Everything to Know About Stranger Things Star Maya Hawke, Daughter of Ethan Hawke & Uma Thurman
When season 3 of Stranger Things drops at midnight on Netflix, all eyes will be on Maya Hawke!
Critics have been raving about the 20-year-old model-turned-actress’s standout performance as Robin — a no-nonsense teen who works at Hawkins’ sailor-themed ice cream parlor, Scoops Ahoy, and is a font of ingenious, evil-fighting suggestions (PEOPLE’s own Tom Gliatto praised her performance, saying Maya has “the beguiling, uncanny self-possession of the early Scarlett Johansson“). You could say it’s in her genes to stun on screen: her parents are Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman.
After turning heads in campaigns for AllSaints and Calvin Klein in 2016 and 2017, the starlet gave her parents’ profession a try, playing Jo in PBS’ 2017 miniseries adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women. A role in the 2018 indie thrilled Ladyworld followed, as did a slew of yet-to be released projects (including Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood; Human Capital with Marisa Tomei, Peter Skarsgard and Liev Schrieber; and Gia Coppola’s latest, Mainstream, opposite Andrew Garfield).
Here’s everything to know about Maya Hawke.
1. She grew up with Hollywood royalty.
Maya is the oldest child of fHawke and Thurman, who met on the set of Gattaca in 1996, wed in 1998, separated in 2003 and divorced in 2005 (The pair are also parents to son Levon Roan, 17, while Uma has another daughter — Luna, 6 — with ex-fiancé Arpad Busson, and Ethan shares daughters Clementine Jane, 11, and Indiana, 8, with wife Ryan Hawke, whom he married in 2008).
In an April 2018 profile with Elle, Maya recalled growing up watching her parents on set.
That included moving to China when she was just 4 years old so that Thurman could film Kill Bill. “[I would] watch my mom get the s— kicked out of her while I ate gummy bears,” Maya joked.
Similar memories came with her dad, with whom she would hang backstage while he performed in the 2009 Off Broadway revival of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. “I would sit and watch the dress rehearsal, I would watch them get notes,” she told Elle. “I’ve always been kind of a voyeur.”
“I love my family, we have a very rich, complicated relationship,” she continued.
2. She dropped out of Juilliard to play Jo in Little Woman.
The opportunity to join the cast of Little Women opposite Emily Watson and Angela Lansbury meant walking away from Juilliard’s prestigious drama program, where Maya was studying at the time.
It wasn’t an easy decision. As she told Elle, “One thing about leaving your training early is that it leaves you with all the tools with which to criticize yourself, without the skills to be able to implement the things that you know you’re supposed to be doing.”
“Your whole childhood is just absent of choices, and then you become an adult, and every choice you make, you open some doors, and close others. And that’s f—ing terrifying,” she said. “The moment you decide to go to an acting school you close a thousand doors. The moment you decide to leave one, you close a hundred doors. The moment you choose to do Little Women, you open 10 doors and you close 5. It’s like this endless journey of making decisions about who you’re going to be in your minimal time on this earth. That’s scary.”
Still, Maya couldn’t turn the role down — especially because Little Women was one of the first books she read by herself after she was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. “Jo was a big inspiration to me as far as having the drive and the passion to pursue my love for reading and writing, even when it was challenging,” Maya told Elle.
3. She calls her father her mentor.
For Maya, acting always felt as natural as “swimming or breathing or kissing,” she told Elle.
The native New Yorker’s love of literature and theater was honed during her time at an arts-oriented Brooklyn private school, Saint Ann’s, and, of course, through her parents.
“She was always an artist, writing poems, singing songs. [But] she didn’t discover acting until junior year of high school,” Ethan told PEOPLE in January 2018.
“I resisted [acting] a little bit, because it was the family business, until I realized that it made me the most happy and that it was what I was the best at,” she told WWD last month.
Once Maya decided to give it a shot, Ethan served as an important mentor, she told Elle.
He told PEOPLE he couldn’t be prouder of her.
“Words cannot explain. It’s one of the most amazing moments of my life watching her in Little Women,” Ethan said of her role as Jo March, a part also played by his old friend and former costar Winona Ryder (whom is also in Stranger Things with Maya).
“She didn’t do a good job, she did a great job,” Ethan added. “To see your child thrive, and to see her thrive at a profession that you have a lot of respect for, that I’ve dedicated my life to, I was so proud of her.”
4. She had never seen Stranger Things before landing the role.
Maya was staying in Los Angeles when the Duffer brothers offered her the role of Robin. She knew of the show’s success, especially because her mother and brother were fans. But she herself had never seen it, she told WWD.
The Duffer brothers didn’t hold that against her. Instead, they re-wrote Robin to be more like Maya. “I’m a super joyful, exuberant person, especially on set; I bring a lot of energy, maybe from nerves or something, but they kind of tapped into that and then started to write the character more along those lines,” she explained.
“I came into it thinking, ‘Okay, sarcastic, bored with her life, down to earth, Madonna wannabe, cool girl from school but that no one notices.’ And then throughout the season she became more and more like me,” she added.
Filming those scenes was a lot of fun. “I got so lucky,” she told TheWrap. “We had so much fun together. And we laughed a lot and our scenes were really funny. Like, I think it’s some of the funniest, total slapstick humor that’s been happening [this season].”
5. She’s realistic about fame.
With all the buzz coming her way, Maya isn’t worried about the spotlight.
“The world of celebrity that comes with the world of art is not particularly interesting to me,” she told Elle, explaining that she learned a lot from watching her parents navigate the industry.
That’s also humbled her to Hollywood’s ups and downs. In fact, she talks frankly about the fact that her parents’ fame helped make her success possible.
“It makes [for] more expectations and it makes it so that people doubt your intentions and your ability and your place, but the truth is that you just have to work hard and hopefully you learn your place,” she told WWD. “There are all kinds of ways that it helps you get a foot in the door, but you’re going to get booted out the door if, once you’re in, you suck.”
Stranger Things 3 begins streaming Thursday on Netflix.