Photographer: James Lee Wall
Stylist: Krisana Sotelo
Make Up Artist: Greg Hubbard, using Chanel Cosmetics
Hair Stylist: Greg Hubbard, using Ameka
Written by: Sydni Keppen
Design: Jiyoon Cha
Francesca Reale is the newest cast member to join Stranger Things for its third season, which starts streaming on Netflix on July 4th. She told us what it was like joining the incredibly successful series, other binge-worthy shows sheʼs watching, and why parachute pants need to make a comeback.
SK: You are one of the fresh faces in the highly-anticipated new season of Stranger Things. Tell us a little about your character Heather.
FR: What I can tell you is that sheʼs a lifeguard that works at the community pool in Hawkins in the summer of ʼ85. She falls into the teen world and gets caught up in all of the madness that strikes this summer.
SK: How would you describe this season of Stranger Things that might be different from the previous two seasons?
FR: I would describe it as emotional. Maybe it was just me, but I found what I got to read very emotional. I think itʼs definitely complicated, too because everyone is growing. All the kids from before are now teens and all of the teens are now young adults. Everyone is trying to figure out their life, which I think is very relatable. Itʼs also just exciting. We finally get to see them in summer, and theyʼre old enough where they can start exploring the world a little bit more. This season is definitely not gloomy in aesthetic for sure. Everything is in the daytime and bright as opposed to the previous seasons that were a little gloomy.
SK: There are some similarities Iʼve related back to the Harry Potter series with the way that Stranger Things is progressing. In The Sorcererʼs Stone, everyone is young and theyʼre going to Hogwarts for the first time, but as the series progresses, everything gets to be a little darker, a little more complex and complicated. Maybe weʼll see some of that progression in Stranger Things season three as well?
FR: Oh yes, you absolutely will. And you know how in Harry Potter they get to go to Hogsmeade? Itʼs kind of similar where the kids get to go out of their houses a bit more. They go to the pool, to the mall, thereʼs a lot happening.
SK: Were you a fan of the show before coming on board?
FR: I was, but I definitely came on late to the Stranger Things train. I started watching season one right before season two came out, and I was hooked.
SK: Did you have a favorite character from the first two seasons and has that changed since being a part of the show?
FR: Absolutely not, my favorite character has remained the same forever. Obviously, I love all of the characters because itʼs an ensemble cast, and for me when you have an ensemble cast, itʼs hard to pin one character that you love so much. They all work so connectively and so beautifully together. But if I really had to choose my standout – itʼ an odd pick – itʼs the science teacher in the first two seasons. Heʼs the happiest guy, all of his lines are way too peppy and he has a hilarious mustache – Mr. Clarke! Heʼs my favorite character in all of Stranger Things. Heʼs so energetic.
SK: Season three starts streaming on the Fourth of July. Do you have any Fourth of July traditions?
FR: Fourth of July is actually really interesting because itʼs my dadʼs birthday, so we get to do some birthday stuff with him and then my mom throws a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. Or we used to go over to one of the big parks and watch the fireworks. This year I donʼt know what weʼll do because we have Fourth of July, a birthday, and Stranger Things. We might have to combine it all.
SK: One of my favorite things about Stranger Things, aside from it being completely compelling and binge-worthy, is the fantastic 80ʼs wardrobe. Do you have a favorite fashion trend from the 80ʼs that you hope will make a comeback?
FR: I do, but itʼs not going to make a comeback and Iʼm really upset about it. I got to wear this amazing pair of high-waisted parachute pants. They were so comfy and breezy, I fell in love with them. At one point I had my phone, my chapstick, and my keys in my pockets so you donʼt even need a bag. Itʼs amazing.
SK: Speaking of binge-worthy shows, are there any that you just havenʼt been able to stop watching lately?
FR: I just binged Chernobyl, which is kind of a dark turn, but it was so fascinating. I knew about Chernobyl but not in this much detail. I also just binged Barry – itʼs so funny. And I watched The Society, which is also dark, but after every two episodes of The Society, I watched an episode of Parks and Recreation.
SK: You were at South by Southwest earlier this year for the film Yes, God, Yes, which also stars your Stranger Things co-start Natalia Dyer. Could you tell us a little about that film?
FR: Itʼs a really amazing movie - I canʼt wait for it to come out somewhere so everyone can see it. It focuses on a young, Catholic girl [Alice] played by Natalia who gets swept up in this inappropriate AIM chat. With that, it triggers her questioning all of these feelings that she has, questions about her body, things that arenʼt really openly talked about and should be talked about, and her struggle with coming to terms that all of those questions are okay. I play her very prude, very stuck-up best friend [Laura] whose only goal in life is to be popular at whatever cost. It was a pleasure to be able to work alongside Natalia and work off of her. I love the Alice a Laura dynamic. I feel like a lot of girls have had that friend who will turn against them once a rumor is said about them.
SK: Did you work on Yes, God, Yes before or after Stranger Things?
FR: I worked on the film first, so thatʼs where I met Natalia. Indie films are always the best films to experience, especially this one - we were stuck in the middle of nowhere Georgia. We became very close very quickly, and I was very lucky to have her then when I booked Stranger Things. She was the first person I called.
SK: As someone who really is just at the beginning of their career, youʼve had the opportunity to work on both a television series and in film. Do you think that the transition between television and film is more seamless for actors today than in the past?
FR: I definitely think it depends on the type of television that youʼre doing. There is television being made now that is so cinematic, theyʼre basically making mini movies. So in that respect, the transition is seemingly nonexistent. I feel like if I was going from a movie to a three-camera comedy, that would be a more complicated transition to work on. Three-camera comedies are in themselves a completely different craft and their own life-form. But as weʼre evolving into this streaming platform, itʼs all kind of becoming one of the same, though I do think that television is really doing wondrous and innovative things.
SK: Is there something that you enjoy about working on a television series that you might not get from working on a film or vice versa?
FR: With television you definitely have a longer stretch to evolve a character - thereʼs always room for expansion. But in terms of Yes, God, Yes, there was a lot of room for collaboration and input. The director was really great about allowing me to put my own personal touch on the character.
SK: You got your BFA in acting from NYU. At what age did you realize you wanted to make a career out of acting?
FR: About six months to a year before I was at NYU. Iʼve always had an interest in acting and performing, but I donʼt think that when I was a kid, I had those interests for the right reasons. I was at the age of Disney Channel, which was one channel filled with superstars and I wanted to be them. My parents wanted a life for me where I actually went to school, and my dad said that I needed to learn my craft. It really wasnʼt until after high school and the beginning of college where I started to get the itch of wanting to work in film and television.
SK: While you were in New York, did you get to play around with any theatre projects?
FR: At NYU, you have to take two years of theatre classes, so I was in the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. I did a bunch of work there doing scenes from plays and building my craft, and then I spent my last semesters in the film and television conservatory. But I would love to do theatre. It is a different world entirely. I would love to find a play that really speaks to me down the line, but for the moment Iʼm film and television focused.
SK: Who are a couple of your biggest influences in the industry?
FR: One of my biggest influences has always been Audrey Hepburn. She went from an athletic background into acting, very similar to me, so Iʼve always felt interconnected to her. Speaking more modern, I love these young actresses like Emma Stone. I was recently introduced to Lily James and I love her. Also Emma Thompson and Regina King. All of these very strong female actors who have had and are having these incredible careers. I really connect with those women because I think there are some people who are in the right place at the right time. Theyʼre wonderful actors and they get that big job and just go - thatʼs their trajectory. And then there are some actors who do smaller parts before finally get that big job. Thatʼs where I am right now, so Iʼm very connected to the actors with that trajectory.