If you thought Eleven’s love of Eggos was the best food-related cameo on Stranger Things, Stranger Things, guess again. No, we're not talking about the epic Halloween candy debate in season 2, either. In this show filled with bloody fights, mud-soaked adventures, and gooey biological membranes, many of those elements are actually made with edible ingredients behind-the-scenes. Stranger Things managed to sneak in quite a few food moments, without us even knowing.
To see if we wanted to cook up some Demogorgon goo of our own, we spoke to Amy L. Forsythe, head of the makeup department for Stranger Things, and the genius behind many of the the gaks, muds, and blood that make the Upside Down come to life. We got the rundown on her ingredient secrets and the recipes that, for better or for worse, end up all over the cast.
Edible Blood & Mouth Blood Are Totally Different
If you've seen season 2 of Stranger Things, it makes sense that the makeup trailer had to be stocked with plenty of fake blood. As horrifying (and heartbreaking) as some of the show’s bloodiest scenes are, the fake blood itself is actually quite tasty. "I did a zombie show for the History Channel, and they needed a lot of blood, so I blended Craisins with black cherry Jell-O mix and put some water in, and it was delicious," said Forsythe.
As for the blood that goes inside the actor’s mouths, which is a completely different goo — like in the scene where Bob is dying or when Steve punches Billy in the face — that is made with Karo syrup and food coloring. The most important thing about this blood, according to Forsythe, is that it’s safe to put in your mouth. However, it’s also a better experience for the actors if you can make it taste good. "You add a little bit of flavoring so the actor doesn’t hate it. Most of the stuff that goes in the mouth taste pretty gross, so you want to have some options for your actors. Some people use Emergen-C, some people use Jell-O, as long as it doesn’t change the color."
For the newly confirmed season 3, Forsythe has plans to offer even more flavors. "I feel like in season 3, we’re going to have a nice assortment of flavored oils in the trailer, you know that you use for baking, and I’ll just let actors taste a bunch of them and see which ones they like the best, and then we’ll just keep that in mind for the what ifs."
Not All Goos Are Delicious
Though most of the time, Forsythe and her team try to make their mouth concoctions as tasty as possible for the actors, there was at least one instance during the filming of Stranger Things 2 when it didn't work out. When Noah Schnapp’s character Will is possessed by the Mind Flayer, Forsythe wanted the color of his tongue to change. "As he progresses, his eyes gets darker with contacts and he gets paler and paler, and I wanted to reflect that his mouth wasn’t as healthy," she said.
Forsythe ended up creating the ideal look with white frosting and food coloring. With it, she made a "murky greenish swamp color" that would cancel out the redness of his tongue, gums, and lips. The team decided they would paint the frosting on Schnapp’s tongue and lips, then have him swish with water or lick his lips until it was faded to the color they wanted. The frosting "recipe" offered the makeup team just what they wanted, but the swamp-hued treat was not what Schnapp wanted. Forsythe explained, laughing, "Well, it turns out that Noah hates frosting, and had I know that, I would have just chosen something else… Anytime I came out with frosting, he was like 'No!' and I’m like 'I’m so sorry!'"
Though his palette may be quite sophisticated — really, have you ever met a teenager that doesn’t like frosting? — Noah Schnapp got revenge on his makeup artist in a way only Will Byers would. Forsythe told us, "After all the torture that we put Noah through during the first and second season, I let him torture me... So, he got to super-soak me at the end of the season. Yeah, he kind of took me by surprise. He was like 'I'm gonna put Jell-O in it!' And I'm like 'I love Jell-O!''
Tunnel Mud Is An Elaborate Concoction
Some of the most intense moments in Stranger Things 2 take place in the winding tunnels of the Upside Down that run underneath Hawkins. So, the actors involved in the tunnel scenes, like David Harbour, had to get the tunnel mud treatment. To come up with the perfect mud, Forsythe and her team spent some time in the makeup trailer experimenting. "We had a mud that we really liked, kind of like clays and that kind of stuff, but it didn’t quite have the texture that I wanted, and I wanted more textural layers to it. So, we were playing in the trailer, and we have an espresso machine in the trailer, so I took our concoction and I threw in the espresso grounds, and it was perfect. I was like 'This is amazing!'" said Forsythe.
Surprisingly, the tunnel mud recipe was quite exact, and when they tried to recreate it a little differently, it just wasn’t the same. "One of my assistants, we sent her to the trailer to whip up some more really quick, and she came to set and it wasn’t the same. I was like, 'What did you use?' and she had put coffee grounds in instead of espresso grounds, and it just didn’t work."
The precisely crafted tunnel mud was a joy for some of the actors but for others, having to be slathered in it day after day, was a bit taxing. "Sean Aston loved the mud so much," said Forsythe. "He was just like, 'Oh my gosh, I love the way this mud looks!' So we gave some to wardrobe to smear all over his clothes."
The actor who plays Hopper though, has to be covered in the mud quite a bit. "Every time I would, you know, go to town on David Harbour with the goo and the tunnel mud, I would just be like 'Okay! Time for your facial! It’s a spa day today.' And he'd be like 'Okay, let’s do this' because he knows it looks cool, but at the end of the day, he really is excited for that hot towel!"