Gaten Matarazzo discussed “Stranger Things,” Broadway and beyond on Oct. 13 at SHU Speaks, a Q&A event hosted by the Student Activities Board.
Matarazzo, 20, has been acting since he was eight. He is best known for his role as Dustin Henderson on Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
Matarazzo has also starred in Broadway shows “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “Les Miserables,” and, most recently, “Dear Evan Hansen.”
Outside of acting, Matarazzo is an ambassador for CCD Smiles, a nonprofit organization that raises money to help fund oral surgeries for those with cleidocranial dysplasia (CCD), which Matarazzo himself has; CCD is a rare condition that affects the bones and teeth.
SHU Speaks was moderated by SAB Live Event Coordinators Dylan Schwartz, a junior biochemistry major, and Jillian Crain, a junior biology major.
Crain said that she and Schwartz chose Matarazzo to speak due to the popularity of “Stranger Things” and potential student interest.
“Obviously, ‘Stranger Things’ is still a very big show, so Gaten was kind of a no-brainer, especially when we were informed that he was an option,” Crain said. “It wasn’t just that he was from ‘Stranger Things,’ but he was also local, and he was centered around the age bracket we thought students would enjoy.”
Schwartz added that they also picked Matarazzo due to his interesting life story.
“We wanted someone who not only was popular but someone who we thought could give a very fun and captivating talk to the audience,” Schwartz said.
During the event, Crain and Schwartz alternated asking Matarazzo questions about different points in his acting career and beyond; Matarazzo met each question with an enthusiastic, detailed answer.
Matarazzo spoke in depth about all questions asked, but he was especially thorough regarding “Stranger Things,” a fan-favorite topic. He touched on the audition process, a “typical” day on set, how kids at school reacted to his fame, and strange fan encounters.
The crowd laughed and cheered throughout the conversation with Matarazzo. Some came decked out in “Stranger Things” merch, and Schwartz said one student even arrived hours early to secure a spot.
“We had someone who showed up at 1 p.m. prepared to see him, a whole seven hours before the show,” Schwartz said.
Alexa Stronski, a sophomore psychology major, said she enjoyed the event and how interactive Matarazzo was with the audience, not just the moderators.
“He told random stories to us as if he trusted us; it didn’t feel scripted at all,” Stronski said. “He would engage the audience by asking them questions and reacting to the audience’s reactions. He made the audience feel like we were all friends, and it never felt like he was coming off as better than us.”
Students were able to submit their questions to SAB. If approved, they were allowed to ask Matarazzo their question personally after the moderated portion of the event and meet him afterward.
Stronski was among those selected, her questions being, “What can you see yourself doing after ‘Stranger Things’ since it has been such a large portion of your acting career?”
She said that meeting Matarazzo was awesome and that it felt like hanging out with a longtime friend.
“He’s very welcoming, comforting, relatable and humble,” Stronski said. “He even went out of his way to take a video saying hello to my brothers. Our interaction was short but very unforgettable.”
Brooke McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.