In an interview with The Los Angeles Times' podcast "The Envelope," David Harbor, who plays Jim Hopper in the Netflix science fiction drama Stranger Things, spoke candidly about the toll child stardom takes on his co-stars, all of whom have grown up in the spotlight since the show debuted to great criticial success in 2016.
The show's young actors—a group that includes Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer and Millie Bobby Brown—were all relative unknowns before the show blew up. Brown in particular has generated headlines as she's grown up and has spoken bluntly about her experiences with being sexualized by older men from the time she was a preteen.
You can hear Harbour's interview below.
Harbour said that he empathizes with his co-stars as they've grown up and says he's wondered about the effects fame would have on them:
“Like I see what these kids have to deal with and, look, whatever. I mean, there’s a lot of people that go through, I guess a lot worse stuff."
"But mentally and psychologically, I think getting extremely famous and being so doted on at 11 years old is really hard for the psyche to reconcile with.”
Harbour, who gained recognition as a character actor and appeared in smaller roles in films like Brokeback Mountain and Revolutionary Road before his big break, said he feels lucky that he didn't achieve greater fame until later in life.
“I’m lucky because it didn’t happen to me ’til I was 40. So I know what it’s like to go to the mall. I know what it’s like to be bullied and humiliated." ...
"I know what it’s like to have to find friends, not to have people come to me. I don’t know that they’ll ever have that feeling.”
Harbour's concerns resonated with many fans
Dr. Smelanie Butts PhD/Facebook
Several of the show's stars have spoken about their struggles with fame.
The aforementioned Brown has spoken out against being sexualized from a young age and being cyberbullied on a regular basis.
Wolfhard, meanwhile, has expressed a desire to live a more private life, saying that he has been stalked by fans who have followed him to his condo after a day of shooting the series.
Few child stars maintain mainstream success as adults.
A performer like Jodie Foster, who found fame starring in films like Freaky Friday and Taxi Driver by the time she was 14 and won two Academy Awards by the time she was 29 for performances in The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs respectively, is the exception to the rule.
Some former child stars have self-destructed after failing to find roles as adults.
Actor Bobby Driscoll, who won an Academy Juvenile Award for his performances in The Window and So Dear to My Heart while still a preteen and later provided the voice and likeness for Disney's Peter Pan in 1953, became addicted to narcotics and served time in prison for illicit drug use after roles dried up.
Driscoll died alone in an abandoned tenement in Manhattan's East Village and could not be identified after two boys who were playing stumbled upon his body and alerted authorities.
His body was later buried in a pauper's grave on Hart Island after it went unclaimed and his whereabouts were unknown to his family for more than a year until his mother launched a search that ended when the New York Police Department reported a fingerprint match in its database.
Other former child stars have settled into "normal" life more comfortably.
Actress Mara Wilson, who starred in films such as Mrs. Doubtfire, the remake of Miracle on 34th Street, and as the titular character in Matilda, has enjoyed a successful career as a writer, and has published a memoir about her time in the spotlight that included accounts of the sexual harassment she experienced from grown adults.
Wilson has since published several essays about the psychology of child stardom and her opinion has repeatedly been sought whenever conversations about the subject arise on social media.