Caleb McLaughlin faced some covert (and overt) racism as he rose to stardom while portraying Lucas Sinclair in Stranger Things. The star made an appearance at the Heroes Comic Con Belgium convention over the weekend and talked about some of the experiences he’s had as a Black actor on the beloved Netflix show.
“It definitely took a toll on me as a younger kid,” the actor said in a video captured by an attendee. “My very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black. Some people told me, ‘Oh I didn’t want to be in your line because you were mean to Eleven.’”
He added, “Even now, some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black. Sometimes overseas, you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger, it definitely affected me a lot.”
McLaughlin said that as a teen (he’s now 20), he wondered why he didn’t have as many social media followers as some of his co-stars and asked his parents why he was often the “least favorite” among his castmates.
“Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I’m not loved,” he said. “But that’s why with my platform, I want to spread positivity and love because I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me.”
Racism within fandoms surrounding TV shows, especially fantasy ones like Stranger Things, has been the topic of conversation over the last few years. Most recently, the cast of Rings of Power stood in solidarity with its castmates of color after fans were attacking them for not being white.
“We, the cast of Rings of Power, stand together in absolute solidarity and against the relentless racism, threats, harassment, and abuse some of our castmates of color are being subjected to on a daily basis,” read a statement at the time. “We refuse to ignore it or tolerate it.”
Other high-profile TV shows and films have cast actors of color in roles originally portrayed by white people, including Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid in Disney’s upcoming live-action, Kelly Marie Tran in The Last Jedi, and Moses Ingram in Obi-Wan Kenobi, who all received hate for their roles.