The Cast of 'Stranger Things': Then & Now

Bethany Quinn | Jul 24, 2019 Celebrities
The Cast of 'Stranger Things': Then & Now
Image: Netflix

Caleb McLaughlin, Sadie Sink, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, and Noah Schnapp in Stranger Things

Season three of Netflix's Stranger Things premiered on July 4, and fans everywhere are shook. Not only did this season bring the drama, it also brought major changes that will alter the course of future seasons (if we even get them) forever! This just makes us so nostalgic for the good old days of 2016 when the kids were young, Dungeons and Dragons playing nerds. The characters have of course, been through so much, but the actors have also changed quite drastically through the years.

(That's puberty for ya!)

When we were first introduced to Will, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Eleven, they were barely tweens and had the baby faces to prove it! Now, many of them are in their mid- to late-teens and have grown so much, on screen and off!

After watching season three of Stranger Things, it's easy to forget that these kids looked much different just three years ago. After all, Eleven had a shaved head, Mike and Will were about a foot shorter, and Lucas and Dustin were prepubescent boys -- without any facial hair. (Caleb, who plays Lucas, makes us feel so old now.) Of course other characters like Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve have all gone through some major changes, too! Since many of these young actors were virtually unknown, it's safe to say that their careers have drastically changed for the better since 2016!

Let's break it down, shall we? Here's a look at the cast of Stranger Things, then and now!

  • Millie Bobby Brown: Then


    Millie Bobby Brown was definitely the break-out star of season one of Stranger Things. At just 12, she wowed us with her dedication to playing Eleven, a young girl with supernatural superpowers who had a hankering for Eggos. We fell in love with the little girl who had been through so much at such a young age, and Brown's portrayal is definitely why!

  • Millie Bobby Brown: Now


    Over the past two seasons, we've got to see Millie grow up and her hair grow out. In the first season, she had to shave her head, which while the character called for it, was definitely a big move for a young girl. In season three, Eleven has come into her own and is starting to fit in more and more.

    She's even developed a savvy fashion sense!

    As for Millie, her career has skyrocketed, earning a role in the big blockbuster Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

  • Gaten Matarazzo: Then


    Gaten Matarazzo plays Dustin Henderson, the nerd with the heart of gold -- and also a pretty foul mouth! His character is responsible for many of the laughs in season one! Matarazzo was a showbiz vet, having performed in Les Misérables and The Blacklist before landing this major role.

  • Gaten Matarazzo: Now


    Throughout the course of the show, the only thing that seemed to change about Gaten's character, Dustin, was his hat! But super fans know that Dustin has definitely matured since the first season. He even has a girlfriend (Suzie) now! As for Matarazzo, he's gotten to star in a Katy Perry music video and a number of Verizon commercials.

  • Noah Schnapp: Then


    The entire first season of Stranger Things centered around the disappearance of Will Byers, played by Noah Schnapp. While we did see much of Scnapp's acting chops in the show, he was actually already quite established, having starred opposite Tom Hanks in the film Bridge of Spies.

  • Noah Schnapp: Now


    In seasons two and three, we got to see much more of Schnapp. Thankfully, he seemed to finally rid himself of the Mind Flayer once and for all (well, for the most part). With Will back to normal, he was able to help his friends combat the beast in this current season and is somewhat of an insider of sorts! Schnapp just finished filming the movie Waiting for Anya, which he will star in alongside Anjelica Huston!

  • Caleb McLaughlin: Then


    Caleb McLaughlin had quite a few credits under his belt before landing the part of Lucas Sinclair in Stranger Things. His character is usually quite skeptical and did not warm up to Eleven's arrival right away. His dad is a Vietnam veteran, so Lucas always has the coolest tactical gear for whatever the gang may be getting into at the moment!

  • Caleb McLaughlin: Now


    Lucas Sinclair grew up and fell in love in seasons two and three, but he still remains adorably unaware when it comes to the opposite sex. As for McLaughlin, he recently had a part in another Netflix original, High Flying Bird.

    We expect great things from this talented young man!

  • Finn Wolfhard: Then


    Finn Wolfhard plays Mike Wheeler, whose character hides Eleven in his basement for most of season one. It was during this time that he and El formed a strong bond. He even tried to contact her every night for nearly a year when he thought the Demogorgon took her life.

    Now that's loyalty!

  • Finn Wolfhard: Now


    Wolfhard grew up, just like his character, and fans noticed this boy had quite the growth spurt between seasons two and three. He and El are still going strong, until she "dumps his [bleep]" after she catches him in a lie. Despite their breakup, Will is still fiercely protective of El. Finn has seen a ton of success since Stranger Things premiered, reprising his role in the It reboot, and scoring a part in The Goldfinch.

  • Natalia Dyer: Then


    Natalia Dyer plays Nancy Wheeler on the show. Mike is her little brother, and she gets wrapped into searching for Will after her best friend, Barb, goes missing, too (sob!). Her smarts lead her to the Upside Down, and she helps her brother and his friends solve this scary mystery while also forming a new bond with Will's older brother, Jonathan.

  • Natalia Dyer: Now


    By the end of season two, Nancy and Steve have broken up (she moved on with Jonathan). The two lean on each other throughout all the drama in Hawkins, and eventually work together at the local newspaper after graduating high school ... before getting fired. In fact, she and Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan have been dating in real life for several years! Natalia stars in the upcoming film Tuscaloosa.

  • Charlie Heaton: Then


    Jonathan Byers, played by Charlie Heaton, is pretty much the man of the house as his father abandoned him, his mom, and his brother some time ago. His photographs help Nancy in trying to figure out why Barb disappeared, resulting in the two working together to solve her disappearance and also the disappearance of his brother, Will.

  • Charlie Heaton: Now


    In season two, Jonathan continues to be quite protective of his brother and helps to free him of the Mind Flayer. He starts a relationship with Nancy and also worked with her to take down the Hawkins Lab. Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan, has a starring role in the upcoming film The New Mutants opposite Game of Thrones alum Maisie Williams.

  • Joe Keery: Then


    In the beginning of the first season, Steve Harrington, played by Joe Keery, wasn't exactly a nice guy. He was a typical high school cool dude, pursuing Nancy -- although they don't have much in common. After an epic fight, Steve sets off to apologize to Nancy and ends up saving the group from the Demogorgon. From then on he is pretty much everyone's hero, especially Dustin with whom he forms a special bond.

  • Joe Keery: Now


    By the end of season three, we're full-on Steve fans! His self-deprecating humor and unbelievable bravery make him one of the best parts of the show.

    And that hair ... amazing!

    Since Stranger Things, Joe Keery has had parts in Molly's Game and After Everything, as well as the upcoming film Free Guy.

  • Winona Ryder: Then


    Perhaps the most famous of all the cast, Winona Ryder has had a long career in Hollywood. Yet, many credit her role as Joyce Byers as her comeback! On the first, season she did a phenomenal job as a mother who never gave up hope in finding her missing son (Will). The alphabet-Christmas light scene is one of the most memorable parts of the entire series!

  • Winona Ryder: Now


    As seasons two and three went on, not much changed with Joyce. She was still as focused as ever on her children's well-being and maintained that quirky attitude of hers. She did, however, face another shocking tragedy with the loss of her boyfriend Bob, played by Sean Astin, in season two. (It was pretty brutal!) In season three, it looks like things might heat up with her and Detective Hopper, but we won't spoil how that plays out!

  • David Harbour: Then


    David Harbour plays Jim Hopper, Hawkins' police chief, who up until the disappearance of Will, led a generally carefree and quiet life. He immediately becomes invested in the case, and we later find out it's due to some buried demons of his own. He eventually finds Will, but had to give up Eleven's location in the process, something he deeply regretted.

  • David Harbour: Now


    Hopper was able to make up for his actions in season one, taking Eleven into his home as his daughter. The two formed a father-daughter bond which was elevated in season three, when he felt like she was spending too much time with Mike. While the jury is still out on the fate of Chief Hopper, Harbour has a role in the upcoming Black Widow film and also starred as Hellboy in the movie of the same name!

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