Bethany Anne Lind (’04) adds roles in ‘Stranger Things,’ ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Turn’ to growing resume
By Billy Liggett
The creepy 80s nostalgia-fest known as “Stranger Things” became an instant pop culture phenomenon last summer, attracting nearly 45 million viewers in its first week alone on Netflix. The show turned its talented child-led cast into stars and provided even its minor characters a cult following (just ask Barb).
There aren’t web sites and Reddit feeds dedicated to Bethany Anne Lind’s character (yet), but the 2004 Campbell graduate is part of “Stranger Things” canon with her brief role as Sandra, the short-term love interest of hero police chief Jim Hopper (played by David Harbour). She appears in the show’s second episode, there to comfort Hopper as he contemplates a rash of disappearances and an alleged suicide in his small fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana.
It’s somewhat of a brief role for an actress who’s more accustomed to recurring television roles like in AMC’s hit “TURN: Washington’s Spies” or more screentime in movies like “Crackerjack” and “Mean Girls 2.” But the “Stranger Things” part — and a similar gig as a wanderer in a 2015 episode of the mega-hit “The Walking Dead” — stand out because of the shows themselves. They transcend typical TV show success.
In short … just about everybody watches them.
That’s not to say Lind knew “Stranger Things” was going to be a hit when she first signed on for her role. Filmed in Atlanta, where Lind lives and works with her actor husband (and fellow Campbell alum Eric Mendenhall) and their two young children, the show brought Lind in from the start to help the young cast with table reads. She read for several characters during those casual rehearsals and soon noticed a chemistry between the then-unknown child actors Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Man, these kids are so good,’” Lind recalls. “I knew if they were half as good on camera as they were sitting around a table, the show would be pretty great. It was fun to be there for the beginning stages of all of it.”
She began to feel the buzz leading up to the show’s release on Netflix in July thanks to the streaming service’s genius retro marketing, promoting the 80s-era setting with trailers, posters and music reminiscent of old Stephen King movies and blockbusters like “E.T.” and “The Goonies.”
“It felt special to me during filming, but you never know what something looks like on camera until it goes through editing,” Lind says. “The music, the title credits — they were so perfect for this show, and you didn’t see any of that early on. I don’t think the Duffer Brothers [the show’s creators] had any idea it would be as successful as it’s been. It was a passion project for them — they wrote a 50-page rule book on the Upside Down world — and you can see that passion when you watch.”
Soon after its release, Lind began getting messages from friends and family … even old friends she hadn’t communicated with in years. “My brother didn’t even know I was in it until he saw me in it and told everybody ‘That’s my sister!’ online. I didn’t promote my appearance too much, so it surprised a lot of people to see me.”
In “The Walking Dead,” Lind is simply known as “Young Woman,” and she and another actor play an important role in the backstory of Morgan, one of the few characters whose been with the show since the very beginning (people tend to get killed off a lot on this show). Also filmed in Atlanta, “The Walking Dead” was a goal of Lind’s for years — she read for the role of Maggie six years ago and had auditioned for other roles in the past.
When showrunner Scott Dimple called her in 2015 for “Young Woman” — a survivor of the zombie apocalypse who offers Morgan food at a low point in his character arc — Lind initially declined.
“It’s an actor’s dilemma,” she says. “Part of me wanted to hold out for something bigger, but you never know when that chance will come again. It meant a lot to me that [Dimple] remembered me from my earlier auditions, and he told me personally my emotional range was fit for this character. So I took it, and it was really fun.”
The good news — as with her role in “Stranger Things” — is that Lind’s characters survived their brief appearances. So there’s always (a little) hope that both characters could return. The same can’t be said for her husband, whose character “Billy” in “The Walking Dead” went three episodes before getting his head smashed in by Darryl, one of the lead good guys. In the past year alone, Mendenhall has enjoyed roles in “Scream: The TV Series,” “Roots,” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” as well as the movie “Allegiance,” featuring Jeff Daniels, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer. The couple also performs regularly in Atlanta’s growing theater community.
“We both love being on stage, but the film and TV work lets us make a living and provide for our family,” says Lind, who’s set to appear in another Netflix show coming in 2017 (she has to remain tight-lipped on the details of that show). “It’s been very busy for both of us, but a lot of fun.”
“I was on the main stage fall of my freshman year [at Campbell], and anyone who goes to a bigger university can’t say that. The faculty were always giving me opportunities to grow and learn. I don’t know if I would have gotten that individual attention if I went to a bigger university, which was pivotal for me and the career that I have now.”
— Bethany Anne Lind, on her experience at Campbell University