It feels like a lifetime ago that we were first cordially invited to explore the town of Hawkins, Indiana, and meet characters we couldn’t possibly have predicted would grow to become as good as family. Stranger Things first premiered on Netflix in 2016, and while it received widespread acclaim and praise from general audiences, it would go on to become a phenomenon on a scale unmatched by its contemporaries in the sci-fi horror genre.
If casting your mind back to 2016 seems difficult, then just imagine how the cast feels. The young stars of the wildly successful Duffer Brothers series Stranger Things grew up with the characters, and to watch both, respectively, evolve in front of our very eyes with each passing season has been a gift.
With Netflix‘s Stranger Things season 5 looming in the distance, we’re feeling nostalgic, and it’s a good job we are because we’ve been looking at the first actor who was ever cast in the project—and no, it’s not Finn Wolfhard as Mike. Can you guess who it is? Drumroll, would you please…
It’s Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin!
He has been a fan-favorite from the very first adorable days of season 1, all the way up to reaching an inspiring maturity in season 4; his chemistry with Joseph Quinn’s Eddie has proven to be a runaway highlight of the most recent installments.
Stranger Things proved to be the star’s breakout role, and he had only starred in an episode of the NBC crime-thriller The Blacklist (he played Finn) beforehand. Since then, we’ve had so many great characters debut, whether that’s Sadie Sink’s Max or Maya Hawke’s Robin, but thousands would still agree that Dustin is still the crown jewel of the series, delivering iconic moments like The Neverending Story sing-along at the end of season 3 or sharing in Eddie’s big Master Of Puppets performance as any supportive bestie would.
As you’ll know, Stranger Things has been renewed for a fifth and final season, and it will be bittersweet to see Dustin’s arc come to its conclusion, and Gaten agrees too.
“It’s interesting to constantly just be reminded how much people have resonated with it,” he told Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.
“It’s the defining aspect of the past 10 years of my life, practically the past decade… There’s like a deep fear. Not only has it been amazing, but it’s been pretty great job security for a while. Back to freelance.”
The actor most recently voiced Boris in 2022’s My Father’s Dragon, while he also landed a central role in the coming-of-age teen comedy Honor Society (Michael) the same year.
He’s sure to be busy at work crafting the ending of Stranger Things as we speak, but it’s safe to say that audiences will keep welcoming him into their hearts no matter what work he’s doing—as long as he keeps doing his thing on their screens.
Stranger Things is streaming exclusively on Netflix.