Shannon Purser has found instant fame thanks to her role in Stranger Things

By Patrick Gomez
Updated August 31, 2016 03:45 PM
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Credit: Curtis Baker/Netflix

It could have been a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it character, but actress Shannon Purser has watched in awe as her role as the popular girl’s best friend, Barb, in Netflix’s new hit Stranger Things has garnered a cult fandom.

“We all knew this show was going to be something special, but I never even hoped that Barb would be received the way she has been,” says Purser, who is featured in the current issue of PEOPLE.

Barb may not have a ton of screen time on the streaming series but she has inspired memes, fan pages, rap songs and what some are calling “the cult of Barb.”

“She’s kind of a sad character in her mom jeans, but I think everyone feels like a Barb sometimes,” says Purser, 19. “I think people also like her strength. She wears what she wants to wear. She doesn’t want to go to the party. She doesn’t need to be popular. They also like that she’s unapologetic about who she is.”

The Atlanta-area native was touched when the hashtag #JusticeForBarb started trending on twitter, inspiring the show’s creators to promise that justice in season 2 of Stranger Things, which was greenlit on Wednesday. But she was most excited when Fuller House star John Stamos tweeted out a picture of some fan art of Barb along with the hashtag #ImWithBarb.

“I grew up watching Uncle Jesse,” says Purser. “I couldn’t believe he was a fan.”

RELATED VIDEO: Netflix’s Stranger Things Cast Reacts to Season 2 Announcement

To see Purser in the pages of PEOPLE, pick up the latest issue of the magazine, on newsstands Friday

Purser currently still calls Georgia home, but she recently quit her job at a movie theater and has now booked the role of Ethel Muggs in the upcoming, darker Archie Comics series Riverdale, which is set to premiere on The CW in early 2017.

“This was my first credit,” Purser says of Stranger Things. “I’ve spent years hoping something good would happen. Now it has!”

Stranger Things season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.