Cast of Stranger Things no longer strangers to success
Child actors of Stranger Things talk about how their lives changed after they shot to stardom last year
Fifteen months ago, the world knew nothing about these children.
Fast forward to July, Millie Bobby Brown, Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard and Caleb McLaughlin were rock stars at Comic-Con International held at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel, as they joined the cast of the popular Netflix TV series Stranger Things to promote its second season, which premieres on Oct 27.
The conversation turned to the moment the teens realised their '80s-set sci-fi horror show was a hit, and fame came a-calling.
English actress Brown, 13, who earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress this year for the show, remembers the day - July 15, 2016 - clearly.
"I was in the car and the show (premiered on Netflix). My Instagram followers that day were 24, and three months later I hit nearly 2 million. So it was a big change."
It was a similar experience for Canadian actor Wolfhard, 14, who was also part of the main cast in this year's hit horror movie It.
"The next day I went to work, I was shooting It, and everyone was like, 'Hey, have you seen your Instagram?' I was at 1,000 and the night before (the Stranger Things premiere) I was at 130 or something.
"A bunch of the (It) crew members came up to me saying, 'Good show, I watched you last night'."
Winning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series earlier this year was a big turning point for New Yorkers Schnapp, 13, and McLaughlin, 16.
The latter said: "Sometimes when you are resting at home, you are not on social media, and you are like, 'Oh yeah, I am on a TV show'. Then you go to an awards show (like the SAGs), we win, everyone is cheering for us. It was just, wow, people really love the show.
"So it is moments I have that it goes up to the next level. I would say I am on level 300 right now. There is more, I guess. Everything is going to skyrocket like crazy."
Indeed, the hype for Season 2 is off the charts.
It is 1984 and the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, are still reeling from the horrors of the Demogorgon monster and the secrets of the Hawkins lab. Will Byers (Schnapp) has been rescued from the Upside Down, an alternate dimension, but still has nightmares.
Meanwhile, a sinister supernatural entity still threatens those who survived, including Will's best friends (Matarazzo, Wolfhard and McLaughlin) and their psychokinetic friend Eleven (Brown).
The US creators of the show, twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, had always planned a second season, keeping the same characters, but did not know "if anyone is going to care or be interested in it".
"My Instagram followers that day (when Stranger Things premiered) were 24, and three months later I hit nearly 2 million followers."Millie Bobby Brown
Matt, 33, said: "We were in our own little bubble making the show, and the success of it was a surprise.
"By the time the show had come out, we had already mapped out where we wanted to go. But... we don't want to keep going until the audiences lose interest. We want to go out on top."
According to US actor David Harbour, 42, who plays the Hawkins police chief, Stranger Things has resonated with international audiences as well.
He said: "I get tweets from Dubai and places where I have to use Google Translate to try to (understand them), who are relating to the Midwest American experience of 1983. The fact that they feel that connection to it is something that I think is really mysterious."
Most of all, the success of Stranger Things has impacted the lives of its young leads the most.
As a homeschooled child, Brown does not have many friends but found more on set.
"I am okay with it. These are my best friends. I don't really need anybody else... I used to come to Comic-Con, so it's crazy for me to be on the other side."
Schnapp said his pals do not care about his success, while Wolfhard chimed in: "I think it is because you knew them before. If you know someone before, that is a good bet they are your true friends and don't care if you are an actor or not."
Matarazzo's experience has been different though.
The 15-year-old New Jersey native - who has cleidocranial dysplasia, a congenital disorder that mostly affects the development of bones and teeth - said: "It has been kind of weird because a lot of the kids that go to my school have been treating me much different than they did before, sad to say, which I don't really like all that much...
"I remember I was in line for lunch one day and one of the kids was like, 'Why aren't you cutting the line? You are in a show, you should be in the front of the line'. That makes me want to go to the back of the line even more."
McLaughlin added: "I stopped school and became homeschooled because I have this crazy acting life. I was at school from (pre-kindergarten) to fifth grade.
"I still have genuine friends who still support me and are not jealous of me. They will send me fan art that they see on Instagram.
"And the kids in school, they hate. I just block them off."
FOR THE FULL INTERVIEW WITH MILLIE BOBBY BROWN, GO TO TNP.SG