Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard fills us in on how he scored his first acting job off Craigslist — a legitimate gig, thankfully — and what it’s like being a Gen Z with a penchant for the ’80s
“OK boomer” is a catchphrase often used by Gen Zs to mock attitudes typically associated with baby boomers, or those born in the two decades following World War II.
For a long time now, the cross-generational if highly fraught dialogue was built atop Boomer complaints leveraged on Gen Zs for their perceived lack of ambition or overspending on frivolous things like avocados; conversely these young adults blamed the older generation for “mortgaging their futures” while driving up property prices.
Every now and again, an outlier arises that defies any categorisation or labels, other than the one he was given ‒ Finn Wolfhard. Actor, director, face for Saint Laurent and musician, Wolfhard is best known for his starring roles in Netflix’s global hit Stranger Things as well as 2017ʼs It.
He was last seen in Jason Reitmanʼs Ghostbusters: Afterlife, an acclaimed new chapter in the “Ghostbusters” universe. Wolfhard not only defies every Gen Z stereotype, but he also isn’t fame hungry like his Instagram and TikTok peers. After Stranger Things premiered on Netflix in 2016, a then 13-year-old Finn Wolfhard logged on to his Instagram account to find he was rapidly going from an unknown Canadian kid to one of the world’s most recognisable young actors.
Five years on, Stranger Things remains one of Netflixʼs most popular shows, with its second and third seasons racking up more than 1 billion combined viewing hours and on the eve of its fourth and penultimate season, the gifted Zoomer shows no sign of stopping.
This year, Wolfhard will star alongside Oscar winner Julianne Moore in the A24 comedy-drama feature Jesse Eisenberg’s When You Finish Saving the World; he also plays Lampwick in Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion animated musical Pinocchio. He is quite demonstrably one of Hollywood’s most ambitious celebrities.
Taking a break from his work on the A24 fantasy epic film The Legend of Ochi co-starring Willem Dafoe, Emily Watson and Helena Zengel, Augustman managed to catch the versatile multi-hyphenate.
Is it true that you got your first acting job from Craigslist? How did that happen and how brave/foolhardy were you to take a gig from Craigslist?
[Laughs] I don’t know actually! You know what, there weren’t a lot of options for open casting calls other than for student films. So, we basically did a Google search and found this casting call for my age and gender, and the first thing that popped up was a Craigslist ad for a music video and it has worked out for the best!
Is this “bravery” your secret to taking on gothic or horror roles like in Richie Tozier’s adaptation of It or Stranger Things?
Those things happened separately. I never specifically planned to do only horror movies but it ended up happening like that.
You’re 19, but I suppose growing up playing either dystopian (a grounder in The 100) or horror roles, you probably weren’t afraid of the dark as a kid?
No, I was always interested in exploring darker themes in cinema. I loved the fantasy genre with practical effects like zombie movies and I was attracted to the genre.
There’s something really strange [tongue in cheek]. How on earth does a Gen Z become an ’80s icon!? (Stephen King’s It, Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, Princess Bride…)
[Laughs] Itʼs actually really funny because many adults say that to me a lot. I’m just a fan of the ʼ80s in general.
You didn’t grow up with Ghostbusters – how familiar were you with the source material and again, given the debacle of Paul Feig’s all-female reboot, why did you say “yes”?
I was a fan of the original Ghostbusters growing up and I was a huge fan of the entire cast. I have watched many of their movies frequently and I was excited to be part of that legacy in general.
Having not grown up in the ’80s, you seem to channel that ’80s vibe with ease, how do you do it?
I just really enjoy films and pop culture in general from the ʼ80s.
All eyes are on you now, is it a burden? Surely you must have it in the back of your mind some of the Hollywood peers your age who were unable to handle the pressures of fame and global acclaim? How do you deal with it?
I’m winging it to be honest. I keep good, nice people around me who are in it for the right reasons and I do it for the passion and the fun for it.
I understand that a “near perfect Russian accent” helped you get a role in The Goldfinch, how does a native from Vancouver pick up something like that?
I definitely did not have a near perfect accent but when I got the role, I trained really hard for it. A dialect coach named Kristina Nazarevskaia walked me through everything including the Russian alphabet and the sounds it made.
Your body of work is impressive, not to mention eclectic (voicing Pugsley Addams), do you have a penchant for non-stereotypical roles? Why’s that?
I like playing different roles. I think an actor fears typecasting, but I think there are many actors who do get typecast but yet are incredible when they play those roles over and over again. That being said, I don’t like to be typecast as much and I like to do a bunch of different things.
In addition to acting, you’re also a lead vocalist/ guitarist, directing (Night Shifts) and the face for Saint Laurent. Which of these roles gives you the most satisfaction professionally?
To be honest, I like it all as long as I have nice people to collaborate with and identify with.
You have incredible drive. What drives you and who do you credit for your drive?
My dad has an incredible work ethic. I owe a lot to my parents. Also, I’m friends with many brilliant young people and they inspire me to keep going forward.
At the risk of sounding cynical but very few Hollywood stars are involved with advocacy for something as low key as autism and indigenous children, why are causes such as these close to your heart?
When I was younger, I did a fundraiser for indigenous schools and finally, people are talking about indigenous people in general. In Canada, there’s an immense amount of reserves that are so incredible that have shaped our land, our city and the way we live; the one thing I wanted to do was give credit where credit was due so that these indigenous tribes become part of our social spectrum and scene.
As far as autism goes, I grew up with many on the spectrum and it became a thing near to my heart. Many foundations are almost anti-autism, like it’s something to be cured but I think autism needs to be embraced and there should be more money in it, not to prevent it but to research what a great thing it is.
Photos: Michael Schwartz; Styling: Jason Rembert