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Joyce Byers

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I know it sounds crazy... I sound crazy... You think I don't know that? It is crazy! But I heard him, Jonathan... he talked to me! Will is calling to me, and he's out there, and he's alone, and he's scared, and... I don't care if anyone believes me. I am not gonna stop looking for him until I find him and bring him home! I am going to bring him home!

–Joyce Byers, November 10, 1983

Joyce Byers, portrayed by Winona Ryder, is a major character in the first season. The financially poor single mother of Will and Jonathan Byers, Joyce works as a retail clerk and relies on help from her eldest to make ends meet.

After Will mysteriously disappeared, Joyce was certain that he was communicating with her through the lights in her house. Despite everyone treating her as if she was having a mental breakdown, Joyce refused to believe that Will was dead, even after his alleged corpse was found. Through co-operation with her friend and local police chief Jim Hopper, Will’s friends and Jonathan, she eventually uncovered the circumstances of her son’s disappearance and entered the Upside Down to rescue him.



Joyce went to high school with Jim Hopper and Bob Newby. She married Lonnie Byers, with whom she had to Jonathan and Will. Jonathan said his parents once loved each other, but that he "wasn't around for that part". The two later divorced and were not on friendly terms. Joyce never required her ex-husband’s help.

Joyce began working at Melvald's General Store in downtown Hawkins around 1973, where she would work long hours and on holidays to make ends meet. Joyce had problems with anxiety in the past.[2]

Season One

Before leaving for work one morning, Joyce discovered that Will was nowhere to be found in the house. She called Karen Wheeler, asking whether Will had stayed over at her house following a playmate with his friends, but Karen told her that Will had left the previous night, around 8pm. Joyce went to file a missing person’s report, but the Police Chief Jim Hopper brushed her off, theorising that Will was "playing hookie" or had run away to his father's house.

As Joyce and Jonathan put together a missing persons poster, the phone rang. Joyce picked it up, hearing only static and growling at first. Joyce was certain that she could hear Will’s breathing, but a jolt of electricity short circuited the phone and the impact knocked her to the floor.[3]

Joyce told Hopper about the call, but he was skeptical. She headed to the General Store and negotiated a free phone and a two week advance pay from her boss, Donald. Joyce then waited by the new phone for another call, and she finally heard Will’s voice on the other end, though the phone quickly short circuited again. Suddenly, loud music played from Will’s room as the lights flickered intensively. Joyce was terrified as the wall in Will's room warped and took on a shape as something strange was trying to break through, and she ran to the car.[4]

Holly Jolly S01-E03 SS 001

Joyce communicating with Will through the lights.

Convinced that Will was talking to her through the lights, Joyce stayed in his room trying to make contact, causing Jonathan to believe she was acting delusionally. Joyce bought several packs of christmas lights, which she hung all over her living room. Will made contact with her through the lights and answered yes or no questions. Will revealed that he was alive, but not safe. Joyce painted an alphabet on the wall, through which Will said he was “right here” and warned her to “run,” right before the monster broke through the wall. Joyce ran down the road and met Jonathan’s car, closely followed by the police.[5]

Hopper informed Joyce that Will’s body was discovered in the local quarry, but Joyce told him she had just talked to Will through the lights. Thinking she was in denial, Hopper shared that he had visions of his own daughter after she passed away, and Joyce replied “I need you to believe me. Please.” She grabbed an axe from the shed as protection and fell asleep on the sofa.

The next morning, Joyce went to the coroner to identify the body. While at the coroner's office, she asked to see Will's birthmark. Joyce refused to sign the death certificate, insisting “I don’t know what you think that thing is in there, but that is not my son!” Jonathan lashed out at her on the sidewalk in front of a crowd, saying they had to deal with his funeral.

At their home, Will called for Joyce through the wall, and peeling back the wallpaper she saw his face through a layer of a flesh-like substance. Will said he was in a place “like home, but it's so dark... It's so dark and empty. And it's cold!” The monster approached, and a distraught Joyce told him to run, swearing she would come for him. Joyce chopped a hole in the wall, but it only lead to the outside of her house.[2]

Joyce's ex-husband, Lonnie, came to Hawkins for Will’s funeral, and was dismissive to everything Joyce said about finding Will. After the funeral, Joyce found papers from an attorney, and sent Lonnie packing because he was only there to profit from Will’s “death." Hopper showed up at her house and unscrewed all the light bulbs, searching for a hidden microphone like he had found in his own home. Hopper admitted to Joyce that the entire time, she was right about Will's disappearance.[6]

Hopper and Joyce tracked down Terry Ives, who had sued Dr. Brenner and Hawkins National Laboratory for kidnapping her daughter. They found Terry in a catatonic state, unable to speak, but her sister relayed the details of Terry's involvement in the experiments at Hawkins Lab, and her supposed missing daughter.[7]

Returning to Hawkins, they found that Jonathan has been arrested for fighting and Nancy Wheeler was keeping him company at the station. They all joined forces with Will’s friends, who explained that Will was in another dimension. They went to Hawkins Middle School, where they built a makeshift sensory deprivation tank so Eleven could telepathically communicate with Will. Joyce reached out to Eleven and made her feel safe as she was navigating through the other dimension. Joyce made Eleven to tell Will to hold on and that his mother was coming for him.

The Upside Down

Joyce and Hopper find Will in The Upside Down.

Joyce and Hopper broke into Hawkins National Laboratory, where they were captured on arrival.[8] The pair were interrogated, and Dr. Brenner tried to persuade Joyce to strike a deal through fear tactics. Joyce told Brenner to go to hell. Meanwhile, Hopper negotiated a deal, and the duo were allowed to enter the Upside Down in hazmat suits to search for Will. When they found him, he was close to death, strung up in a web of strange biologic matter with a tendril extending down his throat. Hopper and Joyce administered CPR to Will until he was resucitated. After being rescued, Will was brought to the Hawkins General Hospital where he recovered.

Joyce went public with the information that Will had been subject of a secret government program at Hawkins National Laboratory, and inquiries were made.[9]


Jim Hopper — Officer Powell remarked that "The chief and her, they've screwed before, huh?" This was never confirmed or disproven.[4]


Season One appearances
The Vanishing of Will Byers The Weirdo on Maple Street Holly, Jolly The Body
The Flea and the Acrobat The Monster The Bathtub The Upside Down

Memorable Quotes

  • "Maybe I am a mess, maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m out of my mind! But, God help me, I will keep these lights up until the day I die, if I think there’s a chance that Will's still out there!"
  • "Alright, well, I don't know who's been raising you, but I'm gonna get you some new crayons, because it looks like he's shooting cabbages."
  • "Just ring me up, Donald."

Behind the scenes

Character development

The character was initially more of a "tough Long Island mom."[10] In the original pilot script, she was described as a mom in her late 30s with a Long Island accent wearing too much make-up. She worked two jobs, appeared to be more aggressive and cursed a lot.[11]

After Winona Ryder was cast in the role, the Duffer Brothers talked about the character Roy Neary portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, who encounters something supernatural and appears insane to the outside world. They thought Winona, who has "this wild, unpredictable energy about her," could play that really well.[10]


Costume designer Kimberley Adams compiled mood boards for each character's style. Joyce's board had images of Meryl Streep's character Karen Silkwood in the film Silkwood (1983) and singer/actress Cher's style in the 1980s.[12] Adams sent Winona Ryder the board and they discussed the character in depth before Adams gathered period clothing for the character.[13]


View Gallery

Click the above image to view the gallery for Joyce Byers.


  1. Series 1 Episode 2 "The Weirdo on Maple Street"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 4: The Body"
  3. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 1: The Vanishing of Will Byers"
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 2: The Weirdo on Maple Street"
  5. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 3: Holly, Jolly"
  6. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 5: The Flea and the Acrobat"
  7. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 6: The Monster"
  8. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 7: The Bathtub"
  9. Stranger Things Season 1: "Chapter 8: The Upside Down"
  10. 10.0 10.1 "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" A.V. Club. July 13, 2016.
  11. "Montauk Pilot" written by The Duffer Brothers.
  12. "Costume Design Tear Sheets" Things Insider. September 4, 2016.
  13. "Stranger Things - Costume Designing 1980s Nostalgia" Tyranny of Style.

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