Home Featured STRANGER THINGS, SEASON 4: The Knifley connection

STRANGER THINGS, SEASON 4: The Knifley connection

Maddie Wethington is featured as a photo double in the recently-released Season 4 of the Netflix smash hit, Stranger Things.
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Fans of the Netflix Original Stranger Things already know that Season Four aired Friday night. Millions of people across the globe have already binged every episode available to see what’s happening with Eleven and the Upside Down.

What is less known is the local connection this season has with Adair County. An aspiring actress and Adair County Elementary School student, Maddie Wethington, landed a role as a photo double on the hit series for this season. 

Photo doubles are hired for camera shots that don’t show the main actor’s face. A double can be used for scenes that are wide angles showing the side or back of an actor, or for tighter shots that show their hands. Production companies use photo doubles frequently for child actors because minors are limited by the number of hours they are permitted to work on set. Wethington’s role was to double for Thirteen, the sister of the series’ star, Eleven, played by Millie Bobby Brown. 

An incredible experience

The 10-year-old from Knifley says the experience was incredible.

“I got to meet Millie Bobby Brown,” she says with a smile, trying her best not to sound boastful about meeting one of the world’s most famous actresses. “We got to go to her birthday party and I gave her a scarf.” 

Wethington and her mother, Beth, spent the early months of 2021 in Atlanta shooting the series, sworn to secrecy and surrounded by paparazzi and entertainment journalists itching to learn the plot twists that the Wethingtons had pledged not to divulge. Maddie’s father, Jeremy, and her two siblings stayed home in Adair County.               

A typical day for the photo doubles included travel to the facility where they were filming and breakfast, then schoolwork, which Wethington described as “easy.” Most of the time, they wouldn’t know their schedule until the night before. If they were needed, they would complete their schoolwork and then travel to makeup and wardrobe. Because the set was not in the same area as the classrooms, the cast had to wear gray sweaters, sweatpants and large black jackets. They had to cover their hair and hide their faces as well. 

“It was because of the paparazzi,” Maddie explains. 

Beth elaborates: “Because the show is so popular, we all had to keep strict rules to make sure we didn’t accidentally expose any details of the show. That’s why we had to keep it such a secret. I couldn’t post anything even though we were so excited and proud for Maddie.”

In addition to Brown, Wethington also crossed paths with several other stars, including Matthew Modine, Jamie Campbell Bowers, and the Duffer Brothers. 

While Maddie was enchanted by the shooting process, the excitement, and the learning opportunities afforded to her during her time on set, Beth says she was most impressed with the care taken to protect the young actors and actresses and their doubles.

“There was a teacher for every age group that would make sure that the children were not only doing the schoolwork sent from [home] but also that they were being challenged,” Beth explains. “There was a holding area for parents, while they were in class or on set and a place where we could sit and watch them while they were filming.” 

Being separated from Maddie during the day while she was on set would have been more difficult if Beth and Jeremy didn’t feel like their daughter was safe. 

“I was impressed that they were required to always have an adult with them, and even though I could go to the holding area and watch her on the screen, a teacher/assistant had to be present on the set with them,” she says.

One of Maddie’s favorite experiences during her time on set were the elaborate meals provided to the cast and crew, as Jeremy explains: “They were down there eating fancy, seared tuna and filet mignon, and the rest of us are back here on the hill eating hillbilly snacks.” 

Some weekends, Maddie and Beth would drive home to be with Jeremy and the other kids, but the crew left in Knifley also made the trip to Atlanta when they were able. Fortunately for the Wethingtons, Maddie and Beth befriended another family, whose child was also a photo double, and were able to spend most of their stay crashing at their house. 

“That was really nice because it was only like a five-minute drive,” Beth says. 

A Target shopping spree

Wethington’s experience is rare considering her first-ever paid gig was on one of the most popular shows ever filmed. Earning a paycheck for the first time, she was responsible with her paychecks for the most part. 

“I plan on saving a lot of it for college,” she says of the wages she earned during filming.

“Tell them what else you did, with your first paycheck,” her mother implores.

“I went on a shopping spree,” she says. Where? “At Target.”

How it started

Wethington’s dream of becoming an actress began to take shape a couple years ago, when she decided she wanted to play Santa Claus in her school Christmas program. She auditioned for the role, which included more lines than any other in the play, and students at ACES were reportedly treated to an impressive performance.

Maddie’s parents were at first surprised to learn that she wanted to be Santa Claus but, after seeing how dedicated she was while learning her lines, knew that she was serious. Driven by Maddie’s enthusiasm, Beth began seeking out a reputable talent agency in the fall of 2020. Due to COVID, Maddie’s casting call/interview with the agency was conducted via Zoom. By Jan. 1, 2021, she had signed with them. Just two short weeks later, her parents received the call that the production team from Stranger Things wanted her for a role as a photo double. 

That phone call led to Maddie and her mother staying in Atlanta from February to March 2021 for filming. Not many children her age have jobs that will take them to another state or one that requires them to shave their heads — but that was nothing, as Maddie said she “laughed through the whole process.” Those familiar with the show understand why shaving her head was necessary, especially as a photo double.

Maddie was selected, in part, because her hair color, face shape and body type match one of the characters on the show, but as a photo double, she was able to be in scenes for multiple parts. According to Beth, they didn’t know which frames would make the final cut until each episode was released, but they were excited to see that one of Maddie’s scenes did make it into the Season Four trailer.

What’s next?

Maddie hopes to continue her career as an actress but also hopes to one day become a veterinarian. She says she was inspired to go into this career path because of Dr. Pol, star of the Nat Geo hit television series,The Incredible Dr. Pol.

“I want to be a movie star and a veterinarian,” she says. If her early success is any indication, there is little reason to doubt she will reach these lofty goals. 

Jamie Campbell Bower, left, entertains Maddie Wethington, second from left, and other cast members on the set of Season 4 of Stranger Things.
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Wes Feese is one of this company's owners and founders. He has previously worked as an editor, news reporter, sportswriter, photographer, and freelance contributor for newspapers across central Kentucky. He grew up in the Egypt community of Adair County and is a graduate of Adair County High School and Lindsey Wilson College.