A big part of that involves Robin coming out. After Steve confesses his feelings for Robin, she reveals her own truth: She was obsessed with him in high school—because the girl she liked had a crush on him. Steve accepts Robin warmly; by the season’s end, they’ve become best friends. “You know, there’s probably not a lot of people coming out in high school in Indiana in the 1980s,” Hawke says. “I think the reason she comes out is because she loves Steve and wants him to understand why she has to reject him and doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. It’s to preserve their friendship, and I think she wants to be her whole self with him.”
Hawke says the decision to make Robin gay came after a lot of conversations with the Duffer brothers. “We were trying to decide if that was the right thing for her, if it was natural, if it felt like who she was supposed to be,” she explains. “We just wanted to make sure nothing about it was forced.”
Eventually, though, it became clear: “It was the only true thing. When I go back and watch the episodes I shot before we made that decision, it seems so obvious to me that’s what was meant to happen.”
Hawke is grateful the scene was handled with “the most care.” If it has a greater cultural impact, all the better. “There’s a difference between having diversity in television and having diversity in hit TV shows, the shows that are in everyone’s living room,” she says. “You can get right into their heart by getting into their homes, and having empathy for characters and stories can broaden one’s empathy for people in the world. There were conversations about how that could be important or impactful, but really the decision came down to what was right for Robin.”
Of course, Steve isn’t the only new friend Robin makes. The whole Scoops Troop, which includes Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson), became a pseudo-family on and off screen. “She was really nice and gave me good advice,” says Ferguson of working with Hawke. “She told me to always stay kind. I learned a lot from her.”
As the Troop’s two newest additions to Stranger Things, Hawke says she couldn’t help but share some advice with Ferguson. As she explains, she grew up seeing her family navigate the pressure of being in the public eye—and how to avoid it.