Natalia Dyer Says Stranger Things Changed Her Life "Literally Overnight"

She's got a new project that would make Nancy Wheeler proud.

Natalia Dyer
Photo: Tina Turnbow

We all remember the scene in Titanic. It starts out innocently enough: Jack and Rose stumble upon a town car in the boat’s cargo hold, a brief roleplay ensues (Jack as the driver, Rose as the passenger, naturally), then — bam! — that steamy handprint hits the window and viewers worldwide collectively swoon. It remains one of the raciest moments in cinematic history. So it’s no surprise that it’s a critical plot point in Yes, God, Yes, a new drama about a Catholic teen struggling with sexual temptation, starring Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer.

“I have a vivid memory of my parents watching Titanic when I was a little kid,” Dyer, 22, recently said by phone. “I was supposed to be in bed, but I snuck behind a chair to watch it. That scene was inarguably very sexy. I knew that whatever was on-screen was something I should not have been watching.”

Yes, God, Yes, which was directed by Karen Maine (of Obvious Child), is based on Maine’s 2017 short of the same name, in which Dyer also starred. The full-length feature recently premiered at the South by Southwest Festival, and further develops the story of Alice, the aforementioned 16-year-old who enters the proverbial dark side after watching Leo and Kate do their thing. Desperately seeking redemption, she signs up for a religious retreat with her classmates, only to discover that the group leaders are also fighting to suppress their carnal desires.

Charlie Heaton, Natalia Dyer
Netflix/Everett Collection

One can’t help but notice the similarities between Alice and Nancy Wheeler, Dyer’s gutsy character on the hit Netflix series about what happens when the dark side starts seeping into the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana. “Whenever you play teenagers, there’s always an element of self-discovery,” she said. “This movie explores what it means to grow up with an organized religion that can shape your relationship with yourself, then what happens when you choose to confront it.”

That self-reflection is an experience Dyer, who attended parochial school in her hometown of Nashville, can personally relate to. “You get to a certain age and start to question things that you never thought to question before,” she said. “When you’re young, you learn so much from the people around you. It’s important to give people the opportunity to think for themselves.”

For Dyer, that’s an ethos that extends to her wardrobe, too. She’s come a long way from her school uniform, favoring designers from Dolce & Gabbana, like her beaded gold Emmys gown, to Christian Dior — her black-and-white SAG Awards dress with astrological motifs. “Fashion is another opportunity for me to play a character,” she says. “Clothes can really change how you see yourself: your mood, your confidence. I like to play around a lot.”

Though she may relish the theatrics of Hollywood, when it comes to her personal life, Dyer eschews the spotlight more than most young twenty-somethings in the business. “When Stranger Things premiered, given the nature of how Netflix operates, things started to change literally overnight,” she said. “It’s still an adjustment. I’m an introverted person naturally. I like to keep to myself.”

VIDEO: #TBT — Natalia Dyer Talks Season 1 of Stranger Things

Still, she dabbles in social media. Her Instagram account, @nattyiceofficial — a “high school nickname,” she said — commands 3.7 million followers, and she primarily posts red carpet photos and trailers for upcoming projects, along with the occasional #TBT. “It’s a great platform, but it scares me,” Dyer said. “I’m fearful of general accessibility. I got rid of my Facebook; I don’t do Twitter. I prefer to keep my personal life separate. My Instagram is a lot more work-based than life-based.”

That’s not to say the two don’t intertwine. Stranger Things fans will notice that Dyer’s on-screen and IRL boyfriend, Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers on the show, is largely absent from her feed. “It’s important to have a life outside of work,” she said. “You want to give it 100 percent when you’re there, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in things. Relationships require time and work too.”

As for the highly-anticipated third season of Stranger Things, hitting Netflix on July 4, Dyer remains tight-lipped. “It’s so amped-up and so different,” she said. “The writers weave everything together in such a tasteful way. Every year just gets bigger and bigger.” We’re waiting with bated breath.

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