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Interview: Finn Wolfhard on 'Stranger Things', his fans, and his band Calpurnia.

Interview: Finn Wolfhard on 'Stranger Things', his fans, and his band Calpurnia.

It’s not often that you conduct an e-mail interview with someone and get back answers as eloquent and well thought out as Finn Wolfhard's - but he’s an exception to the rule in more ways than just this. From his starring role as Mike Wheeler in the breakout hit of 2016 ‘Stranger Things’, his upcoming band project Calpurnia, his role in 'IT' [a film version of Stephen King's novel set for release this September], and his music video directorial debut also on the way - thanks to a fundraising effort from his fans - Wolfhard is keeping busier than most.

With his newfound platform, Wolfhard is using it for a lot of good - selling merchandise where proceeds go towards indigenous community education, and hosting an event next month to raise money for Sweet Relief, an organisation which helps musicians in need.

Coup De Main spoke to Wolfhard recently about his upcoming projects, issues that he’s passionate about, and his thoughts on celebrity/fan relationships…

...everybody can give respect without cost.

COUP DE MAIN: You just passed your fundraising goal via Indiegogo for your directorial debut of a music video for Playdate - in which you’ll also star as the teenage vigilante of the western-inspired video. What was it about the song that made you want to create the video?
FINN WOLFHARD: I heard the demo version of the song and it has a low-fi surf and desert western vibe. When Josh (my co-director) and I started to think about a story and images, we were drawn to iconic films and characters like those in 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. So marrying the song to those ideas - it really just happened together.

CDM: What’s the #1 thing you’ve learnt about directing from the Duffer Brothers?
FINN: What I’ve learned from them - and I have learned a lot from Shawn Levy, too - is to be confident in my choices and vision and to make sure you have the best people around you who will execute those choices in the service of the vision. Leaving room for improv and unplanned moments is also really valuable because a good idea can come from anywhere. The Duffers are also incredibly patient and trusting in both their cast and their crew, and that gives everyone else involved the confidence to do their best work and be fearless. It’s really a virtuous circle that comes right back to the director.

CDM: I love your Official Finn Wolfhard t-shirt, especially the fact that proceeds from each t-shirt are "donated directly by me to an elementary school in an indigenous community struggling with geographic, cultural or economic isolation". It’s a really rad cause - when did you become aware of the lack of funding in indigenous communities?
FINN: My dad was a lawyer and is now an indigenous rights researcher, so there is talk and historical awareness of indigenous issues in our house all the time. Lots of people don’t even care about indigenous communities, but in my schools there are members of aboriginal communities facing challenges just being who they are. Also, there are indigenous communities in almost every country on earth, and most people don’t know that, so if I can help make people aware of these communities that are ignored or discriminated against, then maybe together we can all learn from each other and recognise that there are lots of different ways of living and we should respect that and support them. My dad also helped run a school, so I know that every school has a wish-list, and for sure some schools need more help than others. It’s not just about money, either, because everybody can give respect without cost.

Click here to purchase an Official Finn Wolfhard t-shirt.

CDM: Are there any other issues that you’re passionate about that you’d like to use your platform to raise awareness for?
FINN: We have really affordable health-care in Canada but we have so many friends in the U.S. who don’t, so I auctioned a signed guitar for Sweet Relief, which helps musicians in need. I’m also hosting an all-ages event at The Fonda in LA in May and some awesome musicians are going to help raise even more money for Sweet Relief.

CDM: You’re set to star in ‘It’, the adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel. Did you find any parallels between your characters Richie Tozier and Mike Wheeler during filming?
FINN: These are two totally different dudes, but that’s what I love about acting. Also, the snacks.

CDM: It looks like you became really close with the fellow members of The Losers’ Club during filming, and have been supporting their other endeavours - for example, Nicholas Hamilton and his role in ‘Captain Fantastic’. Do you find it important to support your fellow up-and-coming young actors?
FINN: We seven Losers, and the Bullies (Nic, Owen, Jake and Logan), we had the best Summer ever, and those are my bros (and sister Sophia!) - so I will always support their other projects whether in film or music or dance or visual arts or whatever. It is so frickin’ hard to survive as an artist period, not just as actors, so I support everybody who is creative. Making burgers or lattes for eight hours and then jamming or writing or painting, that is tough, and eventually you burn out. My brother also knows guys who are great actors and musicians but their parents want them to be accountants or whatever. Does the world really need more accountants?? It’s such a hard life to make a living in the arts, so the more awareness created and support for them the better.

CDM: You said about your fans in your Dazed interview: “It’s awesome that you’re showing support, but I’d love you to do something more creative. If you really love me, write a song about me! I don’t want you to be stuck on me. Because I’m just a person.” There’s a tendency with celebrities to not see them just as a person, but as someone placed on a pedestal above everyone else. What are your thoughts on how celebrity culture has escalated in society nowadays?
FINN: I don’t really think about it too much, but there’s way too much exploitation of so-called celebrities. Reality shows are just entertainment, and people have to remember whether they’re watching one of those shows or my show, that the people doing them, and me, we’re just skin and bones and doing something - for me, anyway - that we really love to do. All these other channels, especially digital, and social media, they need stuff to put on, and they put stuff and people on that are already known elsewhere, so you see the same people for awhile, and then you don't. A lot of what happens in that process is just trivial and disposable.

CDM: In an ideal world with unlimited resources available to you, what would your relationship with fans be like?
FINN: If I had more time I would obviously meet a lot more people, but I think I would still be guarded.

CDM: Last year you tweeted about an incident that happened to a friend of yours in regards to an invasion of privacy, something that celebrities often have to deal with - especially with social media, privacy is often no longer valued or respected. How have you dealt with this change in your lifestyle? It must be hard to do exactly the same things you did prior to ‘Stranger Things’.
FINN: I’ve had to change my phone-number, and my friends have been harassed for their numbers so people can get to me, and I definitely don’t go out as much in places that I know will be crowded. That’s not a huge deal for me because I don’t like being in large crowds, but I also have a few hundred thousand DMs and, sorry guys, I’m just never going to look at those. I appreciate the fact that people like what I’m doing, but if you DM me and we don’t know each other, the thing is that I don’t even have enough time for the friends I already have as it is. I do try my best to reach out to fans on Twitter and Instagram sometimes, but unfortunately it has to be random because I just don’t have time to do that and act and go to school and set up directing projects and write and play guitar and all the other stuff that I do. I know people get upset and think that I'm ignoring them, but I'm not doing that deliberately. And I have had to post stuff just to explain why I DIDN'T post stuff, and that is incredibly annoying. People were freaking out around Millie's birthday and I had to explain that I texted her privately rather than did a big public post to wish her happy birthday. Or I will see supportive comments talking about the hate I am supposedly getting, but 99% of the time, maybe because my exposure is random, I have no idea even what the beef is. I definitely love that people have my back, though!

CDM: The close-knit bond between all the characters in 'Stranger Things' is one of the things I think that makes the show feel so nostalgic and genuine. How do you think the way people form and maintain friendships now in 2017 is different to the 1980s?
FINN: Well, I think it’s the same as it was, but now you also have social media to meet even more people. I’ve got great friends who I first met on social media, and others who I met through mutual friends and school and acting.

CDM: Social media has obviously changed how we communicate with one another - do you think that has played a role in friendships too?
FINN: Yeah, it definitely has. Like I said, I’ve met a lot of people through social media and it’s super cool. I met Josh on Vine DMs and now we are shooting together. I also know that 'Stranger Things' fans stay in touch with each other between cons - it’s frickin’ awesome. People who have never met each other but have the show in common, I know from my feeds that they support each other, and that is really, really cool.

CDM: We spoke to Joe Keery last year, who told us about how emotional he got when you sent him a video of you covering a Post Animal song. Do you have a favourite Post Animal song?
FINN: Joe is the best and that band is so good - they are paying their dues now but there is no doubt they will get heard more widely. I like all their stuff but if I had to choose one, I’d say 'Goggles’.

CDM: Have you written any of your own music? Is it something you want to pursue further as well as acting?
FINN: Yeah, I have parts of my own songs now and I have also recorded stuff with other people. I will be covering three songs with my band Calpurnia at the Sweet Relief event in May. The band includes my friends Malcolm, who was in the PUP videos with me and is an amazing drummer and actor, and Ayla, who shreds on guitar and has already had multiple Berklee School scholarships (and took the dog in the last PUP video), and Jack, a bass-master. We don’t get to jam very often because of my schedule, but I love when we do. Other bands and producers have reached out and I try to post about the bands who work so hard and sound so good, and I also sat down with a Yoda-type dude in L.A. It is unbelievable to be taken seriously by someone at that level. Over the next few months I will have a better idea about where this is all going to go.

Watch the 'IT' trailer below...

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