Natalia Dyer: We'd no idea of the reaction to Stranger Things... it is life-changing
Natalia Dyer found fame as one of the stars of hit Netflix sci-fi/horror series Stranger Things. With the second season set to air, Dyer - who plays Nancy Wheeler - opens up to Lucy Mapstone about her newfound celebrity.
Rather surprisingly, Natalia Dyer isn't actually a fan of horror films. "I don't like scary movies, that's not my genre," Dyer admits with a chuckle, clearly enjoying the irony of her own confession.
I can't help but share my surprise as we chat over the phone just weeks before Dyer is set to return to screens in the second season of Stranger Things, arguably one of the scariest - and most successful - sci-fi-cum-horror TV offerings in recent years.
Recalling how her friends were too frightened to stick out the first season, Dyer says: "It was really funny because I had some of my close friends be like, 'Look girl, like, I love you - I tried to watch it and after the first episode I couldn't, it was too scary'.
"I don't like horror or thrillers, but I guess being behind the scenes of it all, I didn't really get that element. I have a very different perspective of it."
In spite of her own feelings about terrifying TV, Dyer hopes the new season "scares people" even more than the first. The 20-year-old actress is chatty and refreshingly honest about working on Stranger Things, especially when talking about being thrust into the limelight as a result of the show's enormous, and somewhat unexpected, success.
Referring to both herself and her fellow young cast members, Dyer admits: "It's been absolutely life-changing, for real. We had no idea that that was going to be the reaction and what it was going to do to our lives - our careers, our day-to-day lives."
A note of wonderment in her voice, Dyer - who previously had small roles in Hannah Montana: The Movie and adventure film The Greening Of Whitney Brown - adds: "It's still so crazy to think about it, I haven't really got used to it. I don't know if I will."
Dyer says that being approached on the street by fans while at home in New York is "so, so weird", but that she enjoys it nonetheless. When Stranger Things, created by Matt and Ross Duffer, debuted on Netflix in July 2016, it initially seemed the series would be more of a cult-style offering. But it quickly became clear this was something much bigger.
Set in the Eighties against the backdrop of fictional town Hawkins and accompanied by a stellar nostalgia-laden soundtrack, Stranger Things tells the tale of the disappearance of 12-year-old Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and how his friends and unsettled mother Joyce - superbly portrayed by Winona Ryder - try to find him.
This is no normal missing person case, though, and it soon becomes apparent there are darker spirits at play here, bolstered by the mysterious appearance of a psychokinetic girl called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the fact that Joyce receives paranormal messages from Will.
Stranger Things captured the imagination of the global audience in an instant, spawning frenzied online chatter as fans tore open theories about the creepy underworld known as the Upside Down and its monster, dubbed the Demogorgon by Will's friends Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin). Within a few weeks of the eight-episode series being made available on the streaming service, it was reported to have become one of Netflix's most successful original programmes.
And then there were the accolades. The nominations and wins came thick and fast throughout awards seasons, with Stranger Things winning a handful of Emmys and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, among others.
Quite simply, Stranger Things became a pop culture phenomenon, and Dyer's character Nancy Wheeler - the stereotypical all-American schoolgirl older sister to Will's best friend, Mike, who gets sucked into the whole terrifying affair - only adds to the show's appeal.
Dyer says she was glad she had the other stars of the show to hang out with during the busy awards season.
"What's been great, though, is going with the cast, we're always together, we were relatively unknown, but it's so weird, we've been experiencing this together so we all, like, go to these award shows and looking at each other like, 'Can you believe this? This is nuts'," she adds, clearly still in awe of it all.
Playing Nancy has been an absolute joy for Dyer, largely because the character is far more "fearless" than she claims to be.
Dyer says: "I think when I look at the more normal aspects of Nancy's life - you know, she's just focused on school, there's a certain group she's hanging out with, and in season one there's a lot of trying to figure out where you fit in and where you don't - I can definitely identify with that."
"But she's a lot more fearless than I am," she confesses.
Stranger Things 2 arrives on Netflix on Friday, October 27