As movies increasingly play to a global audience with an endless stream of superhero blockbusters, the television landscape is becoming more varied—and more compelling. But in addition to award-winning movie stars who have made the turn to the small screen, like Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, who both starred in Big Little Lies, there are television’s breakout stars, as well. No one embodies this better than Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the otherworldly Eleven on Netflix’s Stranger Things. Now 13, Brown is one of the hottest rising stars in the world. Here, the young actress talks about how her life has changed since the premiere of Stranger Things, who she has a crush on, and what’s next.
Did you always want to be an actress?
Yes always. I wanted to be a singer when I was three. I just started like humming, and I was really bad, and then I just started to like train myself. And then when I went to an acting school I realized I wanted to act as well. I started auditioning when I was 8 years old and I’m now 13.
Were there any movies or shows that inspired you?
Let me think there’s so, so many – I love the musicals. Musicals had everything I loved in them. They would have singing, acting and dancing. High School Musical was a big part of my childhood. Like I just watched it every single day and got toys, like of the microphone, of them singing. I was obsessed.
And now you’ve met Zac Efron
I did yes. I met Zac Efron at a project I was doing for Calvin Klein.
What were three the songs you loved to sing when you were younger?
“Valerie” by Amy Winehouse.
Did you also do, “Rehab”?
That one my dad would not allow. Amy Winehouse is my go-to, and Rihanna was pretty big at the time, too. “Diamonds,” “We Found Love.” It just kind of like got me going in the morning when I had to go school.
What was the first audition you remember getting?
It was a Publix commercial. I went in there and I had no idea what I was doing. I just was like okay, “Hi my name is…” I was really boring. And then I had to hold cupcakes and say like, “Mom can I please have some chocolate chip cupcakes,” or something like that. And the guy actually grabbed my face, and then grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the audition and then said, “Where is your father?” “Where is your mother?” And started looking at all my parents, all the parents and my dad was like, “Uh, I’m her dad.” He was like, “She’s got the job, she’s got the job.” And I was like, “Okay, okay.” And like immediately I got the job. I was immediately happy and I was just very content and blessed. Like immediately I knew that I was just born to do this.
And did you do school plays, as well?
Nope, I have never done a school play in my life. I would love to do a show on Broadway or you know, but I’ve just never gotten the chance or the opportunity to do it. But I had like I have done many auditions for Annie and, Matilda. I had to learn all the songs and then they’re like, “We don’t want you.” So it was like, “Okay well at least I know the songs.”
I thought you would be brilliant as Matilda. And what was the audition for Stranger Things like?
The audition for Stranger Things was, it was like a hurry-up, no it was like a wait-hurry-up. I had no idea what I was auditioning for. It was just a roller coaster, I had no idea what I was doing. They gave me script, I read the script, they asked me back four times for an audition and then I Skyped with the directors and we talked about ’80s movies and E.T. and _Stand by M_e, Poltergeist, and I immediately fell in love with these directors and they were so young and I was so surprised by how like they were just geniuses.
And you had already seen Poltergeist?
Yeah, I watched all the movies prior, so it was pretty easy to relate to them. And then they said, “Would you like to come out to L.A.?” So I flew to L.A. for a screen test with one of the other cast members, Finn Wolfhard, and the next day I got the job.
Did you know anything about the character before the screen test?
Well, one of the directors came up to me and said, “Bzzzzzz” over my head and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I was like, “Okay he’s crazy. We clearly know which one is crazy.” And then the director was like, “Are you ready?” And I was like, “For what?” And then they said, “To cut all your hair off.” And I was like, “Oh okay. Um, all right.” And then the next day I got the job and I was like, “You know what I’m going to cut it, that’s it.”
That was a big decision.
Yeah, but it’s only hair and at the end of the day, people don’t give it really a chance to make a decision to lose their hair and I did, so I wanted to embrace it and inspire people like Charlize Theron. I just thought, “Why not let’s try something new.” And it’s a different place, [it filmed in] Atlanta and I’ve never been there and, and I have no hair and I got called a “boy” a lot and I got called “John” a lot and I just accepted it. It was very fun and it was a different experience and very unique, but I enjoyed it a lot.
What was it like for you after the show started airing?
I was back in England and then I went to the premiere. The premiere was kind of crazy. Everybody was like, “The show is really good” and I was like, “Okay,” like I don’t know what you’re talking about, this is just a little show in Atlanta, Georgia. And then three days later my whole life changed. My followers went up to a million and I was on you know magazines. And I never be, I never thought I’d be able to do all this stuff, but like when I go home every night I just remember the times where I would like walk on the street and everybody just sort of freak with the no hair. You know, nobody knew who I was. Them times were that like that, that times were good, but nothing like it is now and I’m just so grateful for everything I have and my family are still with me and we’re still going strong.
Is it odd to go back to shooting the show?
Yes it’s very odd. We’re all the same from the first season. We all act the same. We’re always learning something new. You know, I’m so young and still I have no idea what things are. So it’s like I’m not thinking I know it everything. Like I’ve experienced so many things. I’ve been in fashion shows and shoots all the time, but I still get nervous and I still feel anxious.
You’re great at a party.
I love parties! Noah kind of just lets me do the talking so I’ll just go in front I’ll be make say “Hi Ryan Gosling nice to meet you. I’m Millie.” [Laughs] And they would just be like, “Hi,” and I’m “These are my castmates.” So it’s like easier for them.
Who do you have a crush on other than Zac Efron?
I mean, I don’t really know there’s so many people you could have crushes on. What is a real crush people? You know? What crushes you? Because if you really, if you define the word “crush” it’s a negative word.
I think it’s a positive word.
Is it a positive word?
Yeah. Well your heart feels crushed.
I don’t know. Your heart feels crushed.
So, who do you think?
Leonardo DiCaprio. In everything. In general I just I love him. I think he’s a great actor.
Aren’t you too young for Titanic?
No, no, no I think everybody has seen Titanic. Have you seen Titanic? You’ve seen Titanic.
Of course I’ve seen Titanic.
Everybody has seen Titanic. You know who is my woman crush?
Paris Jackson. Because she’s awesome. She’s got great style. She’s a great person. Love the hair. She’s awesome and she plays the piano.
Really? Have you met her?
Yes. That’s why. She’s like my sister, but she’s awesome, yeah.
So what are you doing next after the show? Do you have other, not after today, but are, do you have other movies, TV, documentaries, song festivals lined up?
Yes. I’m going todo my first ever movie, which is Godzilla. So it’s really exciting.
Have you seen Godzilla?
Yes. Not the originals, though. The originals like you have to get on a special website, so I watched the last one with Bryan Cranston it was so good.
And are you going straight from this movie or you go back to England in between?
Straight from this movie I’m going to be I think I’m just going to be doing a little press for the show. And we have the whole Emmys thing… I’m so excited. I think the most important thing for the Emmys right now is what I’m wearing. That is actually one of the priorities.
And what are you wearing?
Oh I have no idea. Mostly probably Calvin Klein by Appointment, so I think it’s going to be that, but overall I’m super excited.