First airing on Netflix in 2016, Stranger Things quickly became a cultural phenomenon, bringing viewers into Hawkins, Indiana, and the creepy world of the Upside Down. When the series first started, the main group of characters was nothing more than kids.
Through the years, they have grown along with their careers. Keep reading to see how actors like Millie Bobby Brown and Gaten Matarazzo differ from the first season to now.
Then: Millie Bobby Brown
When Millie Bobby Brown took on the role of the telepathic and psychokinetic character Eleven on Stranger Things, she was no more than 11 years old.
Before the role, she was one of the lead characters in the series Intruders and appeared in popular shows such as Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, and NCIS.
Now: Millie Bobby Brown
Actress Millie Bobby Brown’s career took off in Hollywood after her starring role in Stranger Things. Not only is she a successful model, but the young actress also landed the title role in the Netflix original movie Enola Holmes and a part in Godzilla vs. Kong.
In 2022, it was announced Brown would also reprise her role as the young detective Holmes in Enola Holmes 2.
Then: Gaten Matarazzo
Before landing the role of quirky sci-fi-loving Dustin Henderson in Stranger Things at the age of 13, Gaten Matarazzo had a career on the Broadway stage. His Broadway credits include Gavroche in Les Misérables and Benjamin in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
In fact, the Netflix series was Matarazzo’s second on-screen job. His first was an appearance on the series The Blacklist.
Now: Gaten Matarazzo
Actor Gaten Matarazzo has since appeared in various other television shows, such as Drop the Mic and Lip Sync Battle. He is also the host of the Netflix show Prank Encounters.
We’ll be seeing more from Matarazzo with his wide range of talent including film, music videos, and stage credits.
Then: Caleb McLaughlin
When Caleb McLaughlin landed the role of Lucas Sinclair in Stranger Things, he was the older one of the bunch at 14 years old.
Before the role, though, McLaughlin had a few television and stage credits under his belt, including playing young Simba in the Broadway production of The Lion King.
Now: Caleb McLaughlin
Fast-forward a few years, and Caleb McLaughlin has appeared on various other shows, including Lip Sync Battle, Blue Bloods, and Summer Camp Island. In 2020, he even made his feature film debut, starring alongside Idris Elba in Concrete Cowboy.
For his role in the film, McLaughlin was nominated for a Black Reel Award for Outstanding Male Breakout Performance.
Then: Noah Schnapp
In the first season of Stranger Things, Noah Schnapp plays the role of Will Byers, a young kid who gets captured by a creature from the Upside Down. At the time, Schnapp was 12 years old.
Before landing the part, Schnapp voiced the iconic character of Charlie Brown in The Peanuts Movie.
Now: Noah Schnapp
While Noah Schnapp is still a main character in Stranger Things, he has also moved into film opportunities. He has appeared in movies such as Abe, Waiting on Ana, and Hubie Halloween, opposite Adam Sandler.
Outside of his film credits, Schnapp also launched a sustainability-focused snack company called To Be Honest.
Then: Finn Wolfhard
Actor Finn Wolfhard was 13-years-old when he took on the role of Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things. Before landing the role, Wolfhard had a few television appearances and even made it into some short films.
His credits included the television shows The 100 and Supernatural and the short films Aftermath and The Ressurection.
Now: Finn Wolfhard
Now, Finny Wolfhard has made his way into feature films, some sticking with Stranger Things horror and sci-fi genre while others are voice acting roles.
Some of his credits post-Stranger Things include the animated film The Addams Family, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, When You Finish Saving The World, and Stephen King’s It and It Chapter Two.
Then: Natalia Dyer
Actress Natalia Dyer was one of the older cast members on the set of Stranger Things. At 21 years old, she took on the role of Nancy Wheeler, the older sister of Mike Wheeler.
Amazingly, Stranger Things was Dyer’s first television role, as her acting credits included solely film up until 2016.
Now: Natalia Dyer
Since her role on Stranger Things, Dyer has only been in one television project, appearing as Jane Eyre in the 2020 show Acting For a Cause. Like her resume pre-Stranger Things, Dyer has mainly focused on film projects.
Some of her credits include After Darkness, Velvet Buzzsaw, and Things Heard & Seen.
Then: Joe Keery
Before landing the role of Steve Harrington in Stranger Things, 17-year-old Joe Keery went to over 100 auditions in the hopes of landing a lead role. Thankfully for viewers, he got the part of Steve, a fan-favorite character.
Before he got the part, Keery appeared in commercials for Dominos, KFC, and small roles in Empire and Chicago Fire.
Now: Joe Keery
Since his time as Steve on Stranger Things, Keery has moved into some fun film roles, including a part in Ryan Reynold’s comedy film Free Guy as Walter “Keys” McKeys.
Before that part, though, Keery appeared in the comedy-horror film Spree, the comedy-drama After Everything, and the comedy-horror Slice.
Then: Charlie Heaton
Actor Charlie Heaton was 16 years old when he landed the role of Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things. Before landing the role, though, he appeared in other projects across film and television, even playing the drums in a noise-rock band called Comanechi.
Some of his other credits include Vera, DCI Banks, and Casualty.
Now: Charlie Heaton
While Charlie Heaton continued to play the role of Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things, he took on other projects in both film and television. One of the biggest roles he took on was Samuel Guthrie, also known as Cannonball, in the X-Men horror film The New Mutants.
Sadly, the film was not met with the best reviews.
Then: Winona Ryder
Actress Winona Ryder already had a pretty successful career in Hollywood before taking on the role of Joyce Byers in Stranger Things. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ryder was known for her quirky roles in films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Heathers.
She’s received numerous awards and has even been nominated for two Academy Awards.
Now: Winona Ryder
Since taking on the role of Joyce in Stranger Things, actress Winona Ryder has put her heart and soul into the character and chooses to not take on a whole lot of other projects.
Since the first season of the sci-fi show, her only credits are the films Destination Wedding and The Cow and the television shows The Plot Against America and Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine.
Thne: David Harbour
While actor David Harbour appeared in numerous well-known films, such as Suicide Squad, Brokeback Mountain, The Equalizer, and The Green Hornet, he didn’t really gain recognition in Hollywood until taking on the role of Jim Hopper, the chief of Hawkins Police Department.
The character has his issues, but he takes on the responsibility of becoming Eleven’s adoptive father.
Now: David Harbour
Since his time as Jim Hopper on Stranger Things, David Harbour has continued making waves in various projects. One of his most recognized performances was in the 2021 film Black Widow.
Making his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut, Harbour plays the role of Alexei Shostakov, aka The Red Guardian, A Russian counterpart to the United States’ Captain America.