During the filming of Stranger Things, when Winona Ryder portrayed the mom of the pre-teen Will, the actress sought the advice of none other than her own mom, Cynthia Palmer. Being a non-mom in real life, Ryder turned to Palmer for a reality check on reacting to the events unfolding on the show.
Ryder plays the divorced Joyce Byers, mother to 12-year-old Will Byers and teenager Jonathan Byers. When Will disappears amid supernatural events, Joyce refuses to believe Will is gone for good, especially after she believes she hears his voice on mysterious phone calls. Then there are the apparent communications between mother and son via Christmas lights.
“I said, ‘Mom, if every bit of logic is telling you your kid is gone, would you still [refuse to believe it]?’” Ryder told Marie Claire UK in an interview. “And she said ‘Absolutely.’ I said, ‘What if they show you a body?’ She said, ‘If you don’t see if happen, you don’t believe it.’ It’s a weird, primal thing.”
The old adage “Mother knows best” may ring true yet again, as Joyce stuck to her guns and is reunited with Will at the end of Season 1.
Ryder also mentioned in the interview she receives help from her father, Michael Horowitz, in acting roles. Horowitz, a seller of antique books, locates out-of-print books to help Ryder get into her roles. “When I did Girl, Interrupted, my dad got me this amazing Mary Ellen Mark book,” Ryder said.
Girl, Interrupted is a 1999 film which Ryder both appeared in and executive produced. The film centers around an 18-year-old (played by Ryder) who is institutionalized after taking an overdose of pain pills along with drinking a bottle of vodka. The book Ryder referred to featured photos of women in the maximum-security ward of Oregon State Hospital.
Ryder talked in the interview of her close relationship with both her parents. The actress grew up on a commune outside San Francisco. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but the love compensation was amazing,” Ryder said. “My dad would make little things exciting, like bringing home Rolos. There’s the saying ‘you find your family,’ but I would have chosen them even if they weren’t my parents. They’re my best friends.”
Ryder gets the chance to play Will’s mom again in the second season of Stranger Things, which releases on Netflix Oct. 27.