November 4, 2022
Culture & Music
Natalia Dyer’s graceful entrance to our screens as Nancy in Stranger Things saw her as the quintessential 80’s teenager, complete with nuanced emotions and sensitivities. Four seasons later, Nancy has stepped into her power and it’s clear this isn’t unlike the path trodden by Natalia, as we discover in our interview.
Female characters often tend to fall in a few camps: the fey ingenue, the funny girl or the badass, but Natalia Dyer is proving it’s more nuanced than that. In her breakout role as Nancy, we’ve seen her character explore all the usual coming-of-age situations, whilst under the threat of something far scarier than most of us have dealt with and embracing them with a feminine power that’s impressive.
In terms of her professional journey, the trajectory of the show was one that took her by surprise too. “I had no idea how big it would be, it kind of took on a life of its own once it was out in the world because people were watching it and because of how they reacted to it, which is a good thing, I think, because it would’ve been way too much pressure, trying to make the show under any sort of assumption that it would be as massive as it is.”
As she puts it, “The fact of just being in our little bubble in Atlanta and making a show that we were all proud of and thought was great but there was really no concept of where it was going to go. It’s still kind of crazy to think about.”
If the dramatic success of the show was one notable thing, her character’s trajectory has been another, as we’ve watched Nancy go from wrestling with advances from amorous teenage boys to facing demogorgons [demon-like fantasy creatures] head-on. For Natalia there are certainly similarities that this empowerment takes in her own life too. “I think Nancy’s grown and I’ve also grown in myself with her,” she says. “So there are definitely some parallels in how she’s come into herself and how I feel like I’ve come into myself over the course of filming the show. I re- ally admire how she’s taken these events in her life and she’s just grown more confident and more self-assured and more tuned into her intuition.”
Another reason she credits is the depth with which her character is explored by the writers. “I think it’s really nice to be able to play through that arc for a female character, sometimes female characters have classically been just so underwritten and with Stranger Things it’s an ensemble show obviously, which is one of the magical parts about it.”
On-screen, the relationships of the characters and the way they work together in the face of extraordinary circumstances is integral to the show’s chemistry, but Natalia is invested in the nuance between the characters in their more ordinary moments too. “I always love when Nancy has scenes with Karen Wheeler, her mum, when she gets emotional, and when she gets to go back to the sort of fragile internal feelings, it’s nice to be reminded that these characters, despite all of the surreal, sci-fi other-dimensional things that are going on, they’re just people.”
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In true form as a teenage girl Nancy’s wardrobe is a core focus and as the show has evolved so has her style. We discuss her outfits and colour palette. “She’s a badass, so she still puts herself together in a certain way, but she always wears a lot of pinks and purples throughout her journey. I think it’s really interesting because these soft pastels are associated with being fragile and feminine but she’s doing all of these really cool things in these outfits, that’s fun for me.”
In more recent seasons her character is sporting heeled boots even for some of the more active scenes, we discuss how there’s often a commentary on women wearing heels in action scenes, case in point Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic Park. But Natalia has a thoughtful take on this. “I almost never wear heels in my own life if I can avoid it, every time that I wear heels for events and things, I’m like, ‘I should have really practised this’. In one way you could see that as a trap that society has put women in, but the truth is that we’ll take this and we’ll just be stronger. We’ll be in heels and still do all the things. I think there’s two really powerful things about that. Even if I’m not the most comfortable in heels all the time, whenever I see women walking around New York, on cobblestones in these giant heels, I’m like, ‘Yeah, you go girls, that is impressive.’”
Another role where Natalia has played with the expectations levied on women is in Yes, God, Yes, where she plays a Catholic schoolgirl discovering the joys of masturbation. Part of what piqued her interest with this film was the director Karen Maine and from the moment she received the script she was engaged. “I remember reading it and my immediate thought was, ‘Yes, absolutely let me be part of this!’ It’s a funny movie but it’s also really saying something that I think hits home for a lot of people.”
For her the role became a reflection of a movement she sees. “I think we’re moving into a space where females have a bit more of a voice, where we’re communicating more.” We discuss why she feels this is the case, and if social media is a big part of bringing discussions like this to the forefront. “I think a lot of it has to do with social media and the way people are exchanging ideas more freely,” which is interesting for her as she’s not a huge fan of social media. “For me personally, it doesn’t mix well, my brain and social media don’t tend to work very well together.”
Part of it is the pressure social media puts on artists to have an opinion on anything newsworthy. “I think there is something to the sense of feeling pressure to be well read up on everything and have the right ideas about everything.
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