Justice has finally come for Barb. In the form of an Emmy nomination.
Shannon Purser, who portrayed the normcore-rockin’ Barbara “Barb” Holland in a few episodes in Netflix’s ’80s extravaganza Stranger Things before meeting her demise — damn those Demogorgons — was honored with a coveted nomination yesterday in the Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama category. The young actress is nothing less than over the moon about it, especially when you consider that Stranger Things is her very first onscreen credit. Earlier today, Vulture chatted with Purser about her nomination, what her plans for the big night are, and her ideal scenario for Barb’s Stranger Things return.
Congratulations on this big achievement! How do you feel?
Oh dear, I honestly have no idea. [Laughs.] I’m ultimately grateful and blown away. I never expected this.
It must be particularly humbling to get an Emmy nomination with your first acting role, too.
Absolutely. I definitely owe so much and give a lot of the credit to the Duffer brothers and Netflix for giving me this opportunity. It’s very humbling and I hope I can use it to fuel my energy and my passion for my work in the future.
Have you been able to fully celebrate yet?
I’m a real homebody, I don’t do a whole lot. I took a nice bath and I ordered room service at this hotel that I’m staying at. [Laughs.] That was about it — I’m crazy! I’m in Vancouver shooting the second season of Riverdale, so I couldn’t be with all of my friends. Hopefully when I get home we’ll have a party or something. Today is actually my first day of shooting Riverdale, yesterday I went in for a fitting. It’s been really exciting — I’ve gotten some of the scripts and got an idea of what season two is about. I’m really excited to see the rest of the cast today and get to work.
I’ve talked with Millie [Bobby Brown] and David [Harbour] briefly over Twitter, too, and I know they’re over the moon. And so deserving, obviously. David has been in this business for a long time and is incredible at everything he does. And Millie, she’s a prodigy. The work that she did with so little dialogue is so amazing, and I’m so excited and proud of them.
Have you thought about what you’re going to do on Emmys night yet?
Well, I always had this running joke with my mom that if I ever got nominated for an Emmy I would take her, so she’s been talking to me about it. That’s definitely going to happen and I’m going to be bringing her. Right now, I’m totally geeking out about dresses because I love dressing up. So I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to wear! It’s totally surreal. This is the thing that I dreamed about as a kid and it never seemed possible. It’s really amazing.
It’s been almost a year since people were introduced to you on Stranger Things, and yet your character has persisted as a cultural icon. Why do you think people have continued to be so transfixed with Barb?
It really is amazing for me to watch. I think there are a lot of reasons for it. Barb as a character is very relatable to a lot of people. She’s certainly relatable to me. In a way I feel like … we see a lot of beautiful people on television who seem popular and funny and capable, and when I was in high school, sometimes I just felt really weird and out of place, kind of like an outcast. It’s really interesting to see how a lot of people felt that way too and really saw themselves in Barb.
I’m surprised that no fancy eyewear retailer has begun selling a “Barb frame” yet.
[Laughs.] I know, right?! Okay, I was obsessed with those glasses and I wanted to keep them so bad but they wouldn’t let me. I’m still sad about it.
With this nomination, I think the least they can do is send you those glasses.
Send me those glasses, Netflix!
Will you ever truly get tired of people saying “Justice for Barb” whenever they see you?
Right now, I think this nomination is really incredible and in an ultimate way gives me some closure. Not only for the character, but for this whole phenomenon. I’m always going to love Barb and I’m always going to be grateful to Stranger Things and for the incredible opportunity I’ve had. But I’m very excited for my work to continue and to expand my horizons. It’ll be interesting to see how long Barb is really the icon that she is right now.
Stranger Things was my first job, and I was learning everything as I was doing it and it was such a whirlwind. I feel this incredible amount of pride for all of it. The ideas and knowledge that people have taken from Barb has given me this confidence in myself and in my abilities as an actress. That’s one of the most important things that I’ve gained from this experience — I can overcome my insecurities and realize within myself that this is what I love and this is what I’m meant to do.
I know you can’t comment on this, but if Barb were to return to Stranger Things for the upcoming season, in what circumstance would you like to see her return?
My go-to fanfiction for what would happen to her is that somebody goes back into the Upside-Down to retrieve her body — probably the scientists from Doctor Brenner’s team wanted to experiment on her. And then, thinking that she’s dead but she’s not, she wakes up and has Eleven-style powers. That would be awesome.
I was bummed to hear that you wouldn’t be playing Squirrel Girl in Freeform’s new series, Marvel’s New Warriors, especially since you seem perfect for it and you previously expressed interest in the role. Did you get far along in the audition process?
I did have an audition, yes. I love the character and I definitely would’ve loved to have played her, but at the end of the day, I feel really confident about the work that I did and the work I put out at that audition. There’s no bad blood. I wish the actress who got the part the best of luck, she has this really incredible opportunity to play this fun character, so it’ll be cool to see what she does with it.
Let’s hope it’s a blessing in disguise, and Marvel will come knocking in a year with a big-screen Squirrel Girl opportunity for you.
I would absolutely die.
This interview has been edited and condensed.