Stranger Things's Sadie Sink on the '80s Trends She Could Do Without

Join us for some Small Talk as we sit down with some of Hollywood’s biggest breakout stars.

When Sadie Sink's character Max first arrives in Hawkins on the second season of Stranger Things, the new girl in school turned heads with her flame-colored hair and her skills on the skateboard and in the arcade. From that moment on, the enraptured audience of the Netflix hit has rightfully had a hard time looking away from the scene-stealer. 

Beyond making a name for herself onscreen, however, Sink has also become something of a fashion darling, having walked the runway in Paris with Naomi Campbell and starred in campaigns for both Kate Spade and Miu Miu — all by the age of 17. 

InStyle caught up with Sink while she was in the middle of shooting the upcoming Fear Street 2 in Atlanta, and got to talking about her favorite on-set moments, her passion for sustainable fashion, and how she came to be a "chill" vegan. 

Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things ahead.

InStyle: When Max is introduced in Stranger Things, there's a lot of mystery surrounding who she is and what she's doing in Hawkins. How did you initially approach playing her character?

Sadie Sink: Well, I think that there's a lack of information that I was given, just because the character was so new, and also the scripts are kind of written as we're filming. So I didn't really know anything about her backstory. I just kind of had to do as much as I could with what I knew about her.

When I read the sides for the audition, I had this automatic connection with the character, I thought she was so cool. Yeah, it was challenging but I think it's also a lot of fun. For those first two episodes, she is kind of a mystery, they played that up, and had her a little bit more closed off, and it was fun because that allows me to kind of go to somewhere and have an arc throughout the season. I just get to learn more about her family history and her background, and her relationship with her brother as well.

Max and Billy obviously have a really complicated relationship when they're first introduced. How do you think she feels about him through season 3, and the end of season 3?

Well season 2 is where he has all the power in the relationship, and he's able to manipulate her and it's not a good relationship, obviously, between the characters. But by the end of season 2, she makes it known that she's not going to take the torment any longer, and then they're in a space where they're not friendly but he's not being so mean to her anymore.

That's kind of where we pick up in season 3. But while there's not many complications similar to what they have in season 2, they introduce a new one with his death — she's obviously very conflicted. 

What was it like having more scenes with Millie Bobby Brown this season?

It was really fun, because we're friends off set as well. That genuine bond that we had, we carried that into our scenes that we had together as Max and Eleven. The big montage scenes, all of those interactions between the two of us, that was all very genuine and real. So I think it helped kind of develop the friendship between the two of them, and it helps the audience understand why they have such a great connection.

But yeah, those scenes were really fun, especially because the rest of the season is so dark, and these kids just can't catch a break. So it's fun to see them at the beginning, just seeing them being goofy.

Do you have a favorite memory from the set?

Any night shoots are always the best because all of us are really delirious, and we're all just really goofy and silly with each other. So those are always the most fun for me. When I look back on my experience in season 3, and in season 2, I just think of those crazy night shoots, where we're all just messing with each other.

All the scenes at the mall were really fun, because it was just a really interesting location. Obviously the set's incredible, and it looks spectacular. But what they're not showing is kind of the other parts of the mall, which is really run down, so like our abandoned store. It was really funny. I have some funny videos and pictures of us just late night, just doing random crap.

What was it like filming with Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas in the show? Your characters have a relationship that's very different from the very gooey Mike and Eleven relationship. 

Right. I loved doing that, because their relationship was so, so different and I feel like it's kind of the realistic middle school relationship — how you're together one second, and break up the next. Caleb, he's the best to work with just because he's so funny.

I am never the first person to break character, but when I'm with Caleb, he's the only person that's ever made me break, and it was in that one scene where he's doing the New Coke thing, in the supermarket. Eleven is in the void, and he's opening up a fresh can of New Coke and talking about how much he loves it. And the way that he delivered this line, he would do like, "Sweeter, bolder, better." But it was so funny. I think you can even see it if you watch that scene, you can see me kind of break character. I couldn't hide it!

The show has been making news because it's broken records for Netflix since the season 3 premiere. What has this overwhelming response been like for you?

I mean, even just within the last few days, going to various places around Atlanta, I've been stopped a lot more, which I think I expected. But also it's amazing to see the appreciation that fans have, and you obviously see it online, how many people are watching it. You see all the records that are being broken. Just to have someone face-to-face tell you that they just finished the season in two days and they loved it so much, and they think it's the best season yet — that's very rewarding because we all worked so hard on it. 

So it's a really great feeling for it to finally be released, and to finally be able to talk about it, tell my fans about it, and talk in interviews about it.

What would you like to see happen for Max in season 4?

We'll see — if there's a season 4 — where they want to take the character. I hope that we're able to kind of explore her, how she's coping with where we left off at the end of season 3 and her mourning process. It'll be interesting to see what they do with that.

If there's another season, they'll be in high school, which is crazy to think. It's wild that at some point the kids are going to be the age that Nancy and Jonathan and Steve were. They won't necessarily be "the kids" anymore, they'll be "the teens." But I feel like we're always going to be categorized as "the kids in Stranger Things."

There's a sequence in this season where Max and El are playing around with clothes in the mall, and it's all very '80s. Are you a fan of '80s fashion yourself?

Some of the time, I guess. I like the jeans, the high-waisted jeans, I think those are really cool — and obviously in fashion today. It's all very colorful, which is fun, and I think I got to wear color a lot more [this season]. But some of the trends, I think I could do without.

Which ones?

I mean, just like the windbreakers, and all of that. The suspenders, I thought those were pretty weird. The crazy prints, the super graphic prints, I'm not about that. Watch it come back, within the next 10 years, and everyone's going to be dressing like that. But that's what's so great about fashion, we're able to take in information from the decades before us.

Yeah, exactly. Well, you're also very stylish yourself — you modeled at Paris fashion week, and you did a Kate Spade campaign. How did you get into fashion?

I've always kind of had this interest in fashion. But when I was younger, obviously, I didn't have access or a lot of knowledge about some of the brands I've been lucky enough to work with today. So I think just kind of through the success of the show, and the platform that it's given me, it's also given me a lot of opportunities, like you said, to go to Paris and work with Miu Miu, and Kate Spade, and incredible opportunities like that.

I've learned a lot more about fashion, and I think just even at the beginning of press, when I started working with my stylist [Molly Dickson], I was just kind of clueless. I knew what my style was in a way, but I was also at that age where you're still trying to figure all of that out. So I think with the help of my stylist, and also just learning more about the fashion industry, I think I developed my own style, and I'm able to kind of voice my opinion on what I like and I don't like. 

Totally. And you've worn Rooney Mara's vegan clothing line, Hiraeth. Is ethical and sustainable fashion something that's important to you?

Yeah, definitely. I think going forward, all brands need to be kind of striving for sustainability. It's something that I think a lot of brands are starting to do as well, which is incredible. So I love working with Rooney's line, I love Hiraeth, I think their clothes are really sick and they're so cool. Not only is [the brand] sustainable and vegan, and it's good for the environment, but [the clothes are] also super cute.

I think it's important to wear those brands and show people that you don't have to sacrifice all these trends, and you can still wear the clothes that you want while still being sustainable.

And you're also vegan when it comes to your diet, right? What inspired you to make the change?

I was vegetarian for a year before that, and it was initially a challenge. But my friend told me that I wouldn't last a week if I went vegetarian. So I did, I lasted a week, and a month, and a few more months, and then a year. It wasn't just for the purpose of proving my friend wrong, it was also for ethical reasons as well!

I was fully into that period of time where I was a vegetarian. I researched a lot about the benefits of that diet, and watched a lot of documentaries like Food, Inc. and What the Health, and those films were kind of able to help me make the final step and become vegan. And also just spending a lot of time around other vegans. Because I think there's this misconception about vegans, that it's impossible, and they're crazy or whatever. But it's not like that, you can be vegan and still be really chill.

You have a huge social media following, you've mentioned that you're not actually on Instagram that much. Do you have a policy when it comes to social media?

I don't really have a policy. I go on it whenever I want to, but that's not that often. This whole social media thing has been a very new experience for me. But I feel like I'm becoming a lot more comfortable with it, and it's interesting kind of watching the followers go up even just after season 3. Weirdly enough, I think I'm becoming a lot more comfortable with it. Which is good, and I think it's something that my fans obviously want to see.

But I think it's important to have a balance as well. I'll go months at a time without having Instagram on my phone, whenever I need to post, posting it from my mom's phone or something. But I'm not really about spending every second on social media. I think there's a lot more useful things you can do with your time.

Small Talk:

Which celebrity were you most starstruck to meet?

Probably the Queer Eye cast.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

I never really had a celebrity crush when I was little. I know some of my friends have posters up on their bedroom wall, I was never really about that.

What did you last binge watch?

There's this show on Netflix called Instant Hotel, it's a strange show, it's like HGTV meets a competition show. And I'm obsessed with it. 

What is your favorite item of clothing that you own?

Probably it's this harness from Hiraeth, Rooney's line. I wear it all the time to do press events and stuff. And I try to incorporate it every day, into my every day style, which is [usually] a white t-shirt and jeans. But yeah, it's such a cool piece. You can't wear it all the time, but when you do, it's one of those things that everyone's like, "Oh my God, I want one of those."

What is the next thing that you're looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to new projects and stuff that I'm doing. I think for a while I was looking forward to season 3 being released, and now that that has happened I'm like, "OK, now I can focus on other projects."

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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