That Time Stranger Things' Winona Ryder Took A Meeting Before Joining The Show And Revealed She Had No Idea What Streaming Was

 Joyce smiling at dinner table in Stranger Things 4.
Joyce smiling at dinner table in Stranger Things 4.

Winona Ryder joined the original Netflix series Stranger Things in 2016 and has since played Joyce Byers, a woman who's tried to protect her son and others from supernatural forces. The show has, of course, proven to be a hit, with its Its fourth season breaking records during its first weekend and becoming the most-watched English language series on the platform. The series' leading lady has seen a lot of success, thanks to the world of streaming and, if you can believe it, she initially didn’t know what it was before signing on.

Streaming has become such a huge part of the entertainment industry that it may be hard for some to believe there was a time when network TV was the primary producer of quality shows. In the early aughts though, Winona Ryder wasn't in the know about the growing digital trend, according to Stranger Things producer and director Shawn Levy. On an episode of the podcast series Happy Sad Confused, Levy recalled an early meeting that was conducted with the Beetlejuice star, during which her unawareness of streaming was revealed:

Winona opened our first meeting, the Duffers and I sat down and had tea with her, she opened by asking, What is Netflix? What is streaming? Is it like TV but different? That was the starting point.

I can understand the confusion Winona Ryder had. While streaming was in full force by that point, many were surely still racking their brains around the gradual change in media consumption. Admittedly, I can also remember a time where I myself had a hard time accepting series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black as nothing more than "online shows." Stranger Things -- which is a must-watch series -- ultimately became the platform's first great horror series and has received numerous accolades. That's a testament to the strength of storytelling and the ability of platforms like Netflix and Apple TV+ to produce great shows.

Aside from all of that, you may find this funny, but there was also a time when Winona Ryder was confused by the concept of podcasts. Happy Sad Confusing Josh Horowitz hilariously recalled that when the Lucas actress was once on his podcast, she had no idea a “podcast” was what she was taking part in. Shawn Levy had a simple reaction to that story:

I adore that woman.

We all do. It goes without saying that times really are changing, and we need to change with them. Streaming services, podcasts and other digital media creations have more than become commonplace. While she was initially ignorant to them, I'd assume Winona Ryder is a bit more adept now. Shawn Levy continued to talk about how before she decided to join the supernatural ‘80s throwback series -- and still needed to be filled in about the logistics

Winona took a little bit on onboarding to explain this emerging form of storytelling called Netflix and streaming.

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Winona Ryder truly is a wonder on Stranger Things, with her character’s biggest strength being willing to do anything humanly possible for the people she loves. I was even astonished at how open Joyce was to believing in the possibility of the supernatural if it meant bringing her son back to Hawkins, Indiana. As each season brings a new adventure for Joyce and her family, I’m curious what their final adventure together will be in the fifth and season. There's also a question of when fans might see those concluding episodes.

Season 5 was impacted by the the WGA writers strike, which finally ended weeks ago. Shawn Levy told The Wrap that series creators The Duffer Brothers have been hard at work since the ending of the writer’s strike. They’re just waiting for the SAG-AFTRA labor dispute to end so that production can get underway. When that happens, the cast will be able to get back to work -- and that includes the now-streaming-informed Winona Ryder.

While you wait for the final season of Stranger Things to arrive, know that you can stream the first four seasons now using Netflix subscription. You can also take a look at the 2023 TV schedule for information on other small-screen offerings.