Since Stranger Things debuted on Netflix in July of 2016, it has become one of the most buzzed-about shows on television. A supernatural thriller with sci-fi elements, the show was largely praised for its lovable cast of young actors and authentic recreation of a small town vibe in the 1980s. Expectations are now reaching a fever pitch in anticipation for the show’s impending second season (which premieres on September 27).
Though Stranger Things provided its near-instant legion of cult fans with a fantastical, scary and nostalgic trip down 1980s memory lane, it also produced a slew of breakout stars; none more charismatic than the Garden State’s own Gaten Matarazzo.
As you prepare yourself to once again battle the demogorgons and hopefully find Barb, check out this list of 9 Things You Didn’t Know About Gaten Matarazzo.
1. He grew up in New Jersey. Even though the fifteen-year-old was born in Connecticut, he considers himself a New Jerseyan; specifically, a South Jerseyan. When he’s not filming Stranger Things in the Atlanta, Georgia area, Matarazzo lives in Little Egg Harbor Township. He resides there with his parents, sister Sabrina and brother Carmen, both of whom are also actors. His grandparents own a Pizzeria/Ice Cream Parlor in town called Matarazzo’s.
2. Matarazzo has a condition called cleidocranial dysplasia. Cleidocranial dysplasia is a rare genetic condition that affects how one’s bones and teeth develop. In Matarazzo’s case, he doesn’t have collarbones and he has a lisp caused by the presence of his baby teeth. After learning about his disability, Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer decided to make the condition a part of Matarazzo’s character, Dustin. Matarazzo raises awareness and funds for the cleidocranial dysplasia population through a charity called CCD Smiles.
3. He appears in a Katy Perry video. Yes, that was him in the video for Perry’s newest single, “Swish Swish.” He plays a member of Perry’s sorry-looking basketball team, The Tigers. Matarazzo can also be seen in the video for “Lost Boys Life,” a song by the band Computer Games.
4. His initial Stranger Things audition wasn’t for the role of Dustin. While it seems like Matarazzo was born to play the lovable Dustin Henderson, it almost didn’t happen. He actually was one of almost a thousand young actors to try for the role of Mike Wheeler.
5. He is NOT related to the actress Heather Matarazzo. Heather Matarazzo, star of the 1995 indie film Welcome to the Dollhouse, tweeted this answer to a fan who asked if she was related to Gaten Matarazzo: “We are not related. He is NOT my son, though he is adorable and such a good actor.”
6. He has famous fans. When you play an important role in a hit TV show, you’re going to have some famous fans. Stranger Things has quite a few. Shonda Rimes, Stephen King, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristen Bell and Zac Efron are just a few of the celebrities who have professed their love for the show.
7. Matarazzo began his career on Broadway. Matarazzo starred in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Les Miserables. It was during his time on Broadway that he got to know Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas Sinclair on Stranger Things. McLaughlin was portraying Simba in The Lion King at the time.
8. His ideal movie is Star Wars combined with Harry Potter. Matarazzo has said he would love to get even the tiniest part in a Star Wars movie, but he is also a big fan of the Harry Potter franchise.
9. He is a vegetarian. But that doesn’t mean he only eats healthy foods. Like his character, Matarazzo has a strong love of pudding, as seen in the Season 1 Stranger Things episode “Chapter Seven: The Bathtub.”
All episodes of Stranger Things Season 2 will be available October 27 on Netflix.