“Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material.” – Linnea Berthelsen
Stranger Things is back on our screens with its second season, something fans have been waiting for ever since season one arrived on Netflix in 2016. Returning to the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, we discover that there’s a lot of strange events still taking place, and also, a year on, a lot of the central characters have grown up.
One character who is struggling with her place in all this, is Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Not knowing her origins, she is now living in secrecy with Sheriff Hopper, but she has distinct memories of her time at the Hawkins lab with another girl; Eight. Pushing her boundaries, Eleven takes herself off to Chicago to track her ‘sister’ down. Eight, aka Kali, also has telekinetic powers; the ability to make others see realistic illusions. She uses these powers to live a life of crime, and also to exact revenge on those who hurt her.
The role is played actress Linnea Berthelsen, who grew up in Denmark and landed the role a year ago, when Stranger Things season one was just arriving. Shrouded in tight secrecy, Berthelsen, who went to acting school in London, had to keep her Stranger Things role a complete secret, something she says she didn’t mind too much:
“I came to really love that it was a secret. I thought it was so interesting. I knew it would be better for the show as a secret. A year ago, it was a little difficult to not be able to reveal to people what I was doing. But I came to really like it once we started shooting.”
When she landed the part, Berthelsen hadn’t yet seen Stranger Things, but she went on to binge season one like the rest of us. While watching, she searched for clues about her character, since not much was revealed to her by producers, but since her character forms the central part of a standalone season 2 episode, there wasn’t much to find out.
“I got these scenes that were so different from the first season. They had nothing to do with the plot from season one. While I was trying to find out what I was going to be involved in, I was really just excited about the rest of the characters. But I was searching for clues about my part.”
“[My audition material] was only a breakdown and three scenes. It didn’t have any of the characters’ names on it. It only had four lines about her: “She’s emotionally damaged, she has a hard time connecting with other people, she suffered a great loss as a child, and she’s been seeking revenge ever since.” That’s all I knew. I had to create the character based on this breakdown.”
Stranger Things showrunners, The Duffer brothers, had decided the role of Eight could be played by either a man or a woman, and Berthelsen won out. She says she trusted their decision to find the right person to bring their text to life.
“When we started shooting, I felt I really needed to trust their decision. I didn’t really pay much attention to it. I just needed to realize this is what they wanted, and this was how it was going to be. Any part you audition for, you’re finding a person and an actor who can respond to the material and bring something different or extraordinary to the text. Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material. I really loved this character, and I really connected with it, and I had a very strong vision for it. Hopefully that’s what they really liked about it.”
Whether the character of Eight/ Kalie returns for Stranger Things season 3, remains to be seen, but now we (and Eleven) know there are others out there with similar powers, it would be good to see more of Berthelsen, as well as maybe meeting some more of Eleven’s ‘siblings.’