The Barb is back, folks.
When the Duffer Brother's watercooler smash Stranger Things aired on Netflix last summer, it made instant stars of its teenage cast. The names Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp were suddenly etched into the annals of online streaming history, echoing throughout eternity like the long roar of a demogorgon with a sore head. They were funny, charismatic, but really there was only one star to rule them all: Barb.
Ah, Barb. The dowdy but loyal friend, more interested in her studies than boys. The kind of girl who goes to her first party and gets attacked by a predatory humanoid from a parallel dimension (we all know the type!). With her oversized glasses and high waisted pants, the hitherto cruel, dark world of the internet recognised something in Barb higher than social ascent (we're looking at you, Nancy). It saw respect, hard work, love and friendship; a small chink of light in a world turned upside down. And it repaid it too -- spawning fan art, memes and even graffiti murals in her honour.
Of course, the Duffer brothers got rid of her, Barb appearing in precisely two episodes of season one (and we'd hazard a guess at precisely zero of the upcoming season two). But now The Barb is back! Or rather the lovely actor Shannon Purser is back! Starring in a new film, Wish Upon, and generally being very amazing IRL; combating online queerbaiting and going and getting herself nominated for a bloody Emmy in the process. Here, she talks us through the movie, and takes a look back at a year of Barb: a soul too pure for this dimension.
Hello Shannon! What's Wish Upon all about?
Basically the story is about a young girl who finds a magic box that grants her seven wishes. But every wish comes with a terrible blood price.
And would you say the moral of the film is not to use magic boxes at all, or just to wish for less risky things like matching coat hangers or some nice tupperware?
Well, I mean, I think as people will see, no matter what you wish for, no matter how good it sounds, something pretty tragic is about to happen. If you find a magic box, you know, stay far away.
What would you wish for if you had one wish?
Probably to win an Oscar, which has been my dream for such a long time.
And who would you like to pay the blood price for that?
No! I wouldn't wish for anything if I thought someone was going to die!
Good to clear that up. Did you always want to be an actor growing up?
My career path has changed quite a lot. When I was little I had a very vivid imagination so one day I wanted to be an author and write books and the next I wanted to be a marine biologist and study animals. But I think at the core of it all, I've always really loved stories. And I think that kind of love of literature and books kind of evolved into TV and film. From when I was 11 or 12, acting seemed like the best option. I was kind of an introverted kid but when I was on the stage or playing a character I felt a lot more confident and powerful.
Weren't you working in a movie theatre before Stranger Things?
Yeah, for two years. I actually continued to work there for several months after the show came out too. Until I started realising that maybe this wasn't a fluke or a one time thing.
It's about a year since Barb mania now, isn't?
Yeah, it's crazy to think about this 180 that my life has taken. I remember when the show first came out, and people really loved it. And I was like, "That's amazing. It's so cool I got to work on this popular show as my first job." But I didn't really think people would care too much about me, at all. I mean, I'm on screen for like, two minutes, you know? I'm really not that extraordinary. But people seemed to disagree! And all these tweets and all these followers started pouring in, that I did not anticipate at all. And people were upset. People were very upset over Barb's fate.
Why do you think she resonated so much?
I think for one thing, people like to root for the underdog in a way. Because everybody has been the underdog at some point. Everybody has been kind of left out, or been a third wheel, or felt like they maybe weren't as popular or confident as their other friends. And I think Barb kind of represented that, you know? That feeling that we all get sometimes of feeling a little bit alone and left out.
Matt Duffer said there's going to be "some justice for Barb" in the new season… Do you know what he means by that?
No, not really! I've heard bits and pieces but I really don't know the full extent of it yet. I'm excited to see what they do.
Have you considered that Wish Upon and Stranger Things may share a cinematic universe and that Barb was, in fact, a blood price for somebody else's wishes?
Ooo! That's an interesting theory.
Maybe that's how Steve got his nice hair?
And Barb was the unlucky soul. I guess!
Well, thank you, Shannon. We were very glad you survived Wish Upon.
Thank you! I was glad too.
Wish Upon is in cinemas Friday 28 July.
Text Matthew Whitehouse