Easily changing suits from the rostrum to your small screen, cherubic and thespian GATEN MATARAZZO comes out as no stranger to the staged rules of a playhouse as he continues to light up the room in the upcoming season of Stranger Things.
Playing with different hats from the get-go, Gaten Matarazzo dabbles in the multifaceted surface of drama, stealing the arc lights with zealous abilities accentuated by a salad days charm and his trademark tangle of curls. Shaped by the influences of his older sister, the young actor follows her footsteps onstage as a performer and singer when he was only seven years old, comfortably falling into place and embracing the stage as his own playground. With his head in the game and his heart on the podium, it all seems like Child’s play for this trouper as he dives headfirst into the big leagues and earns the spotlight in Broadway, with distinguished roles as Benji in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical and as Gavroche in Les Miserables. “When I did my first show at the age of nine on Broadway, I didn’t have any experiences to compare it to. The director told me where to go on stage, so I did and I loved it. The best part was getting to know my cast mates and being best friends with the other kids in the show with me,” the thespian shares of his notable jumpstart onstage. He adds, “The great thing about performing in theater is the rush of performing in front of a live audience. Anything can happen at any moment. What I love about film and TV is the attention to small details. I hope to continue in both capacities.”
“The great thing about performing in theater is the rush of performing in front of a live audience. Anything can happen at any moment.”
Shifting gears from the theater’s red curtains to Hollywood’s red carpet, Gaten’s role as lovable wisecracker Dustin from Stranger Things delivers a reference-laden vehicle that drops off wistful thrills and sentiments, proving how the nostalgic fever isn’t about to run out of gas anytime soon. “I loved the concept; my parents were both kids in the 1980s and I was familiar with the movies they had watched and the music they listened to,” Gaten says about the show being one-part Spielberg and two-parts Stephen King that channels the ragtag spirit of the ‘80s-era with a comeback from the queen herself, Winona Ryder. Now with the dark underbelly of the town revealed, and a faceless embodiment of evil proven to be real, we can expect even stranger things to come for the next season. “Dustin is very much the glue that holds the group of kids together. I think he was very grateful to have Will back, but he’s worried about him because he doesn’t seem like the same kid before he disappeared. All the kids in the show are going to be dealing with recovering from the traumatic events of season one and trying to get back to a sense of normalcy in season two,” he continues, “We get to see a little of Dustin’s home life in season two – we meet his mom and get to see his room.”
“The number of people who have CCD may be small, but having it makes a huge impact. Being able to help in anyway makes me feel good.”
Swept up in a whirlwind of talk shows, fan conventions and a widespread of critical praise, all these things suddenly thrown at him certainly turned his life upside down. “Before the show premiered last summer, I was a pretty anonymous kid. I had a good acting career but people didn’t recognize me when I walked on the street or when I went out grocery shopping with my mom. With so many people watching as the show aired, all of that changed quickly. However, I do like meeting people that enjoy the show and I love talking about it with them when I get the chance.” With his character coined as the straw that stirs the drink, Gaten easily slips on Dustin’s shoes as he was originally penned in his image, with both of them having a one-in-a-million disease called cleidocranial dysplasia, a rare condition that delays the development of adult teeth. But just like Dustin’s sun-splashed resilience and youthful wonderment, Gaten effortlessly reads truth in between his lines and refuses to flop when these problems drop. “What I love most about Dustin is that he’s not afraid to stand up to his friends and tell them when they’re being stupid. He also has a big heart and he just wants to keep the peace and make everybody happy. I think I’m a lot like Dustin in that way, especially when I’m with my brother and sister,” he says about his well-received role. Representing a positive force that reaches beyond the footlights, Gaten has also offered a helping hand as he works with the fundraiser CCD Smiles, an organization that help kids like him receive educational materials, financial help with surgeries, and emotional support. Things may be odd in his world onscreen, but he’s no stranger to us in real life. “My friend Emmett says that the number of people who have CCD may be small, but having it makes a huge impact. Being able to help in anyway makes me feel good.”
By Bianca Serrano
Photographed by Nathaniel Taylor