A virtual unknown more than a year ago, actor Noah Schnapp has rapidly become a household name thanks to his gig playing Will Byers in Stranger Things. Despite the sudden popularity, Schnapp has been trying to keep a low profile and do the things he loves, like watching his favorite team: the Canadiens, of course. To coincide with the release of the second season of Stranger Things, we caught up with the 13-year-old young man during one of his visits to the Bell Centre to learn a bit more about his passion for the Habs.
We've been told that your favorite hockey team is the Montreal Canadiens. Is that true? How did it all start?
NOAH SCHNAPP: It is true, for sure. When I was very little, I used to watch the Rangers a lot, but I'm a true-to-heart Habs fan. One time, I went to a Bruins game and I had to pretend that I was a Bruins fan, but I'm truly a Habs fan.
My dad is a huge Habs fan. He'd always be yelling at the TV and screaming at the players. I just started watching with him once, and I became a big fan.
Tell us about your connection to this town, despite being born in NYC.
NS: I have citizenship here also. My whole family lives here and I'm a big fan of the Canadiens. So it's like, 'Why not come here?' I have a very personal connection to this place.
How often do you come back here just to relax?
NS: I go to Montreal a lot - maybe twice a year. I come back a lot, because my whole family lives here. And then, the Habs - there's a lot to come back for. And Orange Julep.
What do you like at Orange Julep?
NS: It's that drink, it's amazing.
Is the Bell Centre one of your favorite places in the city? What do you like about it?
NS: Yes. I love the loud music and the big TV's, the food stands, I love the loud vibe. I love everything about it.
With your schedule, how often do you watch the Habs play on TV / live in person?
NS: Whenever my dad is watching, I'll join him. Usually, I'll check the scores, and that kind of stuff. I follow them online a lot, because I have such a crazy schedule.
Video: NYR@MTL: Noah Schnapp takes in the Habs game
Born and raised in New York, right? You've never been tempted to support the Rangers?
MITCHELL SCHNAPP (Noah's father): We had tickets for the semifinals [in 2014]. We're walking to the game, and [Noah] is wearing a Habs shirt going to the game. The hot dog vendor outside said, 'Hey boy, you're confused!'
NS: I remember that story. All I remember is he was mad at us, that we were Habs fans. They're crazy. In Boston, I was walking up in a Habs shirt, and I had a Bruins shirt over it, because I had to pretend. They were like, 'You're a Habs fan! Stop pretending to be a Bruins fan!'
Favorite Habs player?
NS: Carey Price. I like the goalie. He's just a very good goalie, and I like goalies.
Do you play hockey?
NS: Yeah, we play street hockey. We have these nets that we set up in our driveway, and me and my dad used to play a lot, and we still do.
Do people recognize you in the streets?
NS: Yeah. Not everyone stops me on the streets, but when you're at airports or public places like that. It's kind of weird for me. I don't know how they recognize me. It just happens when people see me. We were at a restaurant and some is guy sitting next to us, and he keeps turning his head and staring. Eventually he asked me, 'Wait, are you that kid from Stranger Things?' I told him I was.
Do you enjoy that people recognize you?
NS: I remember we were at the Bruins game, and they put me on the big screen, and all these people came down and I got to meet all of them. It was really cool.
It's not so easy for Habs players to fly under the radar here. Even though you're really young, would you say you have a similar experience since you're star of a well-known show?
NS: It's definitely something new to me. It's so weird that someone knows who I am without having my name on the back of my shirt. You kind of just get used to it, but it's always going to be weird for me. But I love meeting all of them, because I just know them through Instagram and Twitter, and when you get to meet them in person, it's really cool.
Do you ever wear any Habs gear to set?
NS: I should! And I should take a picture. I have this pyjama shirt with the Habs [logo] on it. But I'm going to wear a big jersey to set, and I'm going to take a picture and post it.
Did you expect Stranger Things to have that much success when you first started shooting it?
NS: No. I remember reading the scripts and thinking that it'd be a good show. But for it to come out and blowup in a snap, you never expect any of that. Things just totally changed.
Season 2 will air this fall. Is there anything you can tell us about it?
NS: I can tell you that I'm in it. I can tell you that there are new characters. And that it'll be coming out this year.