Last year, we were introduced to the now 13-year-old saucer-eyed actress who plays the enigmatic Eleven with brilliance. This year, we’ve witnessed her meteoric rise and wondered, What is Millie all about? Drew Barrymore digs in.
Words: Drew Barrymore | Photography: Oliver Hadlee Pearch | Modeling: Millie Bobby Brown | Styling: Sara Moonves | Hair: Esther Langham | Makeup: Sally Branka | Nails: Rica Romain | Editing: Rajni Lucienne Jacqueswww.teenvogue.com
DREW BARRYMORE: Millie! Where are you right now?
MILLIE BOBBY BROWN: I’m in Atlanta, sitting in a chair, putting in hair extensions for my new movie, [the next installment of] Godzilla.
DB: Dude, I feel you! I’ve been in so many chairs with so many extensions on so many movie sets. When going from short hair to long hair, my whole attitude changes.
MBB: It’s crazy! But I do feel more confident when I have short hair. After shaving it off for Stranger Things, I just embraced it as much as possible. It was so freeing.
DB: I love Stranger Things. It’s full circle for me because it harks back to me playing Gertie in E.T. Both are about the sense of family, humanity, and suburbia. And both are so grounded in relatability. And you talk about space and aliens and the improbable and the impossible.
MBB: Yeah! E.T. was a huge reference point for the show. They wanted me to feel like an alien but also have genuine relationships, like the one with Mike.
DB: The auditioning process is so raw and vulnerable. What was your audition like for Stranger Things?
MBB: It was slow at first. Then it went super fast. I had four audition tapes with all different scenes. It was a good three weeks before I Skyped with the series’ creators, the Duffer Brothers.
DB: Oh, wow. Then what happened?
MBB: We talked about ’80s movies. And I didn’t know anything about Eleven at that point, and they were referencing E.T. And I was like, “Wait, what? I’m an alien now?” I was so confused on what the story was about. A week later, I flew to L.A. for the job. I screen-tested with Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike, and met the creators. I immediately fell in love with the project. I needed to play Eleven. And I connected with Finn. Later, the Duffer Brothers called and asked if I could be their Eleven. I was like, “Oh, yes! Yes, I can!”
DB: Eleven doesn’t talk much. How are you two alike?
MBB: She’s the opposite of me! I’m crazy and very loud. That’s why I love her so much, because I get to play a different person as soon as they call, “Action!”
DB: You mentioned the chemistry you had with Finn. What about the other guys? What’s the dynamic on set?
MBB: We’re a family. We are all growing up together. We constantly have laughing fits on set, which gets me in trouble. But it’s not me; it’s the boys! They’re hilarious.
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DB: That’s what chemistry and growing up together is like! Speaking of family, what’s your family life like?
MBB: It’s really fun. I have a 19-year-old brother [Charley]; he’s my best friend. A five-year-old sister, Ava, who brings out the child in me. And then my older sister, Paige—she’s 23 and takes me everywhere. We do family things, like watch lots of movies and have family meetings about everything from schedules to getting a new dog.
DB: I grew up in a single-parent home where no one told me what was right or wrong. There was no parental gure. Do your parents talk to you about boundaries?
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MBB: Of course. My mum helps me look my age. Like, I can play with makeup, but I can’t go crazy. She’s also like, “You can’t wear that crop top.” My dad is security, while my siblings take care of my eating, keep me grounded, and make sure I get rest. We are a team.
DB: Seems all-hands-on-deck! Family creates a safe place. Especially since everything changed overnight for you, like it did for me. But the difference is that you’re coming of age during the social media boom. What is that like?
MBB: I don’t mind growing up during this time. I can live without my phone, Instagram, or any other social media accounts. I just want to act. That stuff does not distract me.
DB: It’s Teen Vogue, so we must talk fashion! In the last decade, younger girls have prematurely aged themselves by how they dress. I didn’t dress crazy then, but I did crazy things. You dress so appropriate for your age.
MBB: I mean, I’ve never been one of those girls who dresses provocatively. It’s just not me. I keep it as appropriate as possible. I wear tons of shorts and sneakers.
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DB: And you’re one of the new faces of Calvin Klein, right?
MBB: Yes! I’m modeling for Raf Simons at Calvin. I’m not a model in the sense that I pose and just suck it up. I’m like, “Uh, no” if something is itchy or not comfortable.
DB: You make a beautiful model. I love the way you express yourself in your face, and you have a beautiful pout and deep, soulful eyes. How do you get in the zone?
MBB: I don’t do anything specially. I ask what they’re looking for...something playful or serious. I love modeling, but it comes second to acting.
DB: You’re an extraordinary example to any actor. And you make girls feel like they can be youthful for as long as they want. No fast-tracking.
MBB: Most kids do what their friends are doing, like a domino effect. It’s normal. But I do my own thing.
DB: When did you feel like you’d made it?
MBB: Having someone like you, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep feel passionate about our show—that makes me feel like I did. Also winning at the SAG Awards, not only because I experienced it with my castmates and my family but because SAG members enjoyed the show.
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DB: Have you done any strange things recently?
MBB: Good one. This interview is one of the stranger things that has happened to me! When I was told, “Drew Barrymore is going to interview you for Teen Vogue,” I was freaking out. I don’t know if you heard, but I’ve been trembling on the phone this whole time!
DB: Aw. As women, we just need to inspire each other.
MBB: We need to start a girl squad, like right now!
DB: I’ll be in your girl squad any day. I’m cheering you on.
MBB: This is probably one of the most exciting conversations I’ve ever had. It means so much.
DB: Me, too. And here’s my end note: Gertie loves Eleven.
MBB: Gertie loves Eleven! Oh, my goodness!
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