When she was a teenager in the 80's just like Eleven, Mike, Dustin, and the rest of the gang, Winona Ryder was everywhere just the way the young stars of Stranger Things are now. Ryder owned the decade with iconic parts in films like Beetlejuice and Heathers, and didn't do too bad in the 90's either, with two Oscar nominations for The Age of Innocence and Little Women (while adding to her long list of cult favorites, with Edward Scissorhands and Reality Bites). Along the way, she became a style icon as well, with her pixie-ish hair, undaunted individuality, and ageless innocence. Now, she has re-entered the zeitgeist with, ironically, a very 80's TV show on a very modern platform. Before the return of season 2 of Stranger Things on Netflix on October 27, Ryder, who plays a very anxious mother on the series, talks the age of streaming—and reveals that she, a former TV neophyte, has actually turned into a bit of a TV buff.
What's the first movie you auditioned for?
Desert Bloom, with Ellen Barkin. And I didn’t get the part. My first part was in a movie called Lucas.
And you were great. Did you get the bug right away?
Yeah. I did get the bug right away. I love being on set. I loved being around cameras and, you know, learning all of that stuff. I bought a book called Camera and Its Techniques; it was almost like a textbook, and I would always ask the cameramen to explain things to me. I was always very fascinated with that, but I never wanted to direct or anything. I just loved movies.
What movie makes you cry?
Oh, many, many movies make me cry. I'm kind of a softie that way. The movie that made me cry that I remember was, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Bridge on the River Kwai. I cried a lot in movies about war.
Because of the war, or…?
[Sighs.] Because of the story and because, you know, probably every element mixed in. My grandfather died in World War II… yeah. Uh, I’m trying to imagine that situation. And that’s what movies do is they bring you into the story. The war movies made me cry.
So let’s talk about Stranger Things, which you're brilliant in. How did they first approach you about it?
Um, gosh, I wish I had a more interesting or exciting story. But I was sent the script and I'd had one experience in television, a HBO miniseries called Show Me a Hero. I had a small part, but I really wanted to work with David Simon. But I really didn’t know much about the world of television; I just knew that it was becoming incredibly interesting and much more like film than films. [Laughter.] But you know, I met with them. I really only was given a [script of the] pilot episode. We had a good meeting and I sort of took the leap. It’s been sort of overwhelming with the reaction. I don’t think any of us were prepared, but it’s been really amazing. To work with the really incredibly talented young actors has been great.
And when will the second season air—or, excuse me, streams.
Yeah, I know! Right? That’s so confusing to me... But I mean, binge watching is incredibly dangerous and addictive. I’ve fallen victim to it. It’s especially wonderful if you’re injured and you’re sitting around and you can just, you know. And there’s certain shows that have cliffhangers and then you can just cut to two to three days later—you can’t tear yourself away. I also fell into the trap of watching shows that I thought were still on, but actually weren’t.
So you thought there was more of episodes and then...
Yeah, I was like, “What happens next?” Yeah.
[Laughs.] That’s cute. You’re becoming a TV buff.
Well, my favorite show is The Americans. I love it. I think it’s brilliant. It’s just staggering. I think Keri Russell is just mind-blowing, and all of the actors are so good. What I did, because I had to get a season pass from iTunes, because, you know, it was once a week. This last season I purposely didn’t watch, so when I was on the plane I would get to watch. That was exciting. But then crushing when it ended, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
I think next year is the last season.
Oh, god. I don’t know what I’ll do. I think it’s one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I met [Keri Russell] and I was like, [Gasps.]: “What’s happening with Paige?” I completely turned into a, um, yeah. But everyone has to keep things a big secret, which I’m learning.
So do you have a first kiss story?
It was on one of those little spinny things at the playground. I was on it with my first sort of sweetheart in school. It was at night. We actually weren’t in elementary school. We were a little bit older, it was across the street from my house, so we went into the playground and we got on there and had our—my first kiss. I don’t know if it was his.
Were you nervous?
Yes. I was nervous. I didn’t quite know how it worked. I went to school with him and he was probably the only boy who paid any attention to me in school, ever. He was sort of my first sweetheart.
That's so romantic. Do you have a secret skill?
Um, I used to be on a skateboarding team.
Yep, and I also am very good with a yo-yo.
On the skateboarding team, were you doing stunts?
Yeah. I mean, I was very young. And this was back before skateboarding was what it is now, or what it became. It was street skating, so it was, like, in swimming pools and stuff. I think I was just very little, so I was somehow able to do it—but I’ve said before I think I would make a terrific bystander.
Yeah. Like someone who just watches things happen. [Laughter.] Then, like, I can tell other people what happened. If anyone needed a bystander I’m available.
[Laughs] That's very charming. So, do you remember going to the Oscars? You were nominated several times.
Twice. I remember I had a lot more fun the second time [for 1995's Little Women].
You looked beautiful. I loved that dress. And I love that you didn’t have a stylist and you looked amazing. You had original style of your own.
Oh, thank you.
When they called your name did you get nervous?
The first time I did [for 1994's Age of Innocence], just because I’d never been in room like that or anything. The second time was for Little Women and it was very clear that I wasn’t going to win, so it was much more fun and much more relaxing and not so much nerves. It can be quite stressful when everyone is telling you… I don’t know. I know people make jokes about that whole, “Oh, it’s an honor to be nominated.” But I really actually think there’s a lot of truth in that, you know.
I agree. But now you have the Emmys.
[Laughter.] There are so many of these award shows it’s crazy.
Do you have a karaoke song?
I’ve never done karaoke.
You’ve never done karaoke?
No. It came sort of after I would ever put myself in a position to get up in front of... actually, I was in Copenhagen once when it just had started. I didn’t even know what it was called and there was a restaurant and there was a machine and it was completely empty and I went up and fiddled around, but I didn’t, uh, do it. I didn’t do it. Yeah, I’ve never done that. I don’t think I’d be very good at that.
Can you sing?
Interviewee: Uh, I… umm… I don’t know. [Laughs.]