“Stranger Things” has become a worldwide phenomenon, garnering commercial and critical acclaim since it began streaming on Netflix on 15 July 2016. The creators of the series, the Duffer Brothers, had the audience riveted with its nostalgic feel of the 1980’s, character development, addictive story, and Stephen King vibes. It created a huge social media buzz as it continued to generate conversation and memes online long after it was aired. The kids became household names, and as such, many have wondered how rich they’ve become since they starred in this hugely popular series.
How the TV series came about
Prior to “Stranger Things,” Ross and Matt Duffer worked on a few episodes in season one of Fox’s “Wayward Pines” with M. Night Shyamalan, who’s known for contemporary supernatural storylines. After being mentored by the successful Indian-American filmmaker on the show, they began writing the story of “Stranger Things,” which was initially inspired by the 2013 Hugh Jackman thriller “Prisoners,” about a man who searched for his missing daughter, and it went from there.
They wanted it to have childlike sensibilities with horror and supernatural element that was grounded in science thrown in. Since it was set in the 1980’s, the Duffer Brothers realized they could pay tribute to what inspired them the most, such as Stephen King’s books and Steven Spielberg’s movies. They were hoping the show would be as timeless as the 1982 science fiction movie, “E.T.”
They pitched the initial story to various networks and were rejected about 20 times, mostly because it featured four kids as lead characters but wasn’t a children’s show. One advised them to drop the kids and make it about the police detective’s character investigating the paranormal activity that was happening in his town, but the Duffers balked at that as they would lose everything that would make the show interesting. However, Dan Cohen, the vice-president of the production company 21 Laps Entertainment, understood their vision, and brought the script to their CEO, Shawn Levy.
After meeting with the Duffer Brothers, they pitched it to Netflix, and the streaming service giant ordered the first season the following morning, and gave them the creative freedom to tell their story.
The series was initially called “Montauk” as the setting was supposedly in Montauk, New York for it had ties with Spielberg since it had been used in the movie “Jaws” as the basis for the fictional Amity Island. Unable to shoot on Long Island during wintertime, they scouted for places in and around Atlanta, Georgia. They were excited, as they realized that creating a fictional town called Hawkins allowed them to do anything they wanted, that they felt would have been strange if it was an actual place.
Matt tried not to cry as he was overwhelmed when Stephen King tweeted about the series on 18 July 2016: ‘Watching STRANGER THINGS is looking watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits. I mean that in a good way.’
The TV series was set in the fictional sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana.
The first season was centered on the disappearance of 12-year-old Will Byers in November 1983, after an intense game of “Dungeons & Dragons” with his friends Mike Wheeler, Dustin Henderson, and Lucas Sinclair, which his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) reported it to the Chief of Hawkins Police Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Will’s friends went searching for him on their own, and met a mysterious girl named Eleven, who had psychokinetic and telepathic abilities. She’d escaped from a US government laboratory that conducted top-secret experiments, and was run by Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine). While she was in an altered psychic state at the lab, she inadvertently opened a gate to an alternate dimension that the boys had nicknamed Upside Down. It turned out that a Demogorgon, a monster from that place, had taken Will to its nest. Eleven killed the Demogorgon, and then she mysteriously disappeared. Will was eventually rescued by his mom and the chief of police. A month later, everything’s back to normal at Hawkins, except that Will, unbeknownst to everyone, coughed up a slug-like creature.
Every ending has a beginning. Vol. 1 is coming May 27. Vol. 2 is coming July 1. pic.twitter.com/nw8IYqQzil
— Stranger Things (@Stranger_Things) February 17, 2022
In season two, the group had to deal with the Mind Flayer, a malevolent tentacle entity referred to as the Shadow Monster from the Upside Down, as it began to terrorize the town of Hawkins with demodogs, juvenile Demogorgons that eat people and pets, and used Will to spy on them. New characters were introduced including Max (Sadie Sink), her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), and Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), a girl with a tattoo of “008” on her arm, who displayed psychic powers.
In season three, Starcourt Mall opened and was used by the Russians to re-open the Upside Down. The group worked together to stop the Mind Flayer, and close the gate to the alternate dimension. Will and his family along with Eleven moved out of Hawkins. This season broke Netflix’s streaming records, as over 40 million households tuned in to watch in its first four days, and more than 60 million households within its first month.
The TV series went on to receive numerous nominations from various award-giving bodies, including the Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and even the Grammys.
The “Stranger Things” kids
The science fiction-horror series was heavily infused with pop culture from 1980s classic movies such as the children in “Stand by Me” based on Stephen King’s novella, and even had the kids audition by reading lines from the movie. The children along with the rest of the cast won the Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Get to know the kids who catapulted into fame, as they starred in the series and their estimated net worth in 2022, according to authoritative sources.
…was cast as Will Byers, son of Joyce Byers and the brother of Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton). He was a shy and kind boy who went missing in Hawkins. After he was rescued, he was possessed by the Mind Flayer and was called “Zombie Boy” by the townspeople who thought he’d died.
Noah Cameron Schnapp was born on 3 October 2004, in New York City, and he and his twin sister Chloe, grew up in Scarsdale. His father, Mitchell, is of Russian Jewish descent and his mother Karine, is of Moroccan Jewish ancestry.
Noah Schnapp for Rollacoaster Magazine Autumn 2019
Watching the Broadway production of “Annie” when he was five sparked his interest in acting; he recalled crying afterwards as he wanted to be on that stage. He began participating in community and school plays, and attended an acting school.
His movie debut was in the 2015 historical drama “Bridge of Spies”, starring Tom Hanks, co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, as he played the role of Roger Donovan, the son of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an American legal counsel for a Soviet Spy. Then Noah was the voice behind Charlie Brown in “The Peanuts Movie” released that same year.
He auditioned for the role of Mike Wheeler, and Noah remembered being at a summer camp when he received a call saying that he would be playing Will Bryers instead and was thrilled all the same. He had a recurring role in season one and became a regular cast member in the seasons that followed. Noah has been busy after the success of “Stranger Things” as he worked on several projects including the animated feature film “The Legend of Hallowaiian,” war drama movie “Waiting for Anya,” and an Adam Sandler mystery-comedy “Hubie Halloween.”
His father said that Noah would be game on once the camera started rolling, no matter how tired he was from traveling. Noah said, ‘I love it. It’s hard for me to think of anything I don’t like about acting.’
Noah’s net worth is now estimated at close to $4 million.
was Lucas Sinclair, one of Will’s friends who used a slingshot in trying to defeat the Demogorgon. He and Dustin both had feelings for Max (Sadie Sink) but it was him that she liked.
Caleb McLaughlin was born on 13 October 2001, and was raised in Carmel, New York State. In preparation for a career in theatre, he took dance classes for a year at the Happy Feet Dance School in Carmel, as well as studying at the Seven Star School of Performing Arts in Brewster, and The Harlem School of the Arts. He played young Simba in the Broadway production of “The Lion King” for three years from 2012, and made guest appearances in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”, and “What Would You Do?”
After “Stranger Things” started airing, he rose to fame and appeared on TV in an episode of the police procedural series “Blue Bloods”, and lent his voice in “Final Space” and “Summer Camp Island.” At the Black Reel Awards in 2022, he received a nomination for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, for his portrayal of Cole, son of Harp (Idris Alba) in the western drama, “Concrete Cowboy.”
Caleb’s net worth is estimated at $4 million, as of early 2022.
….was cast as Dustin Henderson, one of Will’s friends who had a lisp caused by having cleidocranial dysplasia, a birth defect affecting the bones and teeth. He initially had a crush on Mike’s sister, Nancy, and then liked Max, but later ended up having a girlfriend named Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo) whom he met at a science camp called Camp Know Where.
Gaetano John “Gaten” Matarazzo III was born on 8 September 2002, in Connecticut.
His parents, Gaetano and Heather, raised him along with his siblings Carmen and Sabrina in Little Egg Harbor Township in New Jersey, and studied vocal training at the Starlight Performing Arts Center. He was cast as Benjamin in the Broadway production of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” (2011), and in “Les Miserables” (2014) as Gavroche.
More work came his way after “Stranger Things”, such as appearing in the music video of Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” featuring Nicki Minaj, being the host of the hidden camera TV show “Prank Encounters,” lending his voice to the character named Bubba in the computer-animated comedy “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” and being cast in the musical “Into the Woods”, with the lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim that took on the plots of the Brothers Grimm Fairytales.
He was reputedly paid $250,000 per episode in season three of “Stranger Things”, and his net worth is also estimated at $4 million.
….played the role of Mike Wheeler, the de-facto leader of the group, and who formed a strong bond with Eleven, who for a time lived in his basement without his parents, Karen and Ted Wheeler, even knowing about it.
He is the brother of Nancy (Natalia Dyer), who teamed up with Jonathan Byers to investigate Will and her friend Barbara’s disappearance.
Finn Wolfhard was born on 23 December 2002, in Vancouver, British Colombia Canada, of French, German and Jewish descent. His father, Eric, is a screenwriter who watched movies for inspiration, and Finn recalled watching in the background with him as he was growing up. He ended up wanting to get into show business, and was cast in a couple of short films in 2013. He made his TV debut in 2014 with a minor role in the second season of The CW post-apocalyptic series, “The 100”, and the following year, he appeared in the 11th season of the dark fantasy series, “Supernatural.”
He was about to switch careers from acting to directing when he was cast in “Stranger Things.” Preparing for the role meant watching classics from the 1980’s such as the coming-of-age and adventure movie “Goonies,” which was based on a story by Spielberg. He found horror intriguing, and said, ‘I think that’s why I love Stranger Things, because it’s not just horror, it’s everything, and when they use horror it’s right.’
Being a part of a smash hit series opened a lot of opportunities for him including, being cast for the role of Richie Tozier, a member of the Losers’ Club in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “It”, and its sequel, “It: Chapter Two.” He also lent his voice to the Pugly Adams character in the 2019 computer-animated flick, “The Addams Family,” and starred in the 2020 supernatural-comedy “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”
Continuing the series, Finn’s net worth is also estimated at $4 million.
Millie Bobby Brown
….played the role of a young girl with a buzz cut, and was given the name Eleven due to a tattoo on her wrist that said ‘011.’ El was stolen from her mother at birth, and was experimented upon at Hawkins National Laboratory. She discovered her real identity and what happened to her mother. For a time Jim Hopper became her adoptive father, but she later lived with Will Byer’s family.
Millie Bobby Brown was born on 19 February 2004, in Marbella, Spain to English parents, Robert and Kelly Brown.
When she was four, her family settled in the coastal town of Bournemouth in England, then when she was eight they moved to Orlando, Florida. For her acting debut, she played the role of young Alice in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” in 2013. She was next given a leading role in BBC America’s paranormal drama series “Intruders” (2014), and then made guest appearances in CBS’ police procedural “NCIS,” ABC’s medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy,” and ABC’s family sitcom “Modern Family.”
During her final audition for “Stranger Things,” one of the creators of the series came up to her and put his hand on her hair and went, ‘Bzzz,’ and said that she was going to have her head shaved; she was fine with it, but her mom wasn’t. To prepare for the role, she was given homework to watch “Goonies,” “Poltergeist,” and “Stand by Me” although the performance the Duffer Brothers wanted from her was similar to that of “E.T.” as they laughingly said – ‘Basically, you’re going to be an alien.’
After portraying her iconic role of Eleven, Time Magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in 2018, and the youngest one at that. She was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series at the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2018, and won Favorite TV Actress at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards (2018, 2020). She went on to play the title role in “Enola Holmes” (2020) as the teenage sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes, and will reprise her role in its sequel to be released in late 2022. She made a cameo along with Heidi Klum and Bette Midler in Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special on Apple TV in 2020, and was also cast as Madison Russell in “Godzilla: King of Monsters” (2019) and “Godzilla vs Kong” (2021).
In 2022, Millie celebrated her 18th birthday with her boyfriend Jake Bongiovi, Jon Bon Jovi’s son. Back in March 2021, the two were romantically linked as they liked each other’s posts on Instagram. They were spotted strolling together in New York City sometime in June, and then by November, Millie posted on her Instagram a photo of them while he kissed her cheek as they rode the London Eye Ferris Wheel.
Millie’s net worth is estimated at a rather higher $10 million, as she was reputedly paid $350,000 per episode of “Stranger Things.”
After two years of filming, episode one of season four of “Stranger Things” will be coming out on Netflix on 27 May 2022, while episode two will be released on the first of July. It has been a long time coming, as the production has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The creators of the series have said that this has been the most challenging but also the most rewarding season.