SYFY WIRE’s live stage and multiple panels at Seattle’s Emerald City Comic Con have offered up some genuine fan favorites doing interviews and answering audience questions, but perhaps none as recently atop the zeitgeist as Shannon Purser (Stranger Things, Riverdale).
Purser, known to many for playing Barb during the Netflix phenomenon’s first season, turned a side character into a classic and endeared herself to many in what only amounted to, she reveals, about a week’s worth of filming. Now she’s got the blue collar high school theater CBS show Rise coming out on March 13 and the Netflix film Sierra Burgess Is a Loser coming later this year. But we still have lots of unanswered questions about the Upside-Down. So, speaking with SYFY WIRE on her panel (which, along with the rest of the con, is being live-streamed here), Purser dove into the ins and outs of filming your death when you’re also working a day job as well as what project she’s hoping to move forward with.
First things first, Purser talked about how, when she was filming Stranger Things, she was working in a movie theater. She sold popcorn, ripped tickets, and cleaned theaters all while making the Netflix hit and when the show came out. For a little while, at least ... until people started caring about Barb. After a brief buffer of a few weeks after the show was released, people started calling the theater asking if Purser was working -- so she quit. But that experience wasn’t nearly as harrowing as her final episode.
Episode seven, the episode of her death, was a secret held from her on set. The Duffer Brothers were still writing as the crew were filming, Purser said, and everybody was talking about Episode 7 -- but they wouldn’t tell her about it. Finally, the makeup team asked her to come in for a makeup test … for her death scene.
In addition to putting lots of “creepy veins all over her face” and covering her in slime, they made her cough up banana-flavored baby food at the top of each take. The makeup artist would come and squeeze it into her mouth, which led to some understandable (if brief) animosity. However, this also meant Purser was doing most of her own stunts, even if some of them were a little stranger than others.
One, for instance, was during the party scene. The scene, which started filming at 6 at night, then went until 5 in the morning, had the teenage charcters shotgunning a beer -- which Purser had never done. Someone on set had to teach her how while the rest worked on getting the pool at the proper temperature for the actors to be thrown in. Sometimes it was too cold, other times so hot that ice was needed to get rid of visible steam.
But now that her stint on Stranger Things is over, Purser has an idea of what she’d like to do next (besides her two aforementioned projects).
She mentions a novel called Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, which focuses on a fuller-bodied high school girl with the kind of curly red hair that screams “cast Shannon Purser” as she has a consummately ‘80s love story with a half-Korean boy she rides the bus to school with. This book has been in and out of development, but Purser is clear that Eleanor is her “favorite literary character” and she’d love to play the role. But until then, you can watch her when Rise comes out on March 13 and catch the rest of the fest on SYFY WIRE’s livestream.