Speaking his truth. Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin got candid about his experience in Hollywood — including the racism he’s faced since stepping into the spotlight.
“It definitely took a toll on me as a younger kid. My very first Comic-Con, some people wouldn’t stand in my line because I was Black,” McLaughlin, 20, revealed during the Heroes Comic Con in Brussels on Sunday, September 25. “Some people told me ‘Oh, I didn’t want to be in your line because you were mean to Eleven.’ Even now some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black. Sometimes overseas you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger it definitely affected me a lot.”
The New York native, who has portrayed Lucas Sinclair on the Netflix hit since its inception in 2016, questioned why he was perpetually the “least favorite” actor from the series — which also stars Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and more — and wondered why he receives less support on social media.
“Why am I the least favorite?” the Concrete Cowboy actor asked on Sunday. “Why [do I have] the least amount of followers? I’m on the same show as everyone else from season 1.’”
The High Flying Bird star revealed that his mom and dad had to point out the possible racism and bigotry he would face in the industry for him to connect the dots.
“My parents had to be like, ‘It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show,’” he explained. “And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’”
While McLaughlin has a lofty 15.4 million Instagram followers, his costars have significantly more — Brown, 18, lands at 58.5 million, while Schnapp, 17, and Wolfhard, 19, are each hovering just below 30 million.
“Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I’m not loved,” McLaughin said. “But that’s why with my platform I want to spread positivity and love because I do not give hate back to people that give hate to me.”
Black actors from other massive TV and film franchises, including Steve Toussaint from the Game of Thrones spinoff, House of Dragons, have historically shared similar experiences regarding racism among fandoms.
The Doctor Who alum, 57, portrays the first Black lead character, Corys Velaryon, in the GOT world. “I didn’t realize it was a bigger deal until I was racially abused on social media when it was announced,” the U.K. native told The Hollywood Reporter after the prequel series premiere in August. “Yeah, that s–t happened.”
After his casting was announced in February 2021, Toussaint recalled that a social media user expressed their disappointment that he was chosen for the role. “Then someone else referred to me by the N-word,” the Judge Dredd actor added. “There was also a Black American chap who is a big fan of the show who contacted me saying that he gets abuse because he championed me for the part.”
John Boyega, who played Finn in the most recent Star Wars trilogy, has also been vocal about how racism affected what should have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Becoming Human alum, 30, also shared his belief that racism was one reason his character was sidelined over time.
“What they want you to say is, ‘I enjoyed being a part of it. It was a great experience.’ Nah, nah, nah,” Boyega told British GQ in September 2020. “I’ll take that deal when it’s a great experience. They gave all the nuance to Adam Driver, all the nuance to Daisy Ridley. Let’s be honest. Daisy knows this. Adam knows this. Everybody knows. I’m not exposing anything.”