For the young characters on "Stranger Things," a lot of their interaction is boosted by bikes and walkie talkies — you know, quintessential hallmarks of being a kid in the '80s.
But for the young actors playing them — many of them born in the dawn of the Facebook era— developing a believable friendship that mirrors the one onscreen came with the aid of group chats, says Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers in the nostalgia-inducing sci-fi series.
"It was kind of awkward in the beginning. We were all just getting to know each other," Schnapp said when he recently visited the L.A. Times video studio. "We went out for dinner one night, and we kind of got close then and we created a group chat. And we started talking and we got closer. And then after our first week of filming, we just clicked like that."
But Schnapp's experience among the group was a little unique. His character is largely a missing presence in the first season — getting taken into an alternate dimension can do that. He didn't even live in Atlanta, where the show is shot, for the first season. He'd fly in from New York and shoot when they needed him. Season 2, though, there's a lot more Will Byers to go around now that "zombie boy," as he's sometimes called, has returned to his hometown of Hawkins.
"I was close with the kids and the cast, but … not like Season 2," Schnapp said. "When I filmed Season 2, I lived there permanently and I'd go to set every day and I just became so close to the entire cast and crew."
Season 2 sees Will trying to settle into life after being stuck in the Upside Down world. He's got bullies to deal with, a potential new (and dorky) stepdad, played by '80s nerd nobility Sean Astin, and some side effects from what he encountered while away — including a dark turn after getting possessed by a creature from the other side. At one point in the season, Will endures a scream-filled exorcism to eradicate the creature from his body.
"I didn't sleep at all the night before," Schnapp said. "We did a lot of takes. I remember the entire time, I had to be screaming in agony … After a few takes, they were like 'Noah, I think you can ease up on your voice'… I didn't want to. It would just look so fake."
For more from Schnapp, including how his school dances compare to the one that closed out Season 2, check out the full conversation below.