How to Get Cast on ‘Stranger Things’

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Photo Source: Netflix

For those who haven’t been paying attention, “Stranger Things”—one of Netflix’s most-watched original series since it premiered in 2016—follows an intrepid group of kids from Hawkins, Indiana as they battle evil scientists, Soviet Russia, Demogorgons, and much worse. 

From Millie Bobby Brown to Noah Schnapp, “Stranger Things” launched the careers of all its young stars. Could you be next? With Season 4 on the horizon, this in-depth guide will break down everything you need to know about auditioning for the hit Netflix show—including current “Stranger Things” casting calls and audition tips from casting director Carmen Cuba.

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What is “Stranger Things” about?

Thanks to the secret supernatural experiments run at the Hawkins National Laboratory, a portal to a threatening alternate dimension—“the Upside Down”—opens, allowing a paranormal creature to abduct 12-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp). Season 1 of “Stranger Things” focuses on Will’s friends and family and their search to save him with the help of Eleven (Milly Bobby Brown), a psychokinetic girl who has escaped the lab. Season 2 introduces the Mind Flayer, a giant, spider-like monster that controls the Upside Down and has managed to possess Will. Once again, the kids must work together to close the gate—this time, with the help of new girl, Max (Sadie Sink).

Season 3 picks up a year later and revolves around the opening of the new Starcourt Mall, which serves as a secret base for a Soviet lab that’s trying to reopen the gateway to the Upside Down. The Mind Flayer is once again possessing citizens of Hawkins, most notably Max’s abusive older brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Eleven is eventually able to defeat the resulting monster, but Hawkins sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) must sacrifice himself to shut down the Russian machine that’s keeping the portal open—or so it seems. Season 4 looks to be based at least partially in Russia, where it seems that Hopper has somehow ended up imprisoned.

“Stranger Things” was created by Matt and Ross Duffer (a.k.a. the Duffer Brothers), who also serve as executive producers and showrunners. The series began filming in November 2015 in and around Atlanta, Georgia, and premiered on July 15, 2016 on Netflix.

When does filming start for “Stranger Things” Season 4?

Production for Season 4 of “Stranger Things” initially began in January of 2020 for an early 2021 release. However, it was paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Filming picked back up in October 2020, but it’s been unorthodox. “Everything is backwards because of COVID,” star Caleb McLaughlin noted in an interview with Teen Vogue

According to Variety, “Stranger Things” Season 4 finally has a release date and will be premiering in two batches. Volume 1 will reportedly drop on May 27, with Volume 2 coming out on July 1 of this year. The Duffer Brothers confirmed the news saying, “with nine scripts, over 800 pages, almost two years of filming, thousands of visual effects shots, and a runtime nearly twice the length of any previous season, ‘Stranger Things 4’ was the most challenging season yet, but also the most rewarding one. Everyone involved is incredibly proud of the results, and we can’t  wait to share it with you.”

Along with Season 4’s release dates, The Duffer Brothers also announced the series had been renewed for a fifth and final season, per Variety. Stay tuned for more updates about Season 5’s filming status.

Where can someone find “Stranger Things” casting calls + open auditions?

There are currently no active casting calls for "Stranger Things." However, you can always check out Backstage’s list of sci-fi and TV projects similar to “Stranger Things” for future opportunities. 

Though there have been no public casting calls for lead roles, that doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing new faces when the series returns. In a recent interview, the Duffer Brothers said that Season 4 is “going to feel very different than [Season 3]...it’s going to open up a little bit, not necessarily in terms of scale, in terms of special effects, but open up in terms of allowing plotlines into areas outside of Hawkins,” indicating a host of fresh characters.

Keep in mind that for larger speaking roles—series regular, recurring, guest star, co-star, contract—you’ll likely need to go through your agent. Don’t have an agent? Here’s how to get one.

Where to find background work for "Stranger Things"?

Atlanta-based Heather Taylor of Casting TaylorMade is the casting director for all background actors on “Stranger Things.” There were several open calls for Season 4 background talent in 2020, including: 

Minor Open Casting Call

  • 0-17 years 
  • Georgia Department of Labor “Minor in Entertainment” permit
  • Fitting/hair availability on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13
  • Filming availability March 2–March 5 in Atlanta, GA

Seedy Neighborhood Patron

  • 18+
  • Fresh faces, must not have worked on this show before
  • Filming availability March 5 in Atlanta, GA
  • Pay: $80/8 hours

Past Backstage casting calls for “Stranger Things” background talent have included:

Since “Stranger Things” shoots in Atlanta, it is helpful to be local to the area. Because background work often does not include relocation or travel stipends, being a local hire is crucial for getting repeat work as an extra. For more information on how to land work and make a living as a background actor, check out Backstage’s guide to working as an extra.

Who is in the cast of “Stranger Things”?

Throughout its first three seasons, “Stranger Things” has starred:

In Nov. 2020, it was announced that Season 4 would feature eight new cast members: four series regulars and four recurring actors.

  • Jamie Campbell Bower as Peter Mallard, an orderly working at a psychiatric hospital
  • Eduardo Franco as Argyl, Jonathan’s new friend
  • Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson, the leader of Hawkins High’s D&D club
  • Robert Englund as Victor Creel, a convicted murderer
  • Tom Wlaschiha as Dmitri, a Russian guard
  • Sherman Augustus as Lt. Colonel Sullivan
  • Mason Dye as Jason Carver, a Hawkins High student
  • Nikola Djuricko as Yuri, a Russian smuggler

In June 2021, four more recurring cast members were announced for Season 4. 

  • Amybeth McNulty as Vickie, a cool fast talking band nerd
  • Myles Truitt as Patrick, a Hawkins basketball star
  • Regina Ting Chen as Ms. Kelly, a popular guidance counselor
  • Grace Van Dien as Chrissy, Hawkins’ High lead cheerleader

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Who is the “Stranger Things” casting director?

Carmen Cuba is the casting director for “Stranger Things.” Based in Los Angeles, Cuba has worked on series and films like “Devs,” “Mrs. America,” “Vida,” “The Florida Project,” “Looking,” and “Magic Mike.”

When it came time to cast “Stranger Things,” Matt Duffer says, “Everyone recognized really early on that if we had even one kid who wasn’t good, it would take the whole ship down. So we just started looking really, really early on. At that point, we just had the pilot script and we had so little material that we were actually having them audition with scenes from ‘Stand By Me.’ ” Ultimately, they “found four kids that we just fell in love with. Some of them matched the characters in the script and some of them didn’t, really.”

As for the adult leads, executive producer Shawn Levy says, “we never really operated with respect for conventional rules...Winona Ryder was not getting offered a lot of jobs [in 2015]. David Harbour was getting offered jobs, but they tended to be number seven to 12 on the call sheet. We saw David’s audition, we sat for four hours having tea with Winona, and we came away from those interactions with certainty that we’d found our Hopper and our Joyce. We just knew what our characters felt like when we sat across the table from those actors and we wanted to take that shot. My point is, the greatest idea in the world for casting is often not the obvious thought.”

Duffer echoed this sentiment, recalling, “[Carmen] was seeing a bunch of New York actors, and I just remember getting a text from her going, ‘Watch David Harbour right now!’ We watched and we were like, ‘Boom. That’s it. That’s our guy. That’s our Hopper.’ ”

What are the best audition tips for “Stranger Things”?

Looking to audition for the next season of “Stranger Things”? Check out these tips from the show’s casting director and cast members on how to prepare—and maybe even turn the audition room Upside Down.

Go the extra mile. Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler) recommends showing the casting director all you’ve got. “I remember for 'I Believe in Unicorns,' I ended up taping a few extra scenes from it and sending it,” she says. “That was one where I really, really, really wanted it. I think it’s a good strategy if you can do something [extra]. On our show, Dacre Montgomery, his famous audition tape—it catches people’s eye. Sometimes you never know if they want more or that's really going to turn them off, it’s tricky…The main thing you can do is be confident in what you're giving them. The trick for an actor is: This is me, this is my version, take it or leave it. It's a hard thing to do.”

Don’t get too caught up in the fantastical. To convincingly play Hawkins bad boy Billy Hargrove, Dacre Montgomery incorporated real pathos rather than leaning too hard into the sci-fi aspect of the show. “The arc [in Season 3] changed things in a big way. It put me at this precipice of having two characters playing out all the time: the possessed Billy and the Billy under that,” Montgomery says. “So I played a lot with researching people with bipolar disorder and split personality disorder, and how one personality controls the spot and how the other fights for that. So I tried to show the latter—the personality fighting for control of the spot—in my eyes, and then the [former] in the physicality. I played it in a real-world example like that as opposed to playing into the science fiction and fantastical element.”

For child actors: don’t underestimate yourself. “Stranger Things” casting director Carmen Cuba wanted to find the most real and human performances for the show, no matter how old they were. “We needed every single actor to have a subtlety and an inner life that didn’t necessarily need words to define them, and we held the kids and teens to the same standard.” Cuba says. “We didn’t discuss it at the time, but it’s clear that we weren’t thinking of them as kid or teen actors in the process—the Duffer Brothers were really expecting them to be able to deliver a very rich human experience despite what age body they were in.”

Having some prior experience helps. “With child actors, it sometimes matters a lot to me if they have prior acting experience and it sometimes doesn’t matter at all,” Cuba explains. “It depends on the role and the scope of what they have to do, the director’s style, and the simple realities of how much time they are given to shoot. In this case, it was pretty clear from early on that this would benefit greatly from actors who understood from some sort of experience [the effort the roles were] going to take and could access it [and] execute it at a fairly quick pace.” 

Prepare—but be ready to adapt. Cuba also believes that preparation is the best thing an actor can do, as long as they can also remain flexible in the room. “The best habit I think an actor can have is to be prepared enough that he/she can use that preparation to feel confident and playful in the audition—even if it’s not necessarily a playful role,” she says. “And to not judge themselves while they are in the middle of it if they feel like it’s going sideways is also key. It’s such a vulnerable thing to go into these rooms and put everything into these fleeting moments; filling them with an actual creative exchange should be key. Worst habit is probably preparing something in such a specific way that if the casting director or director ask you to adjust or do it differently, it causes friction and stops you from being in the moment.”

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