Mental Hospitals, 15-Year Hiatuses and Arrests: Dissecting the Most Shocking Things to Happen to the Stranger Things Cast

Ahead of the 2018 Emmys, we're looking back on Winona Ryder, David Harbour and more of the Netflix hit's stars' headline-making moments

By Tierney Bricker Sep 14, 2018 12:00 PMTags
Watch: Millie Bobby Brown Dishes on "Stranger Things" Season 3

The Demogorgon and Mind Flayer are nothing compared to what some of the Stranger Things cast has been through. 

While the young cast of the Netflix hit series are still relatively new to this whole fame game (and still charming us with viral late night talk show moments and dancing), the older stars of our binge-watch obsession have definitely had their fair share of ups and downs in Hollywood over the years. 

With the show nominated for several awards, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Supporting Actress (Millie Bobby Brown), we're looking back on the adult cast's most shocking moments ahead of the 2018 Emmys, airing Monday, Sept. 17, at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

2018 Emmys: Meet the Presenters

Of course, there's no better person to begin with than the most famous of the Strangest...Winona Ryder

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Ryder was the It girl of Hollywood, thanks to her iconic turns in Heathers, Beetlejuice and Reality Bites, to name a few. She was nominated for two Oscars. was the face that launched a thousand tabloid rumors and paparazzi shots, and public relationships with famous men such as Johnny Depp and Matt Damon did nothing but feed the frenzy around the pixie-haired ingénue.

In 2001, Ryder caused a pop culture firestorm when she was she was arrested for shoplifting (prompting the iconic "Free Winona" slogan) more than $5,500 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills (with a reported eight different kinds of prescription meds in her purse).

A media frenzy ensued around her court case, as her lawyer said she suffered a broken arm in June 2002 when she was hit by a cameraman's equipment. The world  watched as America's former Sweetheart was convicted of felony vandalism and grand theft. She was ordered to pay more than $10,000 in fines and restitution and was sentenced to probation, community service and counseling.

Steve Grayson/Getty Images

Looking back, Ryder saw the incident as a sign that she needed a break from Hollywood.

"Psychologically, I must have been at a place where I just wanted to stop," she told Porter magazine last year. "I won't get into what happened, but it wasn't what people think. And it wasn't like the crime of the century!" 

She also opened up about how it ended up helping her in the long-term, telling  The Cut, "I did get a chance to explore during my ‘hiatus.' I was really lucky, because when all you've done is this one thing, you become sort of insecure because this town can be isolating and you don't feel like you're capable of doing other things."

Following the high-profile scandal, Ryder mostly retreated from the spotlight and was no longer a tabloid fixture, though she was consistently working in film—taking small but pivotal parts in movies such as Star Trek, The Iceman, and Black Swan—but her official "comeback" didn't happen until Stranger Things premiered in 2016, re-introducing Ryder to the public as a frantic mother. Joyce's unrelenting drive to find her son spawned a few memes (Her constant yelling of "Will!" and "Where's my boy?!" and holding of Christmas lights come to mind) and inspired a lot of Halloween costumes.

"It's so overwhelming. I don't know what it's like for really famous people," she said of her come back in a Marie Claire cover story. "I keep hearing that people are dressing up like me [Joyce Byers]. I'm like, 'What?'"

Of her time away ("My hiatus" or "Whatever they want to call it") she explained to Marie Claire in 2017, "I did take time off. It was mutual, I think. I just went through a tough time."

But even after the "Winonaissance," some headline-making moments kept coming.

While promoting her new rom-com Destination Wedding with Keanu Reeves, Ryder made a shocking revelation: The reunited pair has actually been married since 1992.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Ryder explained that she and Reeves' on-screen wedding in Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation, of the Bram Stoker novel, may have been legit, as the director brought in a real Romanian priest to preside over the nuptials, which just so happened to have  taken place on Valentine's Day. 

"I swear to god I think we're married in real life," she said. "We shot the master and he did the whole thing. So I think we're married."


Ryder's sort-of on-screen leading man David Harbour (Jopper FTW!) became a fan-favorite thanks to his on-screen charisma and begrudging warmth as Chief Hopper and off-screen social media presence. He's officiated a fan's wedding. He's posted with a fan for their senior portrait. He's adorably trolled his co-star, Joe Keery. The man, 43, was born to be on our Twitter feeds. 

But he also earned praise for opening up about his bi-polar disorder. 

In June 2018, Harbour, who is nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor, revealed he spent time in a mental asylum years ago and was treated for bipolar disorder when he was a guest on Marc Maron's WTF podcast.

After struggling for years with issues such as anxiety, self-hatred and alcohol abuse, he got sober and spiritual in his mid-20s—becoming interested in Catholicism and mystic saints.

But then he had a manic episode, explaining, "I really had like a bit of a break where I thought I was in connection to some sort of God that I wasn't really in connection to…and writing a lot."

The actor's parents eventually stepped in, taking him to an asylum for treatment, eventually being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder when he was 25. 

"And I have to say one thing about the mental asylum...really, really not as fun as you think it is," he joked. "You do have a romantic idea...and it just ends up being sad and smells like s--t. And the other thing was boating. I recently went out on a ship in open water, and I'd read Moby Dick a million times, and it's really not sexy, it's horrible. It's very similar to the mental asylum experience."

As one of the more established actors on set, Harbour told People he worries about the younger cast the same way a family member would. 

"The fame surrounding them is kind of outrageous. With developing tiny brains, the fact that they're able to navigate the waters of such intense fame and wanting to be liked, and yet maintain their integrity and maintain being a good actor and wanting to be an artist – they're doing that extraordinarily well," he told the mag. "I'm very impressed. I feel so protective of them. I do love them like a cranky uncle. I want to see them all become the next Meryl Streep and [Robert] DeNiro. I worry as an uncle."

And he probably was expressing that uncle worry in October 2017, as Charlie Heaton, who plays teen loner Jonathan Byers, was detained at Los Angeles International Airport as he was heading into town for the season two premiere party due to possession of trace amounts of cocaine, according to reports. 

While he was not arrested, he immediately returned to London as his cast members walked the red carpet at their premiere. Heaton, 24, eventually released a statement saying his planned travel to the U.S. was "affected by an issue at U.S. immigration" and that he was not "charged with a crime."

Though some questioned whether or not he would be able to return to work on season three when it began filming in April 2018, Heaton assured the situation was "all sorted now" in an interview with Flaunt magazine

Heaton went on to describe the media attention he received after the incident "f--king awful."

"It was hard," Heaton, who is dating his co-star Natalia Dyer, continued. "Everything happened so fast, and I hadn't come to terms with the fact that I was famous. When something steps in from the work you are doing and breaks into your personal feel kind of vulnerable. All of a sudden it becomes a very big story and it gets really blown out of proportion."

Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

One of the series' youngest stars Finn Wolfhard also had to deal with a situation being blown out of proportion when he faced online backlash after someone shared a video of the teen walking into his hotel and not stopping to take selfies with fans after season two premiered in 2017. The audacity!

The moment prompted one fan (whose account was eventually suspended) to tweet at his co-star Millie Bobby Brown: "Me and my friend hate Finn and want him to kill himself, how do we get him to do that?? Could you tell him to?? Please."

Yes, this was really sent to Brown, who replied, "Finn is one of my closest friends and it upsets me that you feel like that! Hopefully some positive vibes come through to you soon!"

Wolfhard, who has described his newfound fame as "weird and new and scary" in an interview with Dazed, has previously talked about his feelings about fans approaching him. 

"I realized, it's cool if it's a 13-year-old [screaming my name]. If they actually watch the show and they respect it—that's cool," the now-15-year-old said at the time. "But when it's grown men in a line, spending their day screaming at children... that's really scary for me."

For now, the cast and crew has been busy working on season three in Atlanta, but will make the trip to Los Angeles for the Emmys on Monday. And who knows, if the show wins the trophy for Outstanding Drama Series, we may just get another viral moment (and endless memes) courtesy of Ryder on stage a la the infamous moment from the 2017 SAG Awards

Hey, stranger things have happened. 

(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)