The Untold Truth Of Natalia Dyer

Natalia Dyer's name is synonymous with "Stranger Things" — and why shouldn't it be? After all, the Nashville-born actor has portrayed Nancy Wheeler (older sister of Finn Wolfhard's Mike) since the Netflix hit first made its debut in 2016.

And while it's true that "Stranger Things" has been the biggest thing she's been in, it's far from her only screen credit. According to Dyer's IMDb profile, she's had supporting roles in such films as "Don't Let Me Go," "Blue Like Jazz," "The Greening of Whitney Brown," and "Velvet Buzzsaw." Meanwhile, she's attained starring roles in movies including "I Believe in Unicorns," "Tuscaloosa," and "Yes, God, Yes," a religious comedy in which she plays a devoutly Catholic teenager conflicted about her emerging sexuality.

While Dyer has been a fixture on film and television screens for years now, there's much that the casual fan may not know about this talented star. Read on to learn the untold truth of Natalia Dyer.

She was plagued with health issues as a child

Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Natalia Dyer suffered from asthma and other health issues as a child. As she revealed in an interview with Clash, she would contract pneumonia every year. As a result, she missed a lot of school. "I guess my immune system was just terrible," she admitted. Due to being kept home so much, Dyer coped by learning how to keep herself amused. "I became pretty good at entertaining myself and being in my own worlds, in my own head, playing games," she explained.

The skills she taught herself as a child ultimately contributed to her abilities as an actor: "There is an element of that which you have to grow out of as you grow up," she told Clash. "But what's great about acting is that I get to retain that in a professional setting. We are all kids playing pretend in a way. It's all just working to get back to that sense of play and creativity."

Despite growing up in Nashville, Dyer never really experienced what the city is best known for, country music. "When people think about Nashville, it's obviously 'Music City,' but that's not how I know it," she told The Hollywood Reporter. Other than several years of piano lessons, Dyer seems to have focused mostly on the acting.

How a sprained ankle led Natalia Dyer to embrace acting

According to a profile on Natalia Dyer in Clash, she was a quiet, somewhat introverted kid with a studious bent. Acting, at least early in her life, wasn't something that was on her radar. 

A turning point came when she attended sports camp one summer — something about which she was not particularly keen. "I sprained my ankle, like, the first day, so they put me in the drama camp where my leg made a remarkable improvement," she told InStyle. Dyer enjoyed the experience so much that she subsequently joined an acting club and discovered her passion and aptitude. A director encouraged Dyer's mother to have the youngster audition for the role of Scout in a community theater production of "To Kill A Mockingbird," and Dyer got the part. "From there, I fell in love with it," she told Cosmopolitan UK. The actor gives her mom credit for driving her to rehearsals and auditions for years.

According to Dyer's About the Artists bio, her theatre work included roles in Nashville productions of "The Sound of Music," "A Christmas Carol," "Gypsy," and "Titanic." 

Her first big acting role was opposite Hannah Montana

Natalia Dyer made her screen debut in 2009's "Hannah Montana: The Movie." In the big-screen spinoff of the beloved Disney Channel sitcom, Dyer plays one of two young British super-fans who freak out when they get a glimpse of their idol, pop star Hannah Montana (played by Miley Cyrus). As Dyer told Elle UK, she only had "a small little bit," in the film — she appears on-screen for all of a minute — but the experience nevertheless made a big impression on her.

"I was living in Nashville at the time, and there wasn't a lot of big film going on there, so when this came through it was the talk of the town. It was a big deal," she told Cosmopolitan of how she came to land her first-ever movie role. "And then there was this role for these two British girls, and I think they just decided, they were like, 'Hey, let's just cast them from Nashville.'"

While Dyer admitted her faux British accent could have used some work, she remains grateful for the role that launched her on the path to stardom. "That's the jump-off point, isn't it?" she mused, calling the Disney role a "very, very special, special little moment." Meanwhile, her role in the film led Dyer to another new experience: her first red carpet appearance. "I dressed myself for that one, which is very obvious," she quipped to Cosmopolitan UK.

She was convinced she botched her Stranger Things audition

When Natalia Dyer initially auditioned for "Stranger Things," she had no idea what she was in for. As she told Cosmopolitan UK, at that time Netflix hadn't yet arrived as the powerhouse it would become. While she was aware the streamer had some talked-about originals such as "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black," Dyer recalled, "I really wasn't aware there was a possibility of a second season." Meanwhile, she also wasn't particularly confident that she would land the role of Nancy Wheeler. "I thought I bombed the initial audition, but then I got the callback, and I thought I bombed that as well," she admitted.

Dyer offered more detail on what she felt had gone wrong in an interview with Elle Singapore. "I was stressed out. I was moving out of my dorm room, I had a really terrible bagel, and I almost didn't go," the actor explained. Dyer recalled that after reading for the part, "I thought, 'You did terrible.' So I wasn't feeling great, that's for sure."

Of course, as she told Backstage, she's not necessarily the best judge of how well her auditions tend to go. "I rarely walk out of an audition like, 'Nailed it!'" she said. "I can't tell if they liked me or they were just being nice."

Stranger Things forced her to choose between college and career

When Natalia Dyer was cast in "Stranger Things," it presented a bit of a conundrum, given that she was a student at NYU at the time. "It happened pretty fast," Dyer told Collider. "I think we got cast in August and I was meant to go back maybe a month or two later for the next semester." The idea of quitting school for a role on a TV series might not last made her feel a bit hesitant, especially on behalf of her parents. "But it was still really exciting. And I think there's this idea that, follow it, see where it goes and school is there later," she added.

Looking back, Dyer told Into the Gloss that at least for the first season of "Stranger Things," she felt good about her decision. The one thing she hadn't considered, however, was that the show would be viewed by millions, so she'd suddenly become recognizable to anyone who watched it. "I remember I was out with friends in New York when it came out," the star said. Dyer was helping a friend who had been drinking heavily get safely home when a stranger asked if she was Nancy. "I remember it so much because it was the first time I was ever stopped on the street," she shared.

Her Stranger Things role led to romance with a co-star

Rumors of on-set romance first sparked when Natalia Dyer and "Stranger Things" co-star Charlie Heaton were spotted at LAX together after attending the 2017 edition of the Golden Globe Awards. Initially, the pair attempted to keep their relationship under wraps until later confirming they were dating, making their red carpet debut as a couple later that year.

Speaking with GQ in 2020, Heaton briefly explained why they weren't more candid. "We didn't really know what the relationship was," he said. Dyer likewise opened up about their romance, sharing her thoughts on the dynamics of dating a co-star. "It's an interesting thing to work with somebody who you go home with," she admitted in an interview with Refinery29. "It's always really fun. We're really comfortable with each other, so we can play and feel more free."

As their relationship has progressed, Dyer has admitted that she has a tough time wrapping her head around the never-ending fascination the media seems to have with their romance. "I'm always curious as to why it comes up," she said in an interview with Cosmopolitan UK. "Why do people want to know about it?" Dyer concluded, "The weirdest thing about [our relationship] is other people's perception and reaction to it. Everything else just feels very human."

Her own personal evolution has mirrored Nancy's on Stranger Things

Over the course of all those seasons of "Stranger Things," viewers have watched the progression of Nancy Wheeler as she's gained both the confidence and the skills required to battle demonic beasts from the Upside Down. "I think she was a lot more concerned with appearances and school and success and achieving in her small understanding of her small town," Dyer told Collider of Nancy's persona at the start of the series. 

The actor continued, "I think she always was very ambitious, but I just think her ideas of what that means and what that can be have shifted wildly, and she's really kind of stepped into this totally new, exciting, brave, powerful side of herself." The way Dyer sees it, Nancy coming into her own as a monster hunter runs parallel to her own growing confidence as an actor. Nancy's characterization reflects Dyer's real-life journey from relatively anonymous aspiring actor to star of one of Netflix's most-watched shows ever. 

Dyer was asked about the connections between herself and her character in a 2019 interview with Hunger. "That sense of being a woman coming up in the world and finding your voice, finding out who you are and what matters to you... What really doesn't matter to you... discovering what it means to grow up as a woman. I think that's kind of where she's starting to be at," Dyer described, relating to Nancy's journey of finding herself.

Natalia Dyer's net worth is impressive considering her age

Natalia Dyer has been acting professionally for well over a decade — impressive given that she celebrated her 27th birthday in January 2022. Even more impressive is the tidy little fortune she's managed to sock away, which Celebrity Net Worth estimates at $4 million. Understandably, much of that came from her "Stranger Things" salary, which has reportedly risen substantially over the years. According to Bustle, by the show's third season she was earning $100,000 per episode, while Celebrity Net Worth claimed her pay had risen to a whopping $250,000 per episode. Both of those figures are unconfirmed.

Having established herself as a successful Hollywood actor, it's not unreasonable to expect Dyer's streak of success will continue after the end of "Stranger Things." Whatever Dyer chooses to do in the future, however, she promises it will be driven by her passion for a project, not just a hefty payday. "I'm really interested in playing cool characters and telling cool stories, just being a part of that in any capacity," she explained in an interview with Teen Vogue. In addition to telling worthwhile stories, Dyer noted, "The goal is to be able to live off of something you love to do. If I can do that, then that's what I'm going to do."

She's a huge fan of Peaky Blinders

When she's not acting in a TV series, Natalia Dyer sometimes unwinds by watching one. One of her favorites, she revealed in an interview with W magazine, is Netflix drama "Peaky Blinders," about the exploits of crime boss Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) in Birmingham, England during the early part of the 20th century. "I quarantined with three other people — one from the cast, and then one of my good friends I made in Atlanta and her friend — and we just started watching it," she said, admitting that the actors' thick Birmingham accents compelled her to watch the show with the subtitles turned on.

In fact, she added, the experience of quarantine-bingeing on "Peaky Blinders" led her toward a greater appreciation of the medium in which she's become a star. "As someone who didn't watch as much TV, this whole period really taught me the value and power that that has: how nice it is to have this thing that people make — that I also make [Laughs] — bring people together, and bring them joy together," she added.

Dyer is also enamored of another British TV show, albeit one that has nothing to do with gangsters. "I love 'The Great British Bake Off,'" she told Cosmopolitan UK. "It's such a pleasant thing to watch; something about it just soothes the soul."

She's struggled with her fame

Thanks to the runaway success of "Stranger Things," Natalia Dyer went from non-famous college student to international celebrity. The transition was not a gradual one, but more of a "zero-to-60" kind of experience, as she put it to Teen Vogue. When asked about the concept of fame in a 2018 interview with Clash, Dyer admitted that while she loves to work, "...there is an element of a game or strategy to this industry. I feel sceptical of some of the politics of it, I guess. So I take everything with a grain of salt, and try to figure out what's important to me before I put myself out there." 

She also shared that she tries to avoid looking at social media as much as possible and explained why she's loathe to put anything out there on socials herself. "It's not my style man, not my personality to do too much social media," she said. "It's exhausting for me. I'm an introvert." Though she's had her busier seasons of posting, Dyer will sometimes take months between Instagram posts.

However, she explained to InStyle that using her voice online became more important to her in 2020, a pivotal time in the Black Lives Matter movement following increased police brutality against Black individuals. "I definitely want to show up when it's important to show up," she told the outlet, noting that she showed her support in person by protesting, too.

Fans leapt to Natalia Dyer's defense after she was bullied on TikTok

Natalia Dyer may not be entirely comfortable with the idea of being famous, but there's no denying that her fans have her back. That came through loud and clear in the summer of 2022 when aesthetician Miranda Wilson, who's garnered a substantial following on TikTok, offered some unsolicited advice to the "Stranger Things" star. In her video (which has since been deleted, but lives on via Twitter), Wilson recommends that Dyer inject some filler in her chin, as well as utilize a procedure to "slim the face." 

When Wilson's post was hit with backlash after angering Dyer's fans, she shared an entirely different video — in which she apologized for the previous one. "I did not mean to offend anyone, including Natalia," Wilson said, insisting in the caption, "Her photo was simply an example." Though Wilson had hoped to "clear the air," her apology video seemed to miss the point, as she said, "I was simply just offering suggestions, not on what you have to do, just on what the possibilities are." 

Dyer, as one might expect, chose not to wade into the controversy whatsoever, and has not commented publicly on the brouhaha.

Natalia Dyer wants to become an action hero

When "Stranger Things" ultimately concludes and the actors move on to other projects and new challenges, what can fans expect to see from Natalia Dyer in the future? "I'm ready and willing to do an action movie 'cause that would be a lot of fun," she told NME in 2020. "Something Tom Cruise-y!" 

Regardless of what kind of film or TV role she takes on in the future, Dyer told Refinery29 she was seeking parts that made her "uncomfortable" by thrusting her outside of her comfort zone. "I'm waiting for that next thing that really ignites me," she said. "I'd love to do like a really funny movie. I'd love to do an action movie, just because it sounds fun." These would be a great contrast to the "coming-of-age" genre Dyer feels that she's known for. Another ambition, she shared, was to return to her roots in live theatre, perhaps a role in a Broadway play. "I really loved being on stage," she told NME. 

Whatever she decides to do next, Dyer is adamant about appearing in projects that incorporate diversity, and she evaluates scripts with representation in mind. She clarified her goal to NME: "If this story is just the same story by the same kind of people that we've seen, why does this need to be told right now?" 

She's protective of her younger Stranger Things co-stars

Natalia Dyer was in her early 20s when she was cast as Nancy Wheeler in "Stranger Things," and the nature of her role led her to work with actors a decade younger than her. Watching her young co-stars grow up over the course of the show, she's taken on a somewhat maternal attitude toward them. "I feel protective over the younger kids even though they're not kids anymore, they're teens," she told the Independent. "They're all great people and all having to grow up in very crazy circumstances."

Watching her younger co-stars grow from children to young adults, she told Cosmopolitan UK, has been a revelatory experience. "Every time I see Finn [Wolfhard, who plays her character's younger brother, Mike], it's like, 'You're so tall! Are you taller?' There's an inherent sense of protectiveness there," she explained. "I'm always impressed by them; by how they carry themselves and how aware they are of the pressures. But it's nerve-racking and I don't envy them at all."

She was also quick to applaud the young actors for the grace with which they've comported themselves as they navigate the choppy waves of adolescence under the harsh glare of the spotlight. "I would've been a complete mess if I'd gone through that at their ages," she confessed.

She'd be up to star in a Stranger Things spinoff

In February 2022, Matthew and Ross Duffer (the creators of "Stranger Things," known collectively as the Duffer Brothers) issued a letter to fans that dropped a bombshell: the fifth season would be the series' last. However, their letter also hinted that there might be a spinoff (or spinoffs) in the works. "There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things; new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes," they wrote. 

A few months later, the Duffers confirmed there actually was a "Stranger Things" spinoff in development, breaking the news during an appearance on the "Happy Sad Confused" podcast. From the duo, podcast listeners learned that the sequel series would be completely different from its parent series. The new show would not center on any existing characters, as those stories have already been told. "Almost the most important connective tissue, I would say, is the storytelling sensibility of it," Ross stated.

If Netflix were to ever develop a spinoff focused on Nancy Wheeler, Natalia Dyer is ready to reprise her role. "'I wouldn't write it off, if the [Duffer] brothers were involved," she told Cosmopolitan UK, even offering her own brief elevator pitch. "I've always had thoughts of Nancy becoming this detective type, cool spy, secret monster hunting..." she shared. In a video interview with the same outlet, Dyer posed an important question about "Stranger Things" — "Where do you go from there?"