Natalia Dyer on Her Hannah Montana Beginnings and How Her Religious Upbringing Fueled New Movie

The Stranger Things actress discusses her new coming-of-age film Yes, God, Yes with PEOPLE

Natalia Dyer
Photo: Colin Young-Wolf/Invision for PEOPLE Magazine/AP Images

Natalia Dyer, famous for battling demonic creatures on Netflix's Stranger Things, grapples with something much more personal in her latest movie, Yes, God, Yes: a teenager's sexual awakening.

In the indie comedy, Dyer, 25, plays Alice, a Catholic school student struggling to discover herself amid an environment that only wants to suppress her. Directed by Obvious Child co-writer Karen Maine, and based on her own experiences growing up Catholic in the Midwest, Yes, God, Yes, sees Dyer delve back into her own past to bring Alice's journey to the screen.

Dyer spoke with PEOPLE about the coming-of-age film while on a break from filming the fourth season of Stranger Things.

How’s quarantine going for you? Are you stationed anywhere in particular?

I decided to station in Atlanta since we started filming [Stranger Things], and then we had to pause. This was kind of already my decidedly adopted home for the time being. And having filmed here a couple of years, I have sort of a life here, so it kind of feels like a second home anyway. So I've just been here, which... it's been chill. It's been not too bad in general. I think quarantine is good days and some not so good days. But overall I really can't complain too much.

Given you star in one of Netflix’s biggest shows, what are you binging while in isolation?

Oh, well, one of the biggest discoveries of my quarantine was Peaky Blinders. That took up a good chunk of my quarantine. And I can't believe I haven't seen it before. Now I'm waiting for the next season like everyone else. I have recently been watching Fargo and I May Destroy You, which I think is excellent. I think like there's some random, sort of more fluffy... Great British Bake Off, rewatching it sort of days. But, yeah, I've been really, really sitting with some shows recently. Oh and Mr. Robot, yeah. I started that one. It's kind of got a few things in the fire. But it's been good.

Did you grow up in a religious household like Alice in Yes, God, Yes?

I did. I grew up in the South and while my family, like my parents were pretty open minded, I did grow up going to church and I went to a private religious school for a lot of my childhood. And kind of just grew up in an environment where religion was common and sort of an important part of the community. There was a lot there between me and Alice that I could understand and kind of pull from of what that mindset is and what the limitations of that. And kind of what you're told versus what you kind of figure out for yourself. And just the confusion of it all.

Your first role was in a Hannah Montana: The Movie, which is wild.

Crazy. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes I forget.

What did that do for your school life?

I mean, the role was fairly small and it was shot in Tennessee where I lived. So it was pretty convenient in a way. I do think there was a little bit of... I was probably always like the theater kid or that kid who is going off and doing these things. I don't know how much that directly impacted my popularity. I don't feel like I ever really talked about a lot of the stuff I was doing when I was in school. It was just kind of, yeah, that happened.

Natalia Dyer
Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

Lest people forget, you’re 25. You’ve been playing high school students for the past few years. Are you keen to start playing roles closer to your age?

Yeah. I do have to keep reminding myself not to do too much in a rush, because the aging process will come.

I do think I get excited when teenagers are written in the complex way that they deserve. And I think, as long as the character is given a full story, that's always exciting. But yeah, I think eventually I'll probably get to the point where I'm like, "Okay, it's really hard for me to relate to a high schooler now that I'm nearly 30." But, yeah, in general, I think I'm... I don't have any exactly specific ideas in mind except to just try different things, try challenging things.

Oh, I have always said that I wanted to be in an action movie. Just like a big, ridiculous action movie because that's very not my niche. But I'd try it. But I think, yeah, I think just complex, full rounded, female characters with good stories who aren't just the objects of desire. I'm really pretty open to any of those.

  • Yes, God, Yes opens in virtual cinemas and at select drive-ins on July 24. It arrives on Digital and VOD on July 28.
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