‘Stranger Things’ Star Had No Idea What Netflix Was Before Being Cast

in Television

Winona Ryder looking shocked in Stranger Things

Credit: Netflix

Winona Ryder was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood throughout the 1990s, but by the time Netflix and Stranger Things came calling, her career had cooled down.

Winona Ryder with an axe, sitting on a couch in Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

The actress first broke out to the audience in the Tim Burton horror comedy Beetlejuice (1988), portraying goth icon Lydia Deetz alongside Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, and Geena Davis, which she swiftly followed by memorable roles in the dark satire Heathers (1989) and Edwards Scissorhands (1990).

Throughout the decade, Winona Ryder starred in era-defining pictures like Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Reality Bites (1994), Little Women (1994), and Girl, Interrupted (1999). She was nominated for Academy Awards, acted alongside huge stars like her former partner Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, and achieved an incredible level of A-list Hollywood status.

Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice
Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: ‘Stranger Things’ Executives Replace Cast Members for Season 5

However, following some well-publicized personal issues, Winona Ryder took a hiatus from acting in the early 2000s and has mostly appeared in supporting roles or smaller movies since then.

That is until the Duffer Brothers realized that she would be perfect to play the role of anguished small-town mother Joyce Byers in Stranger Things. Her performance as a woman increasingly pushed to the edge of sanity as she desperately tried to find her missing son Will (Noah Schnapp) was acclaimed as a huge comeback, and she has played a prominent role in each Stranger Things season.

Winona Ryder, Charlie Heaton, and Natalia Dyer sitting on a couch below Christmas lights in Stranger Things
Credit: Netflix

The most peculiar thing about an icon of 1980s cinema having a huge revival in Netflix’s biggest English language show is that, according to Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy, Winona Ryder actually seemed to have no idea what either the company or the concept of streaming content was.

In a recent episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Shawn Levy revealed that the initial sit-down with Winona Ryder opened on an interesting note. He says, “Winona opened our first meeting, the Duffers and I sat down and had tea with her, she opened by asking, ‘What is Netflix? What is streaming? Is it like TV but different?’ That was the starting point.”

Related: Will Byers Comes Out, Will Be Center Focus of ‘Stranger Things 5’

While the differentiation between linear/broadcast television, theatrical cinema, and streaming entertainment grows thinner by the day, it is interesting to hear that Ryder seems to view the latter as an alien concept. Fortunately for her, the Duffer Brothers and Levy were “in love” with the actress, and she was immediately cast.

While Winona Ryder and David Harbour were early decisions for Stranger Things, it reportedly took much longer to cast Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLoughlin, and Noah Schnapp, with over a thousand young actors eventually auditioning. Probably all those kids knew what Netflix was, though.

How ready for the final season of Stranger Things are you? Can Winona Ryder keep the momentum going? Let us know in the comments below!

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