Stranger Things' Grace Van Dien considered too ugly for role: 'Messed up'

American actress Grace Van Dien shot to fame in 2022 after playing cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham in season four of Stranger Things. The 26-year-old has had an extensive career so far, beginning as a child actor in her father Casper Van Dien’s films.

Since then, she has worked consistently in the industry, racking up multiple TV and film credits. While she says the audition process for Stranger Things was quick and easy, the star shared an audition horror story with fans during Fan Expo Canada this year.

L: Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp in season 4 of Stranger Things. R: Grace Van Dien as Chrissy Cunningham on Stranger Things
Grace Van Dien played Chrissy Cunningham on Stranger Things. Photo: Netflix

“I had a casting director tell me I was too ugly for the role,” she told fans, causing fellow stars Finn Wolfhard and Joseph Quinn to gasp. Fans latched onto this moment, with TikToks about it racking up over 100,000 views. Many shared their disgust, saying that it was ‘messed up’ and calling her ‘gorgeous’.

Grace tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it wasn’t a huge deal, and having been in the industry for many years, she understands the nature of the business.

“I mean, it wasn’t a long experience at all,” she begins. “It was very short and I auditioned anyway, didn’t get [the role]. It happens, this industry is a bit blunt.

“I’ve definitely heard horror stories from other actors. I think it’s what you should expect going into this job,” she explains.

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Natalia Dyer, Joe Keery, Gaten Matarazzo, Maya Hawke, Sadie Sink and Caleb McLaughlin on Stranger Things
Grace described the main cast as 'lovely' and 'down to earth'. Photo: Netflix

The star reveals what the Stranger Things cast are really like

In contrast, she adds that the audition for Stranger Things was ‘very short’. The creators of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer, also known as The Duffer Brothers, knew Grace was the perfect Chrissy. Grace was the only actress to play the cheerleader in a ‘sweet’ way, so it was an ‘easy’ decision for them to make.

With her extensive background working in the industry and coming from a family full of actors, it’s no surprise that the star wasn’t worried about stepping on set for the first time.

The much-loved cast, including Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard, had three seasons under their belt plus a massive fanbase when Grace joined. Fans will be delighted to know that the star found them wonderful to work with.

“[The cast] were so personable and down to earth, and open and receiving, like none of them had any kind of ego or strange vibes. They were all just really lovely right away,” she tells us. “I was excited to see what it would be like to be on a set that has that much thought and love put into it, and you can really see it every day on set. Yeah, I never wanted to leave.”

Grace Van Dien as cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham on Stranger Things
The Stranger Things fanbase instantly warmed towards Grace's character. Photo: Netflix

Grace comes down under

The star is heading to Australia for the very first time to attend Oz Comic Con’s Christmas edition in Melbourne this weekend. She’s looking forward to having some Aussie coffee but has to miss out on one bucket list item due to lack of time.

“I have one day where I can frolic a bit…but I was told that I also wouldn’t have enough time to see koalas, which makes me sad,” she admits.

Grace has frequented multiple conventions and expos over the past year, and she tells us that she ‘loves the weird questions’ fans come up with in each country. It’s not uncommon for fans to ask for a drawing so they can get a tattoo. This can put a bit of ‘pressure’ on the star who often ends up sketching multiple options.

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When meeting a fan in Germany recently, one person asked her to ‘draw anything’ for a tattoo, causing her to ‘panic’ slightly before settling on a simple design. “I drew a little ghost with a heart next to his head because I was like, that’s cute. And she’s already tagged me on photos on Twitter and Instagram with it tattooed!” she exclaims.

“That’s my favourite thing at conventions, like how easygoing everyone is about life. It’s so cool.”

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However, there is one thing that happens when she attends conventions — when fans ask her out on a date. While she loves to be friendly and create genuine connections, she says it’s not ‘the right environment’ for fans to ask that type of question.

“That’s not why I’m there, and that’s not why they should be there either. Not looking to get iced out, I do appreciate the friendliness and openness that people provide there. So it’s a double-edged sword I think sometimes,” she explains.

Melbourne's Oz Comic-Con Christmas edition takes place this weekend - December 10 & 11, with tickets on sale now.

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