Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown sings one of her favorite karaoke jams – the Bruno Mars song “Just the Way You Are” – and talks about her audition process for the role of Eleven on the hit Netflix show. The multi-talented actress also confesses her love for “High School Musical”, Amy Winehouse, Rihanna, and reveals her crush on Leonardo DiCaprio and James Franco.
Millie Bobby Brown, the saucer-eyed breakout star of Netflix’s explosive hit series “Stranger Things,” exudes both hyper-precocity and age-appropriate innocence, a juxtaposition that has allowed a 12-year-old girl to become the obsessive fixation of peers and adults alike.
Brown’s easy toggling between old soul and youthful sweetness is not unlike the appeal of Eleven, the enigmatic character she plays in “Stranger Things,” whose second season, pegged for a 2017 release, was announced the day before our tête-a-tête. For those who have somehow not yet seen it, the show melds sci-fi freakiness with government conspiracy and a healthy dash of The Goonies’s childhood friendship (the initial reel Brown was sent for her audition was a mash-up of Stand By Me, Poltergeist and E.T.). Set in Indiana in 1983, it stars a trio of young boys who band together after the mysterious disappearance of their best friend, Will, one night. As Will’s mother (a sensational Winona Ryder) flirts with supernatural explanations, they befriend Eleven (Brown), a young girl with a shaved head, limited vocabulary and immense powers, whom they learn — spoiler — has escaped from an experimental government facility.
Because of the cocoon in which she was raised, Eleven lacks any basic social skills, and yet possesses the deep otherworldly knowledge (and psychokinetic abilities) of a superhuman.
Exhibit A: Besides her daily boxing and jujitsu regimen when she is in London, Brown has embraced her shaved head, now grown into a cute rumpled pixie-ish ‘do. Her more than 1 million Instagram followers have all probably watched the two-part videos of her long locks being shorn, her face awash with shock and a touch of plucky enjoyment. As she tells it, the necessary cue-balling was “mentioned, but I thought it was a negotiation thing. No, no, that wasn’t the case.” Still, she is loathe to make a fuss over a few spilt hairs.
Brown may be able to school older actresses who make a big to-do about physical transformations for the sake of a part, but she, too, got schooled, in a way, having her first kiss — onscreen or otherwise — when Eleven’s friendship with one of the boys, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) takes a romantic turn. The scene was filmed in front of both kids’ parents and the entire crew, to add to the awkwardness.
Born in Marbella, Spain to British parents, Brown grew up first there, then in England and for six months in Orlando (“we moved [there] just for fun”). It was in Florida where she asked her dad for $50 to attend an acting school; when an agent insisted she go to Los Angeles, her father packed up the family, including her younger sister, older brother and English mastiff, and drove cross-country. She landed roles on TV shows like “Intruders,” “Modern Family” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but there’s no question that “Stranger Things” has catapulted her to a different stratosphere. Asked where she calls home, she now says, “I live on a plane” (she had just flown in from a press event in the Philippines); she counts Maddie Ziegler as a close friend; and the actor Aaron Paul and his wife Lauren Parsekian are so enamored of her, they have publicly declared they wished she were her child.
Then there is her suddenly nascent music career. Brown claims to have started singing before she could speak, and videos of her crooning Adele songs and rapping Nicki Minaj on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” not to mention performing a rendition of “Uptown Funk” at the Emmy’s, testify to her talent. Once she turns 16, she’s allowed to pursue music professionally. But until then, it’s Eleven dominating much of the conversation around Brown. And thanks to her cropped ‘do, she sometimes gets mistaken for a boy and has even adopted the alter ego Jon — “no ‘h’” — for such occasions.
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Millie Bobby Brown Sings Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” | Screen Tests | W magazine