“Stranger Things” put Caleb McLaughlin on the Hollywood map, but his rise to fame also brought deeply personal challenges.
The actor, who plays Lucas Sinclair on the smash Netflix series, made an appearance at the Heroes Comic Con Belgium convention this week. In a short interview at the event, he recalled having been confronted with racist attitudes from some fans of the show.
“My very first comic con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black,” McLaughlin explained, as seen in a short video posted to Twitter. “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.”
Now 20, McLaughlin began his role on “Stranger Things” in 2016, when he was just 14. After the horror-science fiction series became a global sensation, the New York native noticed he had substantially fewer followers on social media than his white co-stars, including Gaten Matarazzo, Noah Schnapp and Finn Wolfhard.
“My parents had to be like, ‘It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show,’” he said. “Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I’m not loved.”
In many respects, McLaughlin’s experiences echo those of Halle Bailey.
One-half of the R&B duo Chloe x Halle, Bailey was hit with online backlash after being cast as Ariel in Disney’s forthcoming live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid.”
Other family films, including the Disney animated feature “The Princess and the Frog” and the 1997 TV musical “Cinderella,” have featured Black princesses. Still, Bailey found herself targeted by online trolls, who say they object to seeing a Black woman playing a mermaid portrayed as white in the original animated film.
As is the case for Bailey, McLaughlin’s artistic strengths have continued to prove the haters wrong. He’s set to appear in the LeBron James biopic “Shooting Stars” alongside Marquis “Mookie” Cook as the NBA superstar.
With “Shooting Stars” poised to boost McLaughlin’s star profile even higher, he said he hopes to “spread positivity.”
“I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me,” he said Tuesday.