Teenage friendships are tricky. You’re all going through massive changes in your bodies while dealing with day-to-day drama. You know, like convincing your parents that you’re old enough to go to the mall, making sure that your friends still want to play Dungeons & Dragons with you, and ensuring them that there’s absolutely nothing going on between you and the boy you invited to your room.
These are the things that the Stranger Things kids are dealing with in its third season. What’s great about Season 3 is that they gave the characters’ coming-of-age stories the same importance as the horrors afflicting Hawkins. El (Millie Bobby Brown), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Max (Sadie Sink) still fight the demogorgons and the Mind Flayer, but their decisions are completely guided by the consequences that might follow after. They’re all grown up, and what a treat it was to see it unfold in front of our very eyes.
We got to talk to Noah, Gaten, Caleb, and Sadie via phone interview at their Japan press junket about keeping a friendship alive and how to find out what your interests truly are.
YOUNG STAR: What was your first reaction when you saw the Starcourt Mall for the first time? Was Scoops Ahoy really good?
SADIE SINK: It was like a time machine.
GATEN MATARAZZO: The ice cream was a combination of flour and cake frosting. But when we eat it, it’s real ice cream. Still to this day, the best time I’ve ever had is every time I get to eat on the show. I love it. It was so cool.
Soul seatmates: Expect mall makeovers, sleepovers, and girl talk between El and Max in Stranger Things 3.
The core group’s friendship shifted a bit in Season 3. Both Dustin and Will felt a little bit neglected by the rest.
NOAH SCHNAPP: Will is kind of like lagging behind. He lived in the Upside Down and he’s suffering from PTSD. Will’s gone through a lot. While all the kids were growing up and maturing, Will kind of got left alone. And once he got back, everyone was ready to move on and start dating. So he kind of got excluded from everyone.
GATEN: I think what’s okay with Dustin is that, because he has another group to go to, he didn’t feel left out.
How do you know if it’s time for a friendship breakup? Do you think every friendship is worth saving?
GATEN: I don’t think friends should break up. Maybe they have a falling out. But it’s important for people to cherish friendship over romantic relationships — especially when your romantic relationships are with your friends.
El asked Max a very important question while they were out shopping at Starcourt Mall: “How do I know what I like?” Do you have any tips for kids and teens in terms of figuring out what they like?
SADIE: I think it’s exactly what Max said: just trying what fits you. Everyone’s different. Everyone has a certain style, taste in music or fashion or TV shows. Find whatever you like; it doesn’t have to be what everyone else likes.
CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: Be your biggest fan, and embrace your faith. Encourage people to love who they are.
GATEN: It’s good for everybody to experiment and try new things. Try and find out what they like. A lot of the times, kids do what everyone else is doing. It’s important to do what makes them happy whether it’s part of the status quo or not.