Updated at 5 p.m. on July 3.
Throughout the summer, we’re interviewing up-and-coming actresses you’ll see on TV and in feature films in the coming months. This is our first installment, but check back to find all of the Q&As here.
Teasers for Season 3 of “Stranger Things,” which drops July 4 on Netflix, have been scant. That makes sense, given the twisty, turny nature of the show.
One trailer does introduce a new, distinctly summery vibe. It also introduces one of the show’s new characters: Heather, a lifeguard at the Hawkins community pool. Viewers catch a glimpse of her making eyes at Billy (Dacre Montgomery), the bad boy who moved to town last season.
Stars have been very tight-lipped about what’s coming in Season 3, but we do know that Heather becomes embroiled in a dark mystery. Francesca Reale, the 24-year-old actress who plays Heather, can’t reveal much more than that. You might recognize Reale from another Neflix original series, “Haters Back Off,” in which she plays Emily, the younger sister of Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger).
We recently caught up with Reale, who spoke, among other topics, about maintaining confidence during career challenges. While Reale grew up surrounded by actors in Los Angeles, she didn’t start getting serious about performing until she set off to college, where she earned her BFA in acting at New York University. She’s already contended with the difficulties of making it as an actress, she says — but to have landed “Stranger Things” is no doubt a huge boon to her career.
Mostly, Reale says, she’s as excited as viewers for “Stranger Things” Season 3 to be released. They won’t have to wait long: Starting July 4, all of the episodes will be bingeable on Netflix.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Lily: Hi Francesca, how are you doing today?
Francesca Reale: Hi, I’m good. I’m currently in L.A. I just wrapped up a yoga class, so we’re all ready for the day.
TL: Definitely — gotta get that yoga in.
FR: Gotta. Gotta, every day. No, that’s a lie. I wish I could do it every day. I’m much lazier than that.
TL: Same here. Anyways, we’re so glad to be talking to you today. Throughout the summer, we’re going to be talking to the young actresses making their way in the industry. It seems like it’s an exciting time to be working in Hollywood.
FR: Yeah, it’s definitely exciting. There’s never a dull moment in the entertainment industry.
TL: When did you first fall in love with acting?
FR: Honestly, it was really a slow burn of a situation. I had an interest in it as a kid, in acting and film and TV and all of that, but I don’t think it was for the right reasons.
My parents would only let me start acting if I agreed to take an acting class and learn my craft. At the crisp age of 6, that was not my plan. I didn’t want to do any work. So I took another turn, and went into gymnastics instead, for years — 12, 13 years — until I was injured.
So I didn’t start taking acting seriously as a potential career until college, when I finally understood it was something I really wanted to do and was passionate about in that way. It took me a really long time to find it. Better late than never, right?
TL: It seems like that’s a time when a lot of people are figuring out what they want to do with their lives. So it’s great that you landed on it then.
FR: Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of friends who started acting really young as kids and have built up their careers since then. But for me, that wasn’t the path. I had too many other things I wanted to do as a kid.
TL: Definitely. So then what was it like to land “Stranger Things”?
FR: Insane. Literally insane. You know, you go into all these auditions — you kind of start to have the mindset of being excited when you get the big auditions, but it’s like, “I’m never going to get it.” You get that preset in your brain — which isn’t healthy or good — but sometimes I do. And it was the same thing with this one. It was like, “This is going to be such a fun audition, but I’m not going to get it. There’s no way.” And then when I went in for my callback, they were like, “You got it.” And I was like, “You’re lying.” They weren’t, and I was ecstatic. I think I almost crashed my car. Thank god I didn’t do that.
TL: What’s your favorite thing about your character, Heather?
FR: My favorite thing about her was that there was a lot of flexibility to put my own spin on how she behaves and acts. Unlike the other characters, she doesn’t have a full backstory. Also, my favorite thing about her is her strength — to an extent.
TL: So sort of like a complex strength, maybe?
FR: Yes. She has a complex strength in my eyes. But yeah, I think she’s very vocal. She’s like a popular girl, you know. I’m trying so hard to tell you without spoiling all of it.
TL: Don’t worry, we get it. Is this generally the sort of project you are very excited about? Where does this fit into your longer career goals?
FR: Of course something as big and culturally active as “Stranger Things” is something I’m excited to do and would never pass up. But ultimately, it’s changed — the industry keeps shifting. There will be years where there’s incredible film happening, and then all I want to do is film. And there will be years where TV is just amazing, like this year specifically. You have “Game of Thrones” and “Chernobyl” and “Big Little Lies”; you have all these great shows coming out. And it makes me really want to go do TV shows. It’s project to project, honestly.
TL: What are some of the biggest challenges that come with being an actor?
FR: There are a few, but I think one — I’m going to combine two of my biggest problems: keeping yourself busy and active as well as keeping your self-esteem and confidence high when your career is low. It’s unlike any other career where you’re on a path and you just keep moving up and up and up the ladder.
At this moment right now, I’m on a ladder climb in my mind, but eight to 12 months ago, I was not. It’s just about keeping yourself motivated to keep going.
Also, [it’s important to] find hobbies to do in your downtime. There are going to be slow periods where it’s like, “What am I doing with my life? I have no auditions, I have no work.” So hobbies, exercise, reading — oh my god, reading has been a savior in my life. Magazines, newspapers, books.
It’s also just reminding yourself: The universe kind of has a plan for everything. I lost a job right before I booked “Stranger Things,” and I was devastated. And then this happened, and I was like, “Could you imagine what would’ve happened if I had taken that?”
TL: What’s your best piece of advice for other actors? Or what piece of advice do you wish you could’ve given to your teenage self?
FR: Oh boy. Well, whenever I ask an older actor that, they say, “Find a new career.” I’m not going to say that. I guess the advice I would give to myself as a teen, and I could also say it to a lot of young actors, is just make sure you’re passionate about it, and do not let the lows get you down. You cannot. Rejection is a part of this career, and you get rejected a lot more than you get success. It sometimes doesn’t seem like that for others, but when you compare — oh yeah, don’t compare yourself if you’re acting. That is the actual kiss of death. So I guess that would be it:
TL: And who do you wish you could get advice from in the industry, if you had your pick?
FR: Oh my god. Well, she’s dead, unfortunately. But if I could get advice from Audrey Hepburn, I would in a heartbeat. I’d go ask her how she dealt with her entire life. Let’s see, who else? I would love to get advice from Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.
TL: Who wouldn’t, right?
FR: Oh yeah. I would love to get Tom Hanks to just read some books out loud to me. And they just seem like really down-to-earth, level-headed people who are very passionate about what they do, but they have all these other things and projects and charities they’re involved in, and I think that’s amazing. Plus, they’re incredibly talented.
You know, I’ve surrounded myself with a good support system that has always provided advice and kept me going if I’m having a low. I’m very lucky in that respect.