The problem with casting kids in shows is that they grow up. When you’ve got long gaps between seasons – say, because of a global pandemic or multiple, ongoing Hollywood strikes – then they appear to grow up very quickly. Fans have already spotted that the young cast of Netflix's Stranger Things doesn’t look quite as precocious as they did in the show’s first season, but the producers have assured fans they won’t need to resort to AI to keep the cast from looking too old for their parts.
Recent statements from executive producer Shawn Levy seemed to imply that the controversial technology was an option for keeping the Hawkins kids looking young and fresh for Stranger Things 5. He had said that the team would use whatever tools they could to make the cast’s age less apparent. In an interview with Deadline, he clarified that AI wasn’t what he was referring to.
“I was kind of surprised that one sentence I said around the topic traveled so widely,” he explained. “The bottom line is, we know what we’re doing on this show. Our cast is brilliant. And these characters that the Duffers have created are so vivid. I’m not worried about everyone suiting up and bringing them to life.”
Last month marked three years since filming started on Stranger Things 4, which means that the teenage cast has aged significantly since then. Filming on the emotional final season paused in May 2023 when the Writers’ Strike began and continues throughout the SAG-AFTRA strike that has passed 110 days already.
Even once the strike ends, production might not start up immediately as many producers and directors will have other projects on their calendars before Stranger Things 5 can ramp back up. At that point, the kids might have grown up so much that they need to reshoot previously filmed scenes to avoid continuity errors throughout the season.
It is probably for the best that the Stranger Things production team isn’t considering AI to make the kids look younger. Not only does it have a dodgy track record of being used to impersonate celebrities, but preventing its use in TV and films is actually one of the major sticking points in negotiations between the Actors’ Union and studio executives. If the union gets its way, using it won’t even be an option anyway.
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