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To Millie Bobby Brown, Age Is but a Number

By Patrick Chew

Millie Bobby Brown in Moncler 4 Simone Rocha shrug.
 
Catherine Servel
Millie Bobby Brown in Moncler 4 Simone Rocha shrug.

Sitting opposite Millie Bobby Brown, and listening to her speak about her life experiences was rather surreal. After all, this is a 15-year-old girl who grew up watching the Disney Channel, someone who wanted nothing more than to be like Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana and Selena Gomez in Wizards of Waverly Place. 

But Brown has more than moved on from that, and speaks like a seasoned actress, well beyond her years about her Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, how she can’t wrap her head around how much things have changed since “Stranger Things”, and how she’s done so many dramas that she’s ready to branch out and explore other things such as directing, which, according to her, would come naturally because she’s a self-proclaimed bossy person. 

No, I wasn’t dealing with any other 15-year-old. It’s a sentiment that seems to be echoed throughout the industry and by everyone who has spent time with Brown. 

Catherine ServelBrown in Moncler 4 Simone Rocha shrug and shirt (worn inside), stylist’s own leggings, Prada boots.
Brown in Moncler 4 Simone Rocha shrug and shirt (worn inside), stylist’s own leggings, Prada boots.

Aaron Paul wrote in last year’s Time 100 that he immediately regretted choosing an ice cream shop to meet Brown because she possessed “a perspective and groundedness” that made her “somehow understand the human experience as if she has lived it for a thousand years.” David Harbour, who stars opposite Brown as Chief Hopper in “Stranger Things”, mentioned in an interview, “I would like to be able to watch movies with her in her 30s and have her become Meryl Streep. She has the potential for that to happen.” 

Her breakout role in “Stranger Things” saw her portraying a character whose dialogue originally amounted to less than 250 words in the entire first season. But Brown wasn’t fazed by the role being essentially nonverbal. “To convey emotion without speaking was relatively easy for me,” she says. 

Catherine ServelBrown in Givenchy dress and de Cosmi earrings.
Brown in Givenchy dress and de Cosmi earrings.

Neither was Brown fazed by having to shave her head for the role. She was 11 years old at the time. “It was empowering. I didn’t think twice about it,” she recalls. “But when I did it, the show hadn’t come out yet so no one knew who I was. I remember being at a Halloween store, buying my costume — it was a Tinkerbell costume. And there was a grown couple who was pointing at me, laughing in my face, and making fun of me.” 

Though slightly disheartened, Brown’s takeaway from that experience wasn’t that of naive defiance, but one of remarkable perception. “People now say to me, ‘Wow, it’s so cool that you shaved your head’. But is it because of who I am?” she questions. “Would you have said that if I wasn’t who I am and I was in a Halloween store?” 

Brown carries this headstrong, unapologetic approach throughout life. Earlier this year, she responded to comments on her Instagram calling her to “act her age” by posting a photo on Instagram Stories that read, “ik everyone on my last pic wants me to ‘act my age’ but quite frankly its my instagram and if I choose to post that picture and you don’t like it... scroll past it).” 

Catherine ServelBrown in Moncler 8 Palm Angels top and pants, and Gucci shoes.
Brown in Moncler 8 Palm Angels top and pants, and Gucci shoes.

Brown, who is the second youngest of four children, insists her personal life hasn’t changed. “I still get treated the exact same way when I’m home. Just one of the kids, you know? We have to sit at the dinner table, phones away.” The only change Brown admits to is that people now recognise her on the street. “My life’s changed such that people are listening,” she says. “So I’m trying to get my message across as quickly as I can because people don’t listen for long.” 

Last year, Brown was named UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador. As the youngest person to ever hold that title, her message is simple: “To speak out against cyberbullying”. Brown draws from her own experience of being bullied in school to the point of having to actually switch schools to bring attention to the immense anxiety and stress children face. 

For now, Brown isn’t thinking about life after “Stranger Things”. Taking it one step at a time whilst keeping her options open, it’s perhaps safe to say that Brown is only just getting started. In a somewhat poignant parallel, Brown is just like her character, Eleven, who needed some time at the beginning to learn the ropes before eventually growing and developing into the powerful, respectable woman she is today. 

Catherine ServelFrom left: Brown in Saint Laurent dress; Moncler 4 Simone Rocha coat and dress (worn inside).
From left: Brown in Saint Laurent dress; Moncler 4 Simone Rocha coat and dress (worn inside).

PATRICK CHEW: You’ve never had acting training. You also mentioned that you never did school plays as a child. How did your passion for acting start? 

MILLIE BOBBY BROWN: I didn’t act in school plays because it wasn’t the acting I wanted to do at the time. I didn’t know that that was a real job. And when I found out that it’s something I can actually do, I was really happy. [laughs] 

PC: Do you identify with your character in “Stranger Things”?

MBB: Eleven has evolved so much. In season one, she could barely say a word. She didn’t know how to even speak because of her PTSD and her trauma. Season two saw her becoming more of a person and growing into her skin. But season three is really about herself and who she is. At my age right now, not many 16-year-olds really know who they are. And neither do I. 

PC: How did you approach a role with so little speaking parts?

MBB: I was an expressive child. I was always crying in the mirror. Pulling weird facial expressions.
My parents always knew I was a bit weird. To convey emotion without speaking was relatively easy for me. You can totally know what’s going on in my head without me even speaking a word. I’ll get a note saying that I need to be angry and sad at the same time. It was just a lot of mirror work.

Catherine ServelBrown in Prada dress and boots, and Max Mara turtleneck (worn inside).
Brown in Prada dress and boots, and Max Mara turtleneck (worn inside).

PC: How did you feel about having to shave your head for the role?

MBB: It was really fun, empowering. I was only 11 years old at the time. I was pretty nervous to not having any hair. But I didn’t think about it twice. I immediately wanted to do it. It was important to feel good about myself no matter what I look like. 

I don’t really take into consideration other people’s opinion because everybody else’s opinion could be fake. 

PC: Has your life changed drastically since being under the spotlight?

MBB: You know, people recognise me in the streets. It’s been a crazy experience. But the main thing is that people are now listening. So I’m trying to get my message across as quickly as I can because people don’t listen for long. Short attention spans, you know? 

PC: What, then, is your message?

MBB: My message is to young people. Cyber bullying is one of the most stressful things for me at the moment. I don’t understand how someone can sit behind a screen and hate for so long. It’s damaging. Speaking out against cyber bullying is one of my biggest messages. And also, children’s rights. Every child deserves to have an opportunity, an education, a dream. So I’m trying to get the world leaders of today to understand that youth should have a say too. 

Working with UNICEF and becoming a Goodwill Ambassador was one of the greatest moments of my whole entire life. I’m looking forward to spreading kindness. The world needs to be a kinder place and it will. That’s me being positive. [laughs] 

Catherine ServelFrom left: Brown in Dries Van Noten jacket, Max Mara turtleneck (worn inside), de Cosmi earrings; Christian Dior shirt, top, pants, belt, boots, earrings and ring.
From left: Brown in Dries Van Noten jacket, Max Mara turtleneck (worn inside), de Cosmi earrings; Christian Dior shirt, top, pants, belt, boots, earrings and ring.

PC: Have you thought about life after “Stranger Things”?

MBB: No, I don’t want to think about life after Stranger Things. It makes me too sad. They’re like my family. Eventually I might think about getting into directing, or writing. I’m just trying to learn more about everyone’s jobs. That’s all I can do. I’m 15. So right now I want to learn and listen to what people have to say. If that’s me helping with the lighting, sure I’ll do that too. 

PC: What types of roles do you see yourself getting into in the future?

MBB: I want to try controversial roles. Something that really challenges me. Not that everything I’ve done wasn’t challenging. It was. I definitely want to try something that takes preparation, that takes studying. If it’s a movie about someone and I’d be playing that someone, I’d love that. I want to be versatile. I definitely want to do a comedy because I think I am very funny. I’ve done many dramas already that I’m ready to explore other things. 

Related Story: On Set | Millie Bobby Brown on Life After “Stranger Things”
Photographs by Catherine Servel
Styling by Jack Wang
Hair by Ward Stegerhoek (The Wall Group)
Makeup by Georgi Sandev (Forward Artists)
Manicure by Daria Hard Eman (Wilhelmina)
Set design by Samantha cook (Brydges Mackinney)
Photography assistance by James Garrett and Matthew Perino
Contributing Wardrobe Editor: Erin McSherry
Digital Tech: Matthew Mitchell (Dtouch)
Executive Producer: Anna Rybus (Prospero Production)
Production Manager: Michael Raveney (Prospero Production)