Since Stranger Things debuted on the streaming giant in 2016, McLaughlin has been a regular fixture as the character Lucas Sinclair, alongside Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven, and Noah Schnapp’s Will Byers. However, despite being a main character in the beloved show, McLaughlin has had to suffer through very different experiences than his co-stars when it comes to the Stranger Things fanbase and overall support for his career.
During the recent Heroes Comic Con in Belgium, a recording of McLaughlin opening up to a room of TV enthusiasts and industry professionals was recorded and posted on Twitter. “Why am I the least favourite? [Have] the least amount of followers?” McLaughlin said on stage. “I’m on the same show as everybody from Season 1.” The star went on to explain the differences in fans’ behaviours, recalling an event from when he was younger.
“My very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black,” McLaughlin explained. “Some people told me, ‘Oh, I didn’t want to be in your line because you were mean to Eleven.’ Even now, some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black.”
“Sometimes overseas, you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry,” he continued. “Sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger, it definitely affected me a lot.”
The actor’s character in the show has suffered through race-based trauma, which in a previous interview with Indiewire McLaughlin revealed wasn’t picked up by a lot of people, showing how sometimes these prejudiced attitudes are so ingrained that people can’t recognise racist behaviour – even when it is right in front of them and part of a storyline.
“I was reading comments recently, and I remember people’s theories on part two of episode 9. People were like, ‘What trauma has Luke gone through?’ And I was looking through everything like, well, his girlfriend’s brother didn’t like him for being Black, also he was being made fun of [for] his skin colour in season 1. People miss those things,” he said.
Between the recent comments about racism in the fandoms for TV series such as The Rings of Power, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and now Stranger Things, McLaughlin’s words do hit hard and remind us that work in the industry still needs to be done to promote and encourage diversity.