You may have heard of Stranger Things, an American sci-fi thriller series created by The Duffer Brothers that swept the world off its feet with a phenomenal cast and storyline. A Meredith student, Stella Bowers, ‘23, played as a background actor in season four. Bowers is a psychology major with K-6 licensure and a minor in theatre.
Last semester, Bowers was also the president of the Extra Theatre Company on campus. Bowers explained, “I am super passionate about theatre, which is one of the reasons I applied to be an extra” and that she “actually did a little film acting work when [she] was younger (nothing big) and [has] done theatre, specifically musical theatre, since middle school.”
How/why did you work as a background actor on Stranger Things?
“I have been a huge fan of Stranger Things since it came out. It is my favorite TV show. When I was watching the third season, I found out that a friend of a friend got to be an extra on the show. I remember pausing the TV and being able to see her. This was the point where I realized that being a background actor on Stranger Things was a possibility. So, when I knew that season four had begun filming, I started googling how to be an extra on the show. [In] Summer 2020, I found a casting call on the website Backstage. It took me to the CastingTaylorMade website, where I applied. However, due to [COVID-19], they ended up only hiring local people for that particular shoot.
“I was really sad because I wanted this so badly and it was starting to feel like it wasn’t going to be possible. But, I followed CastingTaylorMade on Facebook so I could keep up to date. [In] Summer 2021, I saw a post looking for people 18 and up to look younger. I knew this must be a student shoot. I immediately took a selfie and submitted it. Within 48 hours, I got a text asking me if I could be there the next day to get started. I hadn’t told my family I had even applied, so it was quite a shock for them. My dad scrambled to get an Airbnb so that he and I could go down to Atlanta.”
What was your experience like?
“When I arrived, I went to get a [COVID-19] test. The next day, I went and got a costume fitting. I loved this fitting. The woman who fitted me for my costume was so kind and cool. I absolutely loved my costume. It was so funky and not at all what I was expecting to wear. I also got a bang trim and was told how to do my makeup. I attended three shooting days and was in four scenes in the first episode. The days were so long and exhausting. But it was so worth it. I met so many background actors who were so kind, and we all got along so well. Everyone was so excited to be there. My unique costume came in handy. On the first day of filming, the woman who put together my costume went up to one of the assistant directors and pointed at me, and said, ‘Make sure she gets in front of the camera. I’m really proud of her costume.’ I believe that it was my unique costume that allowed me to end up in front of the camera so much.”
Did you meet any of the main cast members?
“I got to be in the same room as Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Joe Keery and Maya Hawke. I also saw new cast members: Joseph Quinn, Grace Van Dien, Regina Ting Chen, Myles Truitt and Mason Dye. We were told not to interact with the cast unless they interacted with us first. Most of the actors were very focused on their work and didn’t really interact with us besides saying ‘sorry’ if they bumped into you. However, Caleb McLaughlin was super interested in talking with the background actors. I was able to talk to him! He was joking around with us and kept trying to get us to sing the trending TikTok Backyardigans ‘Castaways’ song with him (I was too embarrassed to sing when he pointed at me). He also laughed at a joke I made, and I just about passed out. It was so cool to be in the same room as these actors and to work with them. It really humanized these people that I have been looking up to for so long.”
What was your favorite part of working on the Stranger Things set?
“It was so cool to see [myself] on TV. I had no clue if I would truly be visible in any of the shots. I was shocked to see myself up on the screen and to also see how the scenes I was in got put together for the final product.”
“A girl I was sitting with at the lunch table wasn't super aware of the show. Some people who do background work are just doing this as their summer job. We were up really late, and we were hungry and tired. We had no clue what time it was because we didn't have our phones. So, she turned to one of the Duffer brothers as he walked by and said, ‘Hey, what time is it?’ He responded, but I was shocked. I whispered to her, ‘That was one of the directors!’ She was pretty embarrassed, but to be fair, he was dressed just like the PAs and was super friendly.
“Each day, I had no clue who I would be seeing. We were kept in the dark about the scenes until we arrived on set. So when I would arrive on set, I would be shocked to see the actors that came out. A lot of them were stationed right by me, and that was so cool!”
By Evelyn Summers, Copy Editor