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'Stranger Things' star Caleb McLaughlin on racist fan interactions: 'It definitely took a toll on me'
"I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me."
Actor Caleb McLaughlin didn't hold back on his thoughts with regards to the topic of racism among the Stranger Things fandom during an appearance at Heroes Comic Con in Belgium this past weekend. Speaking to a gathered audience about his Hollywood career thus far, McLaughlin (who plays series regular, Lucas Sinclair, a core member of the Hawkins-based protagonists) admitted that he has faced bigotry from a segment of the viewership ever since the breakout Netflix hit premiered back in the summer of 2016.
“It definitely took a toll of me as younger Caleb," he said. "At my very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black. Some people told me, ‘Oh, I didn’t want to be on 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."
McLaughlin also recalled how he'd often wonder why many fans considered him their least favorite character on the show or why he had less followers on social media than his fellow co-stars. "My parents had to be like, 'It's a sad truth, but it's because you're the Black child on the show … Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I'm not loved," the actor continued. "But that's why with my platform I want to spread positivity and love because I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me."
Unfortunately, there's been a great deal of recent backlash when it comes to the casting of people of color in high-profile genre projects like Obi-Wan Kenobi, House of the Dragon, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and Disney's upcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
During an interview with Men's Health over the summer, Steve Toussaint (who plays the role of Lord Corlys Velaryon/The Sea Snake on House of the Dragon) summed it up best: "[Audiences] are happy with a dragon flying. They're happy with white hair and violet-colored eyes, but a rich Black guy? That's beyond the pale."
When Obi-Wan cast member Moses Ingram received deplorable messages over social media, Ewan McGregor immediately called out the bigots who had the nerve to call themselves fans of Star Wars. "As the leading actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series, that we stand with Moses, we love Moses, and if you're sending her bullying messages, you're no Star Wars fan in my mind," he declared in a pre-recorded video message. "There's no place for racism in this world and I totally stand with Moses."
Seasons 1-4 of Stranger Things are now available to stream on Netflix. A fifth and final season is currently being written by co-creators, Matt and Ross Duffer. McLaughlin will next appear in the Lee Daniels-directed supernatural horror film, The Deliverance, which Netflix purchased for a whopping $65 million earlier this year.
Looking for some sci-fi TV? Check out shows like Resident Alien, Brave New World, Project Blue Book, Eureka, Heroes, Intergalactic, and more streaming now on Peacock.