Why Sadie Sink is the coolest teen on Stranger Things

By
Photography Katie McCurdy

Published November 22, 2017

From the moment Mad Max came gliding in on her skateboard, waist-length ginger hair catching the breeze behind her, fans knew that the world of Hawkins, Indiana was about to change forever. As the new girl in school, with higher arcade scores than any Pac-Man addict, she became the perfect recruit for the boys’ Demogorgon-slaying agenda. If you watched the new season of Stranger Things, you’d agree she stole the show. Sadie Sink, 15, plays the California transplant who takes Hawkins by storm with her four-wheeled tricks and asshole step-brother. She broods so expertly as Max Mayfield that she manages to dethrone last season’s star Eleven as the resident cool girl. Yet as much as she wants to infiltrate the boys’ party, they keep her at arm’s length, hoping Eleven will someday return.

Through it all, Max keeps a cool head, despite the family issues—a bully for a step-brother, and a deadbeat, absentee father—she has to contend with. She also knows how to wield a baseball bat…

Sink grew up acting with her real-life brother on stage. She performed in Broadway productions like Annie and The Audience, before making appearances in films like Chuck [2016] and The Glass Castle [2017] . Still in high school, Sink has been juggling a hyperspace jump to fame amid routine deadlines for math homework. It’s a tricky balance, she admits, but one that hasn’t yet thrust her into the Upside Down.

 

TREY TAYLOR: Tell me how you got the role of Max.

SADIE SINK: So I got the audition around September [of last year] and I was reading the material and liked the character a lot and I thought, I love the show because I just had finished watching it. So it was a really exciting project when I got the audition and then I got four call backs and then after the call backs, they wanted me to do a screen test and the next day I found out I got the part.

TAYLOR: What was your reaction when you first found out?

SINK: I was at school at my speaking debate practice and my mom texted me and was like, “Get in the car right now.” I was like, “Mom, I can’t, I have to practice!” and she was like, “No I don’t care you need to get in the car.” So I knew something was off. I was like, “Why do you need me in the car so fast?” and she said, “I need to take your sister to a play date!” and I was really confused. So then I started to put everything together and realized that I must have been getting a call from the director soon to tell me I got the part. Sure enough, when I got home the phone rang and my mom handed it to me and they told me I got it. I didn’t really know how to process it. I just stood there stunned. I think there’s a video of me or picture of me somewhere and I’m just on the phone and my face was so shocked and I couldn’t stop smiling.

TAYLOR: I heard you had to wear fake tan for the part of Max, is that true?

SINK: [laughs] Yeah, they wanted my character to be this California girl that spends a lot of time in the sun, and I don’t look like I spend a lot of time in the sun because I don’t—sun is my worst enemy. So they wanted to give me a subtle sun-kissed glow, so they put some tanner on my face and on my hands. I just remember the smell being so distinct, so when I think of my experience on Stranger Things I think of that smell.

TAYLOR: Did you have to apply it constantly?

SINK: Yeah, I would do it in the morning and then they would have to keep on, yeah. I was at the mall one time at some skin care store and they were testing lotion on my hand, but I still had leftover tan on my hand so then all the tan was coming off and it was so embarrassing. She was just watching all this gross stuff come off my hand! [laughs]

TAYLOR: In the show Max has a troubled home life and a total jerk of a brother. Did you do anything specifically in order to relate to that?

SINK: I mean, I don’t really have a troubled home life so I can’t really relate to that! My brothers are very nice to me, unlike Billy. So I kind of just put myself in the shoes of the character and I just reacted how I think she would react in certain things, like that last scene when she’s kind of getting her revenge and it’s all of her anger just built up and it just explodes in that moment. I think that was a really difficult scene for her.

TAYLOR: Was that a fun scene to film or was it kind of hard?

SINK: I mean it was both, because I love Dacre and I have being mean to Dacre, but then again it’s acting so I had to suck it up and do it. But at the same time it was really fun because I loved swinging the baseball bat.

TAYLOR: Did you guys have to kind of keep each other arms length so that the tension between you two was real?

SINK: No, we were like best friends on set! We crack jokes in-between takes and stuff like that, but then as soon as they call action we have to be enemies.

TAYLOR: I didn’t really understand why his character was so mean to you, is there a reason that we might find out or is he just angry?

SINK: I’m hoping they explore that more in season three, but also you get a little bit of insight into their home life and why he’s so angry. When Max is explaining it on the bus she says the reason they moved from California was because they were getting away from Max’s dad, but also you see that the stepdad is really mean to Billy, so he’s taking his anger out, because anger is all he knows because of his dad, so he just takes all of his anger out on Max.

TAYLOR: I read that fans were initially mad that you got the role because you don’t look tough enough.

SINK: Yeah I don’t know that was kind of the hardest part for me, coming into this I knew that a lot of people liked Stranger Things but I didn’t really realize how many fans there were online and what a big fan base it had, like on Instagram or on social media. I think once it was announced, people weren’t necessarily happy, some people didn’t want a new character, so that was a little bit hard because I felt, I worked so hard and they didn’t want me on the show. But once I got there and started filming I felt a lot better because I saw how supportive the cast was. Things are a lot better now, once people met Max I think they realized that she’s cool, she’s not going to mess with anyone or ruin anything, it’s fine.

TAYLOR: Did you have any idea how your life might change following the season debut?

SINK: Yeah, I kind of did just by watching Millie, Gaten, Caleb, Finn and Noah, and how their life changed after season one came out. That kind of gave me a vision of what might happen to me. So just by watching them and how much they traveled and they went to Comic-Con and whenever I would go somewhere with them, they would get recognized, so that was a sneak peak of what I thought I’d experience when the show came out. But it’s not as crazy as I thought it was going to be, it’s been fun and a good experience so far.

TAYLOR: How often do you get recognized now?

SINK: I mean, a lot. I’m a very lazy person so I don’t really do things or go out very much but when I do get out of the house I do get recognized a lot.

TAYLOR: And you don’t mind?

SINK: It depends on the situation, pretty much all the time I’m pretty chill about it and if you want to come say hi, of course come say hi, I’m happy to meet anybody and take pictures or whatever. But if I’m like mid-meal with my family, then maybe it’s not a good time. But that hasn’t happened yet!

TAYLOR: I recently saw that Finn left a hotel recently and someone asked for an autograph but he didn’t have time. I’m wondering if you had any thoughts on what you guys are expected to do for fans.

SINK: It just depends, it’s whatever you really want to do. I know personally I will take pictures with anybody and I think it’s important to say hi to your fans, but yeah I think it’s different, it was a change and it was something I had to get used to and different people handle it in different ways, so it’s whatever you feel comfortable with.

TAYLOR: Child stars or young stars like Macaulay Culkin and Mara Wilson used to be a big thing, then there was this period where there were no massive, young actors and now it seems like again, we have a bunch of young actors. I was wondering if you think it’s time for a new generation of young actors to come up?

SINK: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think often child actors are like overlooked a little bit. But it’s crazy how much things have changed, if you look at how child actors are now versus how they were back then, it’s crazy.

TAYLOR: Yeah, like the scary stories I’m sure you’ve heard. Do you ever get compared to Jessica Chastain?

SINK: Yeah, I’ve gotten that before. I’ve been compared to a lot of redheads. Here’s the thing though, you can look nothing like somebody, but if you both have red hair, all of a sudden people think you look exactly the same.

TAYLOR: [laughs] Who do you get most often?

SINK: I get Amy Adams, and when I was little people would say, “Oh, you look like a young Reese Witherspoon, like a young Reese Witherspoon.” Yeah I got that a lot when I was little, and she doesn’t have red hair so, I don’t know.

TAYLOR: Have you see that movie Election [1999]?

SINK: No, what’s that?

TAYLOR: It’s a young Reese Witherspoon and she’s in high school and she’s trying to win her high school election—it’s so funny.

SINK: That sounds good.

TAYLOR: Yeah you should watch it! Anyway, how did you learn to skateboard for the part? Was that like a daunting thing to have to learn?

SINK: Yeah, it was pretty daunting. When I found out I had to skateboard I was up for the challenge I was ready to do it and then once I actually got on the board I was like, “Oh my god, this is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be.” The first lesson I thought I was doing awful. I was like, “Oh my god this is terrible.” I wiped out. But then my instructor told me, “No you’re doing really great, you’re learning so fast!” and then I got really comfortable with it and everything worked out fine. I had the stunt coordinator help me and they had a really cool girl who was really chill and she was a skateboarder and she came in and gave me tips and pointers. It was good.

TAYLOR: How many lessons did you have?

SINK: I don’t even know. I had them every day for three hours, so I couldn’t even keep track.

TAYLOR: For how many days?

SINK: It was like two months.

TAYLOR: That’s intense, isn’t it?

SINK: Yeah. Even while I was filming I would have to take skateboard lessons on my days off.

TAYLOR: So now when you’re not working do you skateboard or are you like, “I can’t even look at this skateboard!”

SINK: It’s a little bit of both. I’ll skateboard a lot, from time to time I’ll whip out the old trusty skateboard and just skateboard around the block. But then I am a very lazy person, but sometimes I get a sudden urge to go skateboard and I do it. But it’s cold now so it’s a little difficult for that now.

TAYLOR: I know you’re still in high school now, do you plan on going to college eventually?

SINK: Definitely, just because growing up I’ve always had this vision of me going to college and it’s something I’ve always been really excited about. So yeah I want to go to college, definitely if it’s possible I want to.

 

STRANGER THINGS 2 IS NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX.