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‘Stranger Things 2’: Casting the Kids of Hawkins As Grown-Ups

From Eleven to Erica to Steve, here are some suggestions for who might best portray these characters in modern times.

Stranger Things

Stranger Things

Jackson Davis/Netflix

Last week, “The Crown” revealed that its third season of the royal drama would be jumping forward a few decades in time, and as a result recasting its leads, with the role of Queen Elizabeth II now passing from Claire Foy to Olivia Colman. This inspired the thought — what if “Stranger Things” (a period drama in its own way) pulled a similar move at some point during its run, jumping forward to something close to the modern day? And if it did, who should be enlisted to play the kids of Hawkins, all grown up?

Because perhaps they’ve remained friends over the years. Perhaps they’ve drifted apart. But it’s not hard to imagine strange things continuing to happen to these characters, no matter the time period. So here are our ideal picks for the cast of “Stranger Things 2017,” the kids as well as a few of the adults. The age range here isn’t necessarily 100 percent perfect, but we emphasized finding actors who would be the best fit for the characters over strict accuracy.

[Editor’s note: Mild spoilers for “Stranger Things 2” follow.]

Mathieu Amalric as Jonathan Byers

So much of Jonathan is wrapped up in anguish: dealing with the disappearance and transformation of his kid brother, reckoning with the aftermath of his parents’ separation, pining after the pretty girl from afar. That’s a specific subset of tormented emotions that requires a certain physicality. In “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Amalric played a character who could only move one eye for most of the film, so he’s certainly qualified.

Jack Black as Dustin Henderson

Perhaps the two biggest hallmarks of Dustin are his curly locks and impudent personality, and a perm can take care of the former. Jack Black has the right amount of cheekiness, exuberance, and smarts necessary to play the grown-up geek. The actor could also add his musical skills to the mix, and we could see him being a really cool dad who cosplays with his kids at cons.

Clare Bowen as Holly Wheeler

The youngest Wheeler sibling hasn’t had that much screen time, but knowing that family, she will no doubt be sharp, ballsy, and brave. After all, Holly was thisclose to the Demogorgon as he was trying to come through the wall. Bowen has been impressive as the singer-songwriter Scarlett on “Nashville,” and has just enough steel in her to make her a believable Wheeler.

Courteney Cox as Nancy Wheeler

We quickly learned that in Season 1 that to underestimate Nancy was to make a huge mistake. And who better to embody that as an adult than Courteney Cox, who has proven her badassery for decades, while also demonstrating strong comedy chops and solid acting talent. Cox knows a fair amount about surviving horrific situations — she made it through not one but three “Scream” movies, after all — so she’d be more than up to the challenge.

John Cusack as Mike Wheeler

Who better to turn to for Mike than Lloyd Dobler himself? John Cusack’s most iconic role embodies Mike grown up: boy next door, slightly neurotic, a hopeless romantic, and just a really solid guy. He has just enough charisma to be a leader, but doesn’t come off as slick. Older Eleven doesn’t stand a chance.

Tiffany Haddish as Erica Sinclair

Erica is the undisputed queen of Hawkins, Indiana, so there’s no doubt that she’d grow up to be the queen of all our hearts. The future “Saturday Night Live” host and breakout comedy star of 2017 has plenty on her plate to keep her busy, but even just one fun cameo would be enough to please fans of Season 2’s biggest breakout character.

Dule Hill as Lucas Sinclair

Frankly, we want to see this just because Dule Hill is great and he should work way more often. But he and Caleb McLaughlin also share a grounded quality, as seen in Hill’s work on both “The West Wing” and “Psych” — Hill can be trusted to be the voice of reason when things go crazy, which is something this group very much needs.

Jude Law as Will Byers

Looking at the photo above, you might be skeptical that Will would grow up to resemble Jude Law. But when you bring in the striking resemblance between Schnapp and Law’s son Rafferty, your doubts will fade away. Plus, Law’s immense talents as an actor would be essential to making whatever weird drama being experienced by the grown-up Hawkins kids feel believable.

Rob Lowe as Billy Hargrove

This one is a bit of a no-brainer since Rob Lowe’s character Billy in “St. Elmo’s Fire” inspired new guy Billy in “Stranger Things.” Now that we’re fast-forwarding 30 years, it’s come full circle. The two actors have more than a passing resemblance, and Lowe has proven to have a pretty healthy sense of humor when mocking his past. Billy is pretty much the biggest bully currently in Hawkins, and it remains to be seen if he’ll mellow out with age. We expect he’s moved to one of the big cities, perhaps to the West Coast where he can wear his shirts unbuttoned to his heart’s content.

Molly Parker as Max Mayfield

As the party’s newest member, tomboy Max had plenty of spunk, despite her bullying step-brother and otherwise difficult family life. Ergo, Molly Parker, so memorable from her work on “House of Cards” and “Deadwood,” would make her ideal to embody Sadie Sink as an adult; both of them have an inner core of strength that no amount of trauma can shake.

Jay O. Sanders as Hopper’s brother

Look, we all love Hopper. He’s great. He’s a hero. But if the latest “Hellboy” reboot takes off and David Harbour is unavailable, maybe Hopper’s brother (who maybe also happens to be a sheriff in town on the opposite side of Indiana?) comes into town to investigate Hopper’s disappearance. Talk about a twist! Anyway, Sanders could definitely play his relative and would be as convincing as a small town police officer as he was as an MLB radio play-by-play man.

Cobie Smulders as Eleven

The eye color might not be a match, but otherwise, Cobie Smulders is a perfect fit for the adult embodiment of Eleven. Bringing with her both the right amount of intensity and a capacity for awkward sweetness, Smulders has great range that would be essential for us seeing traces of the former lab rat within the strong woman she’ll certainly grow up to become.

Lily Tomlin as Joyce Byers

How to follow up one icon? Ask another icon to succeed her. It’s not at all hard to imagine Lily Tomlin echoing Winona Ryder’s nervous energy while also finding her own fun spin on it — after all, theoretically 30 years later, Joyce will have mellowed out a little bit… right?

Skeet Ulrich as Steve Harrington

Because Ben Schwartz is simply too young, we had to look elsewhere for the right actor. Steve started off on the bad boy track but then became a pretty upstanding dude, good with the kids and exhibiting latent leadership skills. Skeet Ulrich walks this tightrope well also. Already he’s on The CW’s “Riverdale” playing the father of a mouthy teenager, so this feels like a natural progression. More importantly, he’s familiar to genre fans who know how great he was in the dystopian “Jericho,” when the world was turned upside-down (heh) after a limited nuclear attack. Just give him few months, and his hair will grow to the necessary lushness.

“Stranger Things 2” is streaming now on Netflix. 

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