Talk Nerdy Talks with Stranger Things Scene Stealer Priah Ferguson

Stranger Things Season 2 Ep 5 (screen grab) CR: Netlfix

Season two of Stranger Things dropped in October and fans couldn’t wait to catch-up with Mike and Eleven and the gang from the AV Club. What a treat it was when Lucas Sinclair’s sassy little sister Erica showed up as the breakout star nobody saw coming! Atlanta native Priah Ferguson auditioned for the role of Erica and after working with her, the Duffer brothers actually created more scenes for her character because she was such a great addition to the show. I got to talk to Priah over the holidays about how life as been since Stranger Things and what we can look forward to in season three!

What got you interested in acting?

Well, I’ve always been outgoing and would have conversations with people anywhere. People say I have an old soul. My parents recognized my big personality and how much I enjoyed dancing. They enrolled me into performing arts classes, acting camps, and workshops. Around age 4 or 5, I would sit and watch this movie called Daddy’s Little Girls over and over, starring The McClain Sisters. I told my mom, “I really want to do that.” So their work in that movie sort of inspired me. Program directors kept telling my parents I should get an agent, and I eventually signed with People Store in Atlanta and later, CESD Talent in LA.

Tell me a little bit about working on Atlanta?

That was amazing. Donald Glover and the entire cast and crew were really nice and laid back. I had a minor scene in episode 2, playing a character named Asia. Asia, along with her brother and cousin, are outside playing with toy guns until they’re scolded by their aunt. We’re impersonating a rapper called Paper Boi (played by Brian Tyree Henry). He is accused of shooting someone. Neither of us realize Paper Boi is walking by and he feels pretty bad while watching us play. He comes over to give some advice, but my aunt and I are a little rude to him at first. Once my aunt finds out he’s a legit rapper, she asks him for a selfie. It’s pretty funny. I couldn’t watch the entire show because of my age, but I love the dry comedy style of Atlanta and other shows like that. You know it’s comedy but they’re not trying too hard and it feels like real life. All the actors were amazing!

What was it like working with the Duffer brothers?

Working with the Duffer brothers was a blast. While filming, sometimes they would come up with a new idea for Erica. They would share it with me and just let me go with it. When I’m working, or in the zone, I’ll improv or ad lib just here and there. It’s not always on purpose or planned, but if it feels right I’ll go for it. I appreciate them for giving me space to do that, especially as a child actor. It really makes me feel connected and I’m grateful they trust my work. Oh, they took me and my mom on a set tour. It was cool to see how things come together behind the scenes.

What do you think is in store for Erica Sinclair on season three of Stranger Things?

I’m not sure. I sort of want to be surprised and haven’t thought too much about it. The writing is so good and there are so many directions they could go with her character. You can’t go wrong with Erica. By season 3, she may be around around 5th/6th grade, I guess. Erica’s very witty and opinionated, with leadership qualities. I feel as if she and Lucas will have to bond more, maybe it’s to protect him. Maybe it’s to protect her. I love how she brings this comedy style to Stranger Things and can’t wait to see her grow. I definitely don’t see her as being just one thing. I think the fans will be in for a treat.

What is it like being known as the breakout star of season three of Stranger Things?

[laughs] I don’t know. I mean, I’m very thankful and shocked by that. I knew people would love the Sinclair family, mainly because of the writing, and it was something fans wanted to see, but I didn’t think it would be this much love…especially for Erica. I just wanted to do good work. I’m just very thankful for an opportunity to do what I love and worked so hard for.

Did the Duffer brothers help you get into your character?

No, not really. They just let me come and do my thing. I appreciate them for that. The breakdown didn’t describe too much about the character, only Erica thinks Lucas and his friends are nerds. The Duffers only did a few takes, then we shot different angles. Everyone was just cracking up after each take saying, “Great job!” or “Wow!” It was funny because we wrapped the scene so fast. I just sort of stood around like…okkkay…I guess it’s time to go home. I guess we’re done? [laughs] They invited me to return and every time the experience was amazing. I prepare for every role, so when I get to set I’m focused and ready, but I have fun too. If the directors have any adjustments or want me to change the words a bit…I listen and fortunately they always seem to be happy with my work. That makes me happy too.

Was it the writing or were you ad-libbing Erica’s personality?

Umm…well, I guess a little bit of both. The writing was very strong. Strong writing helps me come up with ideas and paints a clear picture of Erica in my head. Then I can decide on where I want to take the character or what I want her to do. Whenever I’m in a good place, understanding the script or character, I’ll get ideas that aren’t on the paper and do what feels real (to me). That may be improv, or ad-libbing, but not too much. I still have to stick to the story. [laughs] I’ve always had strong facial expressions and features, even as a baby, so that just helps make it more interesting, I guess. [laughs] On the nerd scene, the Duffers didn’t tell me what to do with my facial expressions, or voice, or anything. I was just in character. With the syrup scene, the script didn’t have Erica say “Sorry” at the end…on the walkie-talkie scene, “Like I said” wasn’t in the script either. Those things just felt right at the time, while playing Erica, so I did it and the Duffers decided to keep it in there, which was really cool. I don’t think too much. I prepare, but I do what feels good in my heart.

Can you tell me about your upcoming projects?

Well, I filmed an independent sci-fi film directed by David Tabor called Ends, which they’re planning to turn into a feature. My role is much different than Erica Sinclair. I don’t have much dialogue and it’s more emotional. My grandmother suffers with mental illness and she communicates with aliens. I recently wrapped another project. Unfortunately…I can’t say much about it right now. [laughs]

What type of roles are your favorite so far?

I love dramatic and intense roles that challenge me. In addition to Erica I’ve played a pageant queen who was in a wheelchair, I’ve played a slave, an abused child, so many different roles that involve a bit of everything. There’s so much more I want to do, like action movies, or period films. Every role I’ve done so far I love for different reasons, so it’s hard to say.

What type of projects would you like to do in the future?

I love period films, not so much dark history but things from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s too. Oh, and an action movie. Maybe a young, sweet and very smart girl…into science or art, but she secretly takes on the bad guys. I definitely want to do some type of action movie where I get to flip a lot.

Tell me what you like to do for fun?

I love braiding my dolls hair. I like to dance. I’m on and off with learning guitar because of my schedule, but I enjoy that. I like the beach. For Christmas I got an American Girl director’s set, so my little sister and I make movies with our dolls. I also make mini-movies on my iPhone. [laughs]

What do you like to read?

I just got a new book called The Stars Beneath Our Feet. I love books about family situations, history, or drama. Books that will make me cry or laugh.

Tell me a little bit about how you like to give back to your community.

I hosted a book drive last year with my little sister. We donated over 100 books to a local women’s shelter and read stories. It was fun and the families were so happy. Next year I want to do more for homeless children and I’m planning something really special. Even if I can’t host my own event this year, I definitely plan to volunteer more of my time. I’m the Spokeskid of United Way of Greater Atlanta and I partner with them to help educate the community on ways to serve or give back.

Who inspires you? 

Meryl Streep. Omg! I’ve been watching some of her movies lately and every role she brings it. She’s really good. My favorite movie right now is The Devil Wears Prada. I also like Michael B. Jordan. He started off young and is such a good actor. A local screenwriter and director named Nakia Stephens also inspires me. I call her my big sister. [laughs]

Our website is called Talk Nerdy to Us. We love TV! What is one of your favorite shows right now? 

One of my favorite TV shows right now is the original Full House. Michelle makes me laugh.

Alright, and here’s my last question, do you really love syrup?

I’m not a big breakfast person, to be honest. I’m not a big…I like lunch and dinner because I feel like there are more options. But my mom and my sister, they’re all about syrup, they love syrup. But I’m not a big, sweet, breakfast person. I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of syrup. Now, I’ll eat it on pancakes if my mom tells me to eat breakfast, because I really, I really don’t eat breakfast in the morning. Sometimes, but she’ll say, “Breakfast is healthy for you!” It’s not my favorite thing in the world. I like oatmeal.

Priah has had a pretty great year and I suspect her future is very bright, like she is. With that attitude, I can only imagine the fun things the Duffer brothers have in store for young Erica Sinclair in season three. Keep an eye on this one, she’s quite a star!

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