The 20-year-old actor, who plays Lucas Sinclair on Netflix's teen fantasy drama, recently opened up about experiencing racism while starring on the show.
During an appearance at Heroes Comic Con Belgium last week, McLaughlin reflected on some of his early experiences meeting “Stranger Things” fans.
“My very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black,” McLaughlin recalled in videos posted by fans on social media. “Some people told me: ‘Oh, I didn’t want to be in line because you were mean to (Millie Bobby Brown’s character) Eleven.’ Even now, some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black.”
— Heroes Comic Con Belgium (@HComicConBE) September 25, 2022
McLaughlin added that this mistreatment is sometimes heightened when he travels outside the U.S. “Sometimes overseas, you’ll feel the racism,” he said. “You’ll feel the bigotry, and sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand.”
The SAG-winning actor, who co-stars on “Stranger Things” with Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and Brown, said it was difficult at first for him to wrap his head around his lukewarm public reception.
“When I was younger, it definitely affected me a lot, because you’re like, ‘Why am I the least favorite? The least amount of followers? I’m on the same show as everybody from Season 1,’ ” McLaughlin said.
He added: “My parents had to be like, ‘It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show.’ Wow, that’s crazy. Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I’m not loved?”
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But McLaughlin said he chooses to shake off the negativity and take the high road instead.
“With my platform, I’m going to spread positivity and love because I’m not giving hate back to people who are giving hate to me,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin made his acting debut in 2012 with the Royce Dunmore short film “Noah Dreams of Origami Fortunes.” Aside from “Stranger Things,” he’s also starred in the AMC+ crime comedy “Ultra City Smiths” and the 2020 western drama “Concrete Cowboy” opposite Idris Elba. McLaughlin is currently set to star in the upcoming Lee Daniels thriller “The Deliverance.”
McLaughlin told USA TODAY in July that he has come a long way as an actor since starting “Stranger Things” as a teenager, and that he hopes to have more scenes with Eleven (Brown) and Mike Wheeler (Wolfhard). But he said the series' ending is already on the cast's mind as the show plans only one more season.
“We'll be friends in the end, but 'Stranger Things' has been a big part in my life and helped me and exposed me to the world,” McLaughlin said. “It's not going to be bittersweet. It's going to be really sad.”
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Contributing: Anthony Robledo, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Caleb McLaughlin recalls experiencing racism by 'Stranger Things' fans