Laughter was the order of the day at the “Stranger Things—Why Do That?” panel on Friday at 4PM in the Marriott Atrium Ballroom. Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) from the series kept the audience in stiches as they answered a series of fan questions that began with choosing a theme song for their characters. Matarazzo said he would pick something for Dustin from the Weird Science soundtrack. McLaughlin chose “Eye of the Tiger…Yeah!” for Caleb.
Matarazzo is currently doing an animated movie called Hump, which is due out this fall, plus an Indie film that he cannot discuss. McLaughlin is doing voice-over work on Final Space, among other things, and is also working on a secret Indie film.
When asked what happened to the waffles in Stranger Things, the two castmembers engaged in a lively back-and-forth that included such descriptors as nasty, soggy, whole-wheat-yuck, and waffelicious. Both agreed that eating frozen, partly thawed, or otherwise cold waffles was not something they would enjoy.
McLaughlin talked a little about his role as Simba in The Lion King on Broadway. Matarazzo revealed that he not only performed in Les Miserables but also is the lead singer in a band. Since both actors are singers, an audience member asked them to regale us with a song. McLaughlin laughingly declined, but Matarazzo acquiesced after some encouragement from the crowd. He has a great set of pipes, and the audience cheered their appreciation for his impromptu performance.
When asked why the monster from the Upside Down still appears over the school after the door is closed, Matarazzo said that he thought the creature was still in the Upside Down and was only superimposed over the school to point out that the creature still existed there. We’ll have to wait for Season 3 to find out if he’s right.
Who would they save if they could, Bob or Barb? They found that question difficult to answer. “Neither of [those two characters] were jerks,” McLaughlin said, and “both had pretty bad deaths.” Matarazzo agreed that neither deserved to die, but of the two, he thought Bob would have been easier to save. “[He] was right there…Bob, why are you standing there?” Whereas no one knew exactly what happened to Barb. She just vanished and her body was found later.
The discussion reminded Matarazzo of a fan theory after Season 1 that Barb was still alive. He couldn’t believe it. “Did you see her? No one wakes up from that!” He debunked theories that her body was faked by the scientists and put there to fool the others, which he thinks would have been far too dangerous for them to even consider doing. Then he joked about how funny it would be if he were proven wrong in a future season. Who knows? Anything could happen.
Both actors loved their time on Broadway, Matarazzo with Les Miserables, McLauglin with The Lion King. McLaughlin said it’s much more difficult because he had to sing, dance, and jump around, and you can’t do it over if you make a mistake like you can while filming for TV. Matarazzo enjoyed performing every day to a live audience. He noted that a lot of young people don’t know theater etiquette, though, and he’s had to turn around and shush them.
Asked about their passions, Matarazzo spoke of his support for a charity called CCD Smiles, dedicated to helping others like him with Cleidocranial Dysplasia. Many people do not have sufficient funds to deal with the medical costs, including necessary surgeries and braces. Another purpose is to educate doctors on best practices for the one-in-a-million condition and how it affects the body. In the past, for example, doctors would remove the baby teeth, which won’t come out on their own, and wait for the others to emerge. Matarazzo had his four front teeth extracted when he was eleven and only had the adult teeth pulled down by braces the beginning of this year, and he’s about to turn 16. The writers of Stranger Things asked if they could use his condition as a reason why he was bullied in the show, and he told them, “Sure.”
McLaughlin also supports a cause, which he introduced by showing the audience his yellow shirt with a bee above the words “Your Biggest Fan.” Bee your biggest fan is a group dedicated to helping kids accept themselves for who they are. The shirt has “Embrace your face” emblazoned across the back. McLaughlin said that his parents always taught him to love himself, and he hopes to help lower the rate of suicide among young people and encourage them to accept themselves as they are. “There’s no one like you,” he said, “so just rock it out and be you.”
Moderator Tony Gowell thanked the guests and left the audience with the question, “How are you going to be you?” What better place to answer that question than here at Dragon Con?