Essay: My ‘Stranger Things’ experience
In the last Pillar issue, I reviewed season two of “Stranger Things.” Now, I want to share how I went from watching from home to meeting the cast in person.
The first character I met was one that fans of the show had not even seen yet. In October, I was covering FDU’s annual WAMFest. I was able to get into the VIP-only event to interview this year’s headliner, actor, director, producer and author Sean Astin.
I met Astin before the season came out, so I asked him what college students, a big demographic for the show, could look forward to. He smiled shyly and thought about his words carefully.
I had seen online that Astin’s character would be the “Barb” of season two. Barb was a beloved underdog character from season one. I could tell just by looking at Astin that he could definitely play the cheesy, dad-joke ridden, kind of character that would go viral on the internet like Barb did.
Astin only revealed that the creators of the show had created something “bigger and darker,” and “absolutely mind-bending.”
My next encounter with the cast occurred the week after season two was released. I was in Leafs & Grains getting food for lunch with my friend, Christina Rego. I was in the middle of ordering when she got a call from an unknown number. She picked it up, and it was MTV on the other end.
The woman on the phone was a casting director for “Total Request Live,” a popular music show from the ’90s and ’00s that recently made its comeback this October. She said that Christina had won the opportunity to play a game on live television with the cast of “Stranger Things” the next day.
After she hung up, Christina asked if I wanted to come with her. I have never felt so much immediate excitement in my entire life than in that moment.
There were so many mixed emotions at the lunch table that day. Christina and I excitedly planned how we would get into New York City the next day. We laughed because we had just been talking about how amazing the new season was. We anxiously emailed our professors, letting them know we would not be in class the next day. The opportunity to go on live television was one that was worth missing class for a day.
The next morning, we boarded the train to the city, nervous but ecstatic. We got into Times Square with plenty of time to spare. We then walked over to the Viacom building, gawking at the infamous TRL studio windows on the second floor of the building.
Next thing I know, I am the first person in line to enter the TRL studio. Christina had gone off backstage somewhere to convince the producers to pick her to play the game with the cast. They ended up not picking her, which was fortunate, because the game ended up being very embarrassing. Instead, they allowed her to ask the cast a question on TV.
The entire experience was surreal. I was the first audience member in the studio, so I got to see the environment in all its glory.
There were workers and camera-men running around, couches and screens, and the view of the bustling Times Square out the windows. I thought to myself, it would be both incredible and terrifying to work at a place like this.
The directors gave us places to sit for the show, the spunky woman in charge of the audience pumped the crowd, and soon, the producer was counting down until the show went live.
It seemed like Christina and I were just always in the right spot. The camera must have been on us more than most of the audience members there. We were in the opening scene, in the background of the game and interviews, and at one point, I even looked like a host because the two actual hosts and I were the main people in the shot. I fought the urge to mouth “hi mom” to the camera.
The members of the “Stranger Things” cast who were on the show were Sadie Sink (Max), Caleb McLoughlin (Lucas), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Finn Wolfhard (Mike) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven). It was so amazing to see such a young and talented group of kids so passionate and excited about their show and the fans who watched it. It is unbelievable that they were all born after 2000. I felt starstruck, honored, and a little bit like I hadn’t done very much with my life.
In the Q&A section, fans got to ask rapid fire questions to the cast. Christina asked Brown if she could do the “Dancing Hopper,” a meme of Chief Hawkins (David Harbour) dancing in the show that went viral on the internet. Brown reluctantly complied and danced, frowning at the laughter that followed. Christina and I were happy to find that Brown dancing to the meme had become a meme also. We felt that we were responsible.You’re welcome, internet!
The directors constantly had the audience moving around the studio, one of the trademarks of the old TRL. At one point, Christina and I were at the back but we were still in the perfect spot because we were able to high five the cast as they walked off stage.
It was amazing to see the workings of a live television show as well as meet the cast of one of my favorite shows. The entire day was one that I will never forget.
Make sure to watch us on the “Stranger Things” TRL episode!