Winona Ryder recalls her emotionally taxing experience while working on season 1 of Stranger Things. This is primarily due to the fact that she plays a grieving mother who is trying to find her missing son. Despite everyone claiming her child is dead, Joyce Byers refuses to believe this, and holds on to the supernatural possibility that he’s still alive.

After communicating with her youngest boy via a bundle of Christmas lights, she embarks upon a journey to find him. Yet playing the frenetic role of Joyce Byers caused the star to cry “almost every day” while on set.  

Winona Ryder can relate to her on-screen son

Ryder can relate to her fictitious son, Will, due to her own experiences in school. On Stranger Things, Will is the target of bullying because he’s considered “different.” Ryder herself has frequently discussed how rough her schooling days were due to her own set of tormentors.

Because she was different from everybody else at school, people would call her derogatory names, throw food at her, shove her against the lockers, and at one point, even beat her up. It got so bad that she had to get stitches. 

This was all because she embraced her eccentric persona, and the straight-laced people at school couldn’t accept it. And after starring in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, she assumed her school peers would finally see her as “cool” because it was such a popular movie.

But unfortunately, being cast as the death-obsessed Lydia only had the opposite effect. Instead, she got bullied even more. “They called me a witch,” she admits. 

The ‘Stranger Things’ star says she was a ‘wreck’ while playing Joyce Byers

According to Ryder, she was a “wreck” while playing the role of Joyce Byers. This is because she had to cry for 10 hours a day, every day on set. Because of her everflowing tears, Ryder says she had to stay hydrated by drinking a ton of water.

“For 10 hours, she was depleting her liquids through her tears,” Shawn Levy tells Vanity Fair. “It would never occur to me, ‘Oh, you should probably hydrate because all of your water is coming out through your tear ducts all day.’”

Ryder says that all her tears were real. They came from a place of Ryder putting herself in Joyce’s shoes, imagining the pain of losing her child. Because Ryder doesn’t have kids, she looked to her mother for inspiration. She asked her mom what she would have done if her child disappeared. Her mother responded that she’d be in complete denial, just like Joyce.

Winona Ryder had to mentally enter a place where she could cry for 10 hours straight

The Stranger Things actor describes how challenging it was to mentally enter a place that was as vulnerable as Mrs. Byers’ state of mind. Because her tears were real, it took a lot out of her to be that sad and afraid for the entire workday. She claims she is an “old school actor” who needs to get to that dark place all on her own without any external help. 

“The first episodes, I’m just a wreck,” Ryder tells Time Magazine. “And I’m sort of old school in my approach to acting. Like, if I have to cry, I have to really cry. I’m allergic to this thing they use [to help actors cry] if you literally run out of tears….I really have to go there mentally. Usually, in a film, there’s a couple of scenes, but this was my first time doing eight episodes of something, and let me tell you, crying all day—wow.” 

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