In His Own Words: Charlie Heaton Tells His Stranger Things Story

Shot in his hometown of Bridlington, England, the 25-year-old actor talks Stranger Things season three, working with Winona and why he’s drawn to darker roles

“I don’t think anyone could predict how popular Stranger Things was going to get. Not at all. I remember when we were filming season one, wondering if anyone was going to watch this show. When you’re working, you can have the best intentions, but you never know what the response will be – you just have to trust that you’re doing it for the right reason. But it felt good, I remember filming it and feeling really good about it.

“When it came out, I was in a small town in the west of Spain, filming Marrowbone. It had been out for two days and obviously I’d seen all the hype online and all the great reviews, but I was walking around this market and someone came up to me and just said ‘Stranger Things!’ I was like, ‘what, sorry?’ And they were like, ‘you are in Stranger Things!’ And that’s when it hit me: this show is being watched by people all over the world.

“Filming season three was great. It’s coming out in the summer. It was super nostalgic shooting this time. We shot in the same studio, with the same sets, and you’re back with the same people, where it all started. I think this was one of my favourite seasons to shoot, it was really fun. We have a laugh and we create a fun environment. Part of that is how the brothers make the show and part of it is having the kids around you.

“I get along with everyone, really: the kids, the brothers, and I love when I get to work with Winona. That’s amazing. She is one of the most generous people I know – on and off the screen. It’s really incredible working with her. It was intimidating but on the first day I found this type of intimacy, so straight away we just fitted together.

“As for the kids, when Stranger Things began, they were 10 or 11 but they are growing into their adolescence now. They get so much taller, every year I come back. I think Finn is taller than me now. It’s crazy watching them all grow up and seeing them all handle the success is incredible. They grow up and they grow up fast.

“I can relate to Jonathan as a person. I’m not extremely introverted but there is an element of me that shares that with his personality. He’s an outsider but he knows who he is and what he likes and that was interesting [to me]. The other thing that clicked was the family relationships, especially in season one. I grew up with a very loving and caring family and I really connected to someone with that sense of family.

“Then there was the big musical relation – a lot of the music Jonathan listens to is what I listened when I was 18 or 19. Bands like The Cure and Joy Division. I got him on a musical sense – in my own life, I walk around with my headphones on with my head down, not talking to anyone and listening to music, so that was very relatable. Even when he starts a relationship, I don’t think I had a proper girlfriend, how he navigates it being quite shy and awkward, is kind of like how I was as a kid. There’s a lot of people that can relate to Jonathan. Everybody at least knows a Jonathan I would say.

“The character I’m playing in The New Mutants is Sam Guthrie, Cannonball, this mutant. It’s obviously a spinoff of the X-Men comics and it’s set in a mental institution – like a rehabilitation centre, where these mutants are in a way quite damaged and they’re trying to figure how to come to terms with that. The human story is there in that sense that we all have things that concern us.

“I think it’s fair to say I’m drawn to darker roles. When you look at Stranger Things, it’s dark because of the genre of sci-fi. You always try and challenge yourself to do other people and use raw emotion and bring a character to life. But the darkest ones, I feel like they are just the ones that I keep landing. I would like to go in to different styles in the future, maybe do something in comedy.

“What I have learned over the past few years is that when you find something that gets you out of bed in the morning, and there is nothing else that you want to do or see yourself doing, you make it your only goal. You get your heart into it. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Stranger Things season three is out July 4, 2019, on Netflix.