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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Stranger Things’ Breakout Shannon Purser on Barb's Appeal

by Stacy Lambe 6:03 AM PST, December 26, 2016
Photo: Instagram

Barbara Holland -- or, simply, Barb -- is the definition of a scene stealer. 

A loyal, responsible, less cool version of her best friend, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), Barb undeservingly gets pulled into the Upside Down world after cutting her hand open while trying to shotgun a beer given to her by Nancy’s boyfriend, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery). After her disappearance, no one seems to care, with her fate only revealed in the final moments of the season. Her death is shocking and unfair, and had fans demanding #JusticeforBarb just days after Stranger Things debuted on Netflix over the summer. 

While Barb only had a handful of scenes onscreen, Shannon Purser -- a newcomer in her first screen role -- infused the character with the right amount of teen angst to make her stand out to audiences. “I think Barb kind of appeals to everyone,” Purser tells ET. “Everybody has a little bit of insecurity or wondering if they're good enough or cool enough, even the people that we think of as traditionally beautiful or popular. It's just a natural tendency for everybody to have some insecurity.”

MORE: 7 Things We Learned From the 'Stranger Things' Season 2 Table Read

“I think everybody sympathized with her because they saw themselves in her,” Purser says, adding that despite all of that, Barb is confident. “She knows who she is, she doesn't care who she impresses.” A lesson we could have all used in high school.  

Probably the most unexpected reaction from fans was to Barb’s outfits, which consisted of ruffled blouses, high-waisted mom jeans and oversized glasses. “Who doesn't love a good mom jean?” Purser says. 

While she has dreams of one day starring in an adaptation of Rainbow Rowell’s YA novel Eleanor & Park, Purser will be next seen in The CW’s Riverdale as Ethel Muggs, the upcoming thriller Wish Upon and the ensemble comedy Life of the Party, starring Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph. But sadly, there are no plans for a return to Stranger Things in season two. 

“The Duffer brothers are super creative and thoughtful; I'm sure they have a reason for everything they've done,” Purser says. As series co-creator Matt Duffer told IGN: “We’ll make sure there’s some justice for Barb.”

--Additional reporting from Ashley Crossan

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