Stranger Things star Dacre Montgomery's self-confidence struggle

Gillian Wolski
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
Dacre Montgomery chats to BUILD Series Sydney host Danny Clayton. Photo: BUILD Series Sydney.

He’s the hot new talent burning up TV screens, red carpets, and magazine covers but Aussie actor and star of Stranger Things Dacre Montgomery hasn’t always been comfortable living life in the spotlight.

In fact, as the 24-year-old Perth native revealed on BUILD Series Sydney on Wednesday, he’s still working on feeling comfortable in his own skin.

The multi-talented actor - who is also a podcaster, poet, and soon-to-be-published author - opened up about grappling with self-confidence and anxiety issues stemming back to his ‘tough’ teenage years.

Dacre Montgomery, unmasked

The Men’s Health cover star, who plays heartthrob Billy Hargrove on Netflix’s sci-fi hit show, recalled a poignant moment a few months ago when he decided to lay himself and his past bare to his six million Instagram followers.

“Everyone goes through stuff [...] I think it builds your character, but if the bedrock of your story is ridden with moments or experiences that rock your self-confidence then I think no matter how much you want to mask it as you grow older, it’s still there,” he told BUILD host Danny Clayton.

“So just as an adult [...], I’m grappling with stripping those masks that I’ve given myself,” he added.

“I’m doing a lot of work on myself, psycho-analysing myself and trying to figure out what all these walls that I’ve built up [are] and how can I strengthen myself properly from really deep inside.”

Dacre worked the red carpet at the MTV Movie & TV Awards in 2018. Photo: Getty Images.
Dacre as bad-boy Billy Hargrove on Stranger Things. Photo: Netflix.

‘A really tough time’

Back in July, Dacre posted an old school photo of himself along with a lengthy caption revealing a difficult youth that appears at odds with the handsome, successful, and sought-after star we know today.

“When I was a kid, I was lost. I had a really tough time in school. I was a big kid who loved drama,” he wrote.

Dacre shared this throw-back school photo on his Instagram in July. Photo: Instagram/dacremontgomery.

“I never got passing grades, I wasn’t popular or a gifted sports player. Girls were never interested in me. I suffered from anxiety from a young age. I was distracted and I wasn’t focused. But I had a dream, I was lucky - I knew what I wanted to do. And every night I went home and I focused on THAT,” he added.

“I visualised a future where my dreams became a reality.
When I was 15 I failed my high school drama exams.
When I was 16 I was told I needed to lose weight.
When I was 17 I was told I should go to drama school and train.
When I was 18 I was fired from my job.
When I was in drama school I was told to leave.
When I had a DREAM - I was told it wasn’t achievable,” he wrote.

“Well, you know what.... I lost weight, I went to drama school and I never stopped wanting it, I never stopped being curious. I never let the failures get me down. Because I believed in myself and I never let anyone tell me otherwise. You can do anything you set your mind to. So, go out there and get it!” he concluded.

Dacre worked up a sweat in 2016. Photo: Instagram/dacremontgomery.

Dacre’s big news

If his appearance on BUILD was anything to go by, Dacre has taken his own advice and gone out there and got ‘it’ - like his podcast featuring him reading out his poetry over music by successful musicians such as fellow Aussies Angus and Julia Stone, an upcoming book, and an interactive art exhibition at the art gallery of NSW.

As for whether or not eager Stranger Things viewers will catch a glimpse of bad boy Billy in the upcoming fourth season, Dacre would not be drawn on any details.

“I can’t say anything,” he said. “I won’t do it!”

Mental health support for yourself or a loved one can be found by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978, or the Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

Online support is available via Beyond Blue.