If you were not blown away by Sadie Sink’s performance as Max Mayfield on season four of Stranger Things, there is only one explanation… you have not watched it yet. Her riveting work in, especially that in the heart-racing, soul-crushing episode four seemed to hit iconic level upon release. It is quite amazing. This one episode re-launched a nearly forty year old song to the top of the music charts (Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’) and forever secured a place for Sadie Sink in the hearts of millions of Stranger Things fans. It is a performance the world is singing about.
(Be warned, there are mild spoilers ahead. If you have not watched the fourth season – at least through episode four – proceed with caution.)
When Sink joined the cast of Stranger Things for season two, some fans were concerned. It is not that Sink’s work would not be up to par, but rather because they feared a newcomer could disrupt the flawless chemistry of the Hawkins squad; played by Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas
Any concerns were eradicated within minutes of Sink’s first appearance as Max. Along with her killer arcade scores, ‘MADMAX’ (her arcade hi-score alias) brought with her some swagger and edge that instantly caught the attention of viewers and the Hawkins gang. As Max, Sink gave the character a rough exterior, but behind it was a sweet kid from a broken home who has dealt with a lot at a young age, including the emotional abuse of her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery).
The more we learned about Max, the more we understood the hint of sadness in her eyes. Sink’s performance is layered, giving us a character who our hearts go out to, but at the same time is strong – standing up against all that Billy and The Upside Down can throw at her. It did not take long for Max to go from a Stranger Things new kid on the block to a fan favorite.
During my conversation with Sink we covered a lot including her career up to the point of joining the series, getting the job and her first day on set. “I was more so excited than anything leading up to the first day of shooting, but on the official first day, once I got there, and I was in my costume, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, like this is happening, I’m doing this.’ That was kind of when the intimidation factor kind of set in. I felt a little bit nervous, but seeing the other cast members that were my age, and seeing how much fun they were having, and how relaxed and low stakes everything was, it was really nice to kind of have their support because I was losing my mind,” explained Sink.
Flash forward to season four and Sink looks as comfortable as can be. Any nerves she had never made their way to the screen. This is especially true in the sequence everyone is talking about in the epic episode four. The scene had viewers on an emotional roller coaster that did not relent. Sink had us in tears as she read her graveside letter to Billy wishing she could have saved him. The letter closed with a heart wrenching, “I’m so, so sorry, Billy.” (chills). Seconds later we are whisked away to a hellscape where she had the fight of her life, literally in a climactic battle against the season’s big bad, Vecna. (chills again) Simply put, it is incredible.
What makes it even more impressive is Sink’s ability to deliver an emotionally cohesive performance through a surprisingly long and difficult shoot. “In reality that was shot over several weeks and very scattered. You’d visited on different days and it was all out of order. I think we filmed the stuff in the mind there before we filmed the stuff in the graveyard. So yeah, I was kind of like all over the place, which is hard to keep track of, for sure, Sink recalled. “Just in terms of where you are emotionally and where your stamina is and also not getting too much too soon and kind of holding out and wanting to have a progression as the scene intensifies. Luckily, we were able to keep track of all of that, and it worked pretty well.”
“It was it was some of the longest, most fun days that I’ve had on set and most draining, but simultaneously creative fulfilling days that I’ve had, just because you’re playing with so much. You’re playing with the real, more raw, intimate, human feelings with the letter and then once it kind of switches to the supernatural, then it’s horror and whatnot. And, at the end, with the running and everything, it’s so physical. There’s a lot of moving parts. It was nice to see the final cut and to hear Kate Bush,” said a pleased Sink.
As mentioned, this scene put the viewers through the emotional ringer – even if we loved every second of it. The power to do so, to keep an audience engrossed and locked into a scene says a lot about the power of Sink’s performance. She talked about the reactions to the scene, “It’s pretty amazing. I definitely watched episode four – that last scene and I was definitely like, ‘Wow, this is intense.’ Like, ‘This turned out cool.’ But I didn’t realize how much people were actually going to like it and be affected by it. So to see that, what we did, moving people or making them on the edge of their seats – just knowing that we did it right and did justice to what Matt and Ross (series creators, The Duffer Brothers) for the show is pretty is pretty amazing. But yeah, the overall reaction to the entire season has been overwhelmingly positive. And I think that it’s amazing to see.”
We discussed much more about Stranger Things (as you can see in the video), but before wrapping up we touched upon The Whale, the Darren Aronofsky film starring Sink and Brendan Fraser (which currently sits quite high up on several of Joe Magidson’s Oscar predictions. Sink talked about her experience on the high-profile film. “It was one of the best experiences that I’ve had on a film before, because Darren is obviously a genius. Working with him, he’s such an actor’s director, while also being such a visionary. Working with someone like him was really incredible. And the way that we approach that project, we kind of treated it like a play – that was kind of Darren’s intention. Because The Whale is a play, and he wanted to honor that formula, I guess.”
Sink continued, “We had a rehearsal process, which really helped in terms of getting to know our characters and feeling really prepared when it was time to shoot it. And Brendan Fraser, he’s probably my favorite human ever! Working with him was incredible. I’m really excited for everyone to see it.”
Don’t sleep on the video interview with Sink. Being as objective as possible, it is a must watch for fans of Stranger Things and her work. Sadie was wonderfully charming and insightful as we discussed her start in the industry, Broadway, the environment on set, Max and Lucas, working with a Billy stand-in, and so much more. She was even kind enough to say hello to my daughters who are huge fans. (They are still on cloud nine). Sadie Sink has set aside any apprehensions and has firmly locked in fans, young and old onto team Max. With the second part of Stranger Things season four and The Whale on the horizon, things look bright for this rising (risen) star.
Be sure to catch her work on Stranger Things exclusively on Netflix.