflix to find out more about The Upside Down.
11. The Setting Was Supposed To Be Different
Choosing to set their show in the 1980’s Indiana seems like a strange decision by the Duffer Brothers which, in turn, is not all that weird since strange is in the name of the show. Nevertheless, it turns out that Indiana was not their first choice for the setting of the show. Stranger Things was actually supposed to be named Montauk. Not only that, but it was also supposed to be set in Long Island. Although now it seems like Indiana was a surefire decision for the setting of the show, one cannot help but imagine how it would look like if it were set in Montauk.
If you are a fan of conspiracy theories and things like that, you definitely know that Montauk is quite the place when it comes to this sort of stuff. There was the infamous case of the Montauk Monster, a disturbing creature that was washed ashore on a beach in the neighborhood. And between the ‘60s and ‘80s, there was also a mysterious place called Camp Hero, where conspiracy theorists swear the government conducted secret experiments.
10. Holly, The Improviser
One of the best surprises of the series was the character of Holly. The little girl was supposed to be nothing but a minor character, but she ended up being someone who stole scenes left and right. People could not get enough of Holly. And what is the magical thing about this little lady? Most of what she did was actually improvised.
Holly was played by the twins Tinsley and Anniston Price. And as it turns out, the Price twins are quite the talents when it comes to captivating an audience. According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the Duffer Brothers were just another pair of people who were mesmerized by the talent these girls had of coming up with things on the fly and making everything better than the script. If you haven’t watched Stranger Things season one yet, jump to the next entry or get ready for a spoiler. According to the creators, even the scene where Holly tells Joyce she saw something in the wall was not scripted.
9. Eleven Was Supposed To Go Berserk From The Beginning
Part of the charm of Stranger Things is that we gradually get to understand just how powerful Eleven is. Sure, we can get a taste of what she can do at the beginning of the show as her escape is quite legendary. Still, it was supposed to be even more of a happening if the Duffer Brothers had gone forward with the early drafts they had for the series. Apparently, Eleven’s escape was supposed to be a major event portrayed in the show, which ultimately did not end up happening. A lot of what occurred while she ran away from the secret government facility ended up being cut and left to the imagination of the viewers. And we believe that was a good call.
Seriously, if we knew from the get-go that Eleven could do everything she ended up doing by the end of the season, we probably wouldn’t be that worried about the things that happened in the beginning and even the middle of the first season of the show.
8. It Could All Be Real
Now, this is not something that the creators of the show would likely put a lot of effort in keeping away from the public eye, but it is definitely something that government officials do not want the mainstream media to talk about. Disclaimer alert: we are not saying that we or anyone should believe what is about to follow, but this is what the conspiracy theorists believe.
As we mentioned before, the show was originally supposed to be called Montauk and based in Long Island. And the primary reason for that was the Camp Hero experiments. While official information about what happened there is scarce or doesn’t even exist, people who believe the conspiracies have talked about the possibility that the government had been experiencing with children the same way they did with Eleven on the show. Some even claim they succeeded. And a few even go as far as saying that one of the psychic children created through the project ended up creating a monster like the monster from The Upside Down. So, are you going to drink the Kool-Aid or not?
7. Poor Barb Died On The Show And Lost Her Job In Real Life
For some people, it might be tough to comprehend why the audience of Stranger Things ended up getting so close to the character of Barb. It might have been because her untimely demise was what ultimately set everything in motion for the main cast. But our best guess is that people who watched the show decided to show Barb some love because the folks inside the show did not seem to care the least about the fact that she was dead.
Either way, Barb became one of the most beloved characters of the show, but all was not flowers for the actress who played her. Her gig with Stranger Things was Shannon Purser’s first dip into the world of acting, and if she rides the Barb wave, we cannot see this being the end of her acting career. On the other hand, becoming famous turned out to be quite the struggle as she ultimately had to quit her job working at a movie theater in Georgia. Why? Because she was getting so much attention from the fans that it started making it hard for her actually to perform her job with the movie theater.
6. Barb Had It Easy In The End
Believe us when we say that the way Barb died was ultimately not that bad. The fans only got to see the aftermath of Barb in The Upside Down and Eleven eventually telling everybody that she was dead and without a chance of ever coming back to the regular world. However, when first discussing how they would portray Barb’s death, the Duffer Brothers and their team had quite a different idea from the mysterious and not-so-graphic demise Barb got on the show.
If you are a Barb fan, get ready to cringe a little bit because here is how she was supposed to go, according to artist Aaron Sims:
“Based on our original discussion with the Duffers on this design, we wanted to go really graphic with it to highlight the horrific aspects of Barb being eaten, and something then growing on top of her—thus, the ribs poking out of her stomach in the first shot.”
5. Multi-Talented Kids
The acting world is becoming more and more like the sports world as the years go by. Let us explain. These days, it doesn’t seem to be enough for someone only to know how to act. If you want to make it in the cutthroat world that actors and actresses live in today, you must bring a lot to the table. Well, it turns out that the kids from Stranger Things do bring a lot more than just acting prowess to the mix.
A pair of the children from the main cast are actually quite the gifted singers. The young man who plays Dustin, Gaten Matarazzo, has already proven professionally that he can sing for big audiences as he has been featured in Broadway productions like Les Miserables and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The other gifted singer in the cast is Millie Bobby Brown. While the young star who plays Eleven has yet to take her singing to the professional level, she has experience as an amateur vocalist.
4. Technology Is Key
Now, that title might be a little misleading. This has nothing to do with CGI or special effects but with the mere fact that without technology, there is a good chance that Stranger Things wouldn’t be as good as it turned out. The reasoning behind that is that one of the key factors in the success of this big venture of the Duffer Brothers is the teamwork and understanding among the main cast. It is hard to find casts that become as tight-knit a group as quickly as the kids from Stranger Things did.
Apparently, a major contribution to that kind of chemistry was that the kids decided to create a group chat by themselves. Yes, the producers had nothing to do with this. The kids literally went ahead and created a group chat and started getting to know each other before they started shooting the show. That quick thinking and the decision of getting to know each other before they even had to certainly played a huge role in how amazing the show turned out.
3. More Setting Curiosities
Usually, when we talk about big productions, some of the most expensive things turn out to be the settings. Producers have to rent huge places and pay crazy amounts just to get a good spot to shoot their scenes. Well, it turned out that Stranger Things did not have such a problem, at least when it came to Hopper’s trailer.
The detective was undoubtedly one of the characters that most picked the audience’s curiosity. He was kinda weird but kind of not, and we couldn’t wait for him to find out what was really going on. A lot of what happened to Hopper took place in his humble home. If you watched the show, you know that his humble home was a trailer. The trailer in itself is not all that exciting. Still, you will not believe how much the producers had to pay in order to use that trailer to shoot Hopper’s scenes. It turns out that they had to unload a massive one dollar to shoot those scenes. No, we are not kidding.
2. The Float Tank Was For Real
This was quite unexpected when we found out about it. That sensory isolation tank at the government research facility seems like one of the scariest things anyone could get into. Anyone who has ever imagined what going into a sensory deprivation chamber would feel like can understand the terror Eleven probably went through the first time she got into that tank. But it wasn’t only Eleven who had to deal with that fear. It turns out that Millie Bobby Brown actually had to go into the water and stay in there during filming. More than that, she even used that weird helmet to breathe while she was under water.
Yeah, that is pretty scary. We thought they would use some kind of special effect to make everything seem real. But apparently, the producers went old-school and legitimately filmed everything as it was. What is more terrifying is that the helmet she wore actually weighed somewhere around 70 pounds. Millie is one brave girl.
1. Preparation Is Key
Eleven is one of the most unique characters we have had in television. Usually, when we have a psychic with superpowers, the one portraying that individual is an adult with some acting experience. It goes from there that the performance Millie Bobby Brown put on during Stranger Things was something unprecedented. She completely nailed the character of Eleven and quickly became one of the most famous child stars in the world.
But, in order to nail that character, she had a lot of help from the creators of the show. The Duffer Brothers spent quite some time helping prepare Millie for the role that would change her life. But more than anything else, they filtered the previous character she could use as a basis for Eleven. In that line of reasoning, they had Millie watch movies like Stand by Me, Poltergeist, The Goonies, and especially ET. That last one was particularly significant because they told their young star that Eleven was supposed to somewhat resemble the extraterrestrial.
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