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!

–Joyce Byers, November 11, 1983

Joyce Byers, portrayed by Winona Ryder, is a major character in the first and second 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.

A year after the mysterious tragedy of her son, Joyce helps her son with another issue following the events of the first season. Towards the end, she, Jonathan, and Nancy assisted in removing Will from the possession of the Mind Flayer.



Joyce went to high school with Jim Hopper and Bob Newby. She married Lonnie Byers, with whom she had 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]


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 playdate with his friends, but Karen told her that Will had left the previous night, around 8:00 p.m. Joyce went to file a missing person’s report, but Police Chief Jim Hopper brushed her off, theorizing that Will was "playing hooky" 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. Then, 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 finally, she heard Will’s voice on the other end, though the phone quickly short-circuited again. Noticing the lights blinking in an odd pattern, she followed them to Will's room. Suddenly, loud music played from Will’s radio as the lights flickered intensively. Joyce was terrified as the wall in Will's room warped and took on a shape as something 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 was nearly hit by 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 ax 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, despite her saying that she truly knows that Will is really alive.

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 supposed death. Hopper showed up at her house and unscrewed every light bulb inside, searching for a bug, something 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 twelve years before. 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 had been arrested and Nancy Wheeler was keeping him company at the police 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 her mental void. Joyce made Eleven 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 help him. Joyce told Brenner to go to hell. Meanwhile, Hopper negotiated a deal, and the duo was 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 resuscitated. After being rescued, Will was brought to the Hawkins General Hospital where he recovered.


Shortly after being rescued, Will began experiencing visions of the Upside Down. He eventually told Joyce about these visions, prompting her to start taking him to Hawkins National Laboratory for routine check-ups. During these visits, he'd be looked over by Dr. Owens, who attested that Will's visions were psychosomatic episodes similar to those related to post-traumatic stress disorder.

At some point, Joyce began dating Bob Newby.

On October 29, Joyce dropped Will off at the Palace arcade. There, Will had an episode, suddenly appearing in the Upside Down version of the arcade and witnessing what appeared to be a storm of some sort.

The next day, Joyce was at work sewing Will's Halloween costume when Bob walked in. The couple briefly made out in the backroom.

Joyce picked Will up after school and together they went to the lab where they met up with Hopper. Will told Owens about his episode, saying that an evil force wanted to kill everyone. Owens told Joyce and Hopper the reason for the increased number of episodes is because of the “Anniversary Effect.” He advised them to just treat Will as normally as possible.

As Joyce was assisting Will with his costume the following morning, she came across his drawing of a strange spider-like creature. She asked him if he had experienced another episode, but he lied, telling her it was for a story he was writing. Joyce later showed the drawing to Hopper who reassured her that everything will be fine. That night, Joyce and Bob were alone while Will was trick-or-treating with his friends, and Jonathan was at a Halloween party. While the two were dancing, Bob proposed that they move to Maine. Joyce was hesitant about the idea.

The following day, Bob met up with Joyce for lunch. He informed her that the tape from Halloween night had shown
Joyce watch Will's tape

Joyce watch Will's tape to find a spider-like creature

Will being bullied by some teenagers in costumes. Later, while watching the tape, Joyce noticed some strange interference in the footage. After tracing the shape on a piece of paper, she realized it resembled Will's drawing of the the spider-like creature. Worried, she went to the Middle School to get Will. When she arrived, Joyce, as well as the boys and Max, found Will as he was experiencing another episode. While Joyce tried to wake him up, Will was being overwhelmed by the shadow monster. When Will finally snapped out of the episode, Joyce took him home and questioned him about his drawing. Will recounted his encounter with the shadow monster, saying he felt it everywhere and could still feel it. Joyce then assured him that she wouldn't let anything hurt him, promising she would help fix whatever was wrong with him.

The next morning, Joyce tried to contact Hopper, but received no answer. After taking Will's temperature, she discovered that it was lower than average. Joyce ran a bath in order to warm him, but Will refused to get in it, saying “He likes it cold.” When Hopper finally arrived, Will explained to him that he now knew things he hadn't before, through memories that “were happening all at once”, which he called “now-memories”. When Will couldn't make sense of these now-memories, Joyce asked him to draw what he saw. He began frantically drawing what at first appeared to be random scribbles, but Joyce and Hopper soon realized that the drawings were all connected. After assembling the drawings in the correct order, they discovered the drawings depicted a strange maze-like pattern. Assuming that the drawings depicted vines, Hopper made the connection to the pumpkin patch and left.

Later, Mike stopped by the house hoping to acquire more information about Will's situation. Joyce initially dismissed him, but once he mentioned the shadow monster, she let him inside.

The next morning, Will informed Joyce that Hopper was in trouble after seeing him through his connection with the shadow monster. While they were able to figure out where Hopper was in Will's drawings, they did not know the actual location. Just then, Bob arrived, and because of his talent in solving puzzles, Joyce enlisted his help. Bob realized that the drawings were a map of Hawkins, and was able to pinpoint Hopper's location. Arriving at the location, Joyce and Bob descended into the tunnels while Mike and Will waited above ground. Eventually, Hopper was found entangled in a mass of vines. After freeing him, soldiers from the lab arrived and urged them to leave shortly before burning the tunnels. Suddenly, Will collapsed and began convulsing on the ground.

Joyce, Bob, Hopper, and Mike were taken to Hawkins Lab, where Will was quickly treated. When Will awoke, he could not remember Owens, Bob, or Hopper, and was barely able to remember Mike. In a test involving a severed vine from the Upside Down, Owens asked if Will could feel anything as another scientist used a blowtorch to burn the vine. Through this, they determined that Will had some sort of “virus” that connected him to all other infected hosts in a hive intelligence. Back in the infirmary, Will claimed he knew of a way they could possibly stop the shadow monster. Using images that the lab personnel had taken of the map, Will directed the scientists to an area, stating “he doesn't want me to see there.”

As soldiers traversed the tunnels, Will revealed that the shadow monster made him deceive the soldiers. Realizing it was a trap, Mike tried to warn the scientists, but it was too late; the soldiers were ambushed and killed by a pack of Demodogs. Shortly after, Demodogs began invading the lab. To prevent the shadow monster from knowing their location, Mike urged them to sedate Will. Once Will was unconscious, the group took refuge in a surveillance room, where they witnessed the lab being overrun by Demodogs before the power went out. To restore the power and allow them a way out, Bob volunteered to go down to the basement and reset the breakers. Once the power was restored and the doors unlocked, Mike, Joyce, Hopper, and Will made it to safety while Owens stayed behind to guide Bob. Just when it seemed Bob was safe, he was tackled and killed by several Demodogs. Outside, the group met up with Nancy, Jonathan, Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max. Together, they escaped the lab.

At the Byers' house, Joyce grieved Bob's death while everyone else speculated about the shadow monster's weakness. When they realized that the shadow monster controlled everything in a hive mind, they compared it to the Mind Flayer, a monster from Dungeons & Dragons that similarly controls the minds of its victims. They also speculated that, if they killed the Mind Flayer, they would kill everything it controlled. Mike then proposed that, in order to discover the Mind Flayer's weakness, they'd have to take Will someplace he couldn't recognize and try to get through to him. Joyce agreed, and after making the backyard shed unrecognizable, they attempted to interrogate Will. While the Mind Flayer had taken over a majority of Will's mind and body, a part of Will managed to subconsciously signal to them in Morse code. Deciphering his message, they discovered the way to stop the Mind Flayer: closing the Gate. Soon after, the phone in the Byers' kitchen rang, giving away their location.

As the house was being surrounded by a pack of Demodogs, the group armed themselves. Before the pack could attack, however, Eleven arrived and eradicated them. Together, the group came up with a plan: Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy would exorcise the Mind Flayer from Will's body while Eleven and Hopper would go to the lab and close the gate. After taking Will to Hopper's cabin, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan restrained him, surrounding him with numerous heaters. This eventually caused the piece of the Mind Flayer possessing Will to be expelled from his body.

On December 15, Joyce taught Will how to dance in preparation for the Snow Ball. After dropping him off at the dance, she met Hopper in the school's parking lot. Hopper comforted Joyce, who was still grieving over Bob.


Joyce was highly generous, amicable and a tremendously benevolent mother who would do almost anything to keep her sons, particularly Will, out of harm's way. After Will disappearance, Joyce enlisted Chief Jim Hopper to find him as well as posted several missing person's posters with the help of her other son Jonathan. Even after Will's presumed dead body was found, she was still convinced that her son was alive and undertook extreme measures to contact with him, such as chopping a hole in the wall of her house in order to find him. Ultimately, her commitment was rewarded when it was revealed that Will was actually alive and with Hopper's help, she was able to save him.

However, when it was found that Will'd been experiencing visions of the Upside Down, Joyce wasted no time bringing him to Dr. Owens to do regular checkups. Her extreme concern for Will surprisingly led her to discover that the shadow creature from the Upside Down had overwhelmed and possessed him, causing him to behave strangely. After Will convulsed and suffered from severe pain during the burning of the tendrils, Joyce was terrifically dismayed to learn that her son started showing memory problems, which caused her to berate the doctors.

Eventually, it was her immense determination to protecting her son that allowed her to save Will after she forced the shadow monster out by exposing her possessed son to extreme heat.


Joyce met Lonnie Byers at some point in her life and fell in love with him. They later married and had two sons, Johnathan and Will Byers. Accorrding to their eldest son, Johnathan, Joyce and Lonnie once did love each other, but their marriage became strained and they divorced before the year 1983. Joyce began to hate Lonnie for his uncaring nature and stopped getting in touch with him until Will mysteriously disappeared. Joyce was against contacting Lonnie to see if Will was with him and Lonnie blamed Joyce for Will's disappearance. When Lonnie came to Will's "funeral," Joyce seemed surprised to see him there until she discovered that Lonnie only came to collect profit from Will's "supposed" death. As a result, Joyce angrily ordered Lonnie to get out and leave.

Joyce clearly deeply cared about her youngest son. Joyce encouraged Will to be his own person and allowed him to be creative, praising his artistic ability and letting him build his own fort in the nearby woods. Will felt comfortable discussing his D&D campaigns with her as he would with his friends. While trapped in the Upside Down, he repeatedly tried to contact her, often putting himself at risk of being found by the Monster. Joyce became determined to find him, and eventually entered the Upside Down to save him.

Though Joyce deeply cared for her eldest son just as she did for Will, she felt guilty that she had been unable to support him more, due to her time-consuming job. Joyce admitted to Jonathan that "I hardly know what's going on with you". After Will vanished, Joyce's sanity was tested and in turn so was the relationship between her and her remaining son.

Hopper and Joyce have known each other since high school. They were fairly close, often skipping class and to smoke together, even being caught by a teacher on at least one occasion. Their friendship continued well into adulthood, and remained even after Hopper returned to Hawkins after living in another city for several years. After Will vanished, Hopper and Joyce gradually drew closer together, confiding in one another as they attempted to find answers to the mysteries materializing around them.

Joyce and Bob knew each other since high school and sometime in 1984, they developed an affectionate relationship, mainly due to Bob's commiserative attitude to both her and her sons. Joyce would even entrust her son to go with him. And when Will's condition turned worse, she didn't hesitate to reveal to him the mysterious events that happened the previous year. However, Bob's shocking death at the Hawkins Lab left her in bereavement.


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
Season Two appearances
MADMAX Trick or Treat, Freak The Pollywog
Will the Wise Dig Dug The Spy
The Lost Sister The Mind Flayer The Gate


Volume 1 appearances
Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4

Family tree

Joyce Byers Family Tree icon 001
Joyce Byers
Lonnie Byers Family Tree icon 001
Lonnie Byers
Jonathan Byers FamilyTree icon 001
Jonathan Byers
Will Byerd Family Tree icon 001
Will Byers

Memorable Quotes

Joyce Byers:

  • "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."
  • "Will wanted me to give him some space, so I'm giving him a few feet."

Joyce Byers to Jonathan:

  • "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!"
  • "This is not yours to fix alone. You act like you're all alone out there in the world, but you're not!"

Joyce Byers to Brenner:

  • "I know who you are. I know what you've done... You took my boy away from me! You left him in that place to die. You faked his death... we had a funeral, we buried him! And now, you're asking for my help? Go to hell."

Behind the scenes

Character development

The character was initially more of a "tough Long Island mom."[9] 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.[10] 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.[9]


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.[11] Adams sent Winona Ryder the board and they discussed the character in depth before Adams gathered period clothing for the character.[12]


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. 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. 9.0 9.1 "The Stranger Things creators want some scares with their Spielberg" ''A.V. Club''. July 13, 2016.
  10. "Montauk Pilot" written by The Duffer Brothers.
  11. "Costume Design Tear Sheets" Things Insider</nowiki>. September 4, 2016.
  12. "Stranger Things - Costume Designing 1980s Nostalgia" Tyranny of Style.

The Upside Down
Locations The Upside DownThe GateHawkinsHawkins National LaboratoryPublic LibraryPortalsHawkins Middle SchoolHawkins tunnel system
Entities D'ArtagnanThe DemogorgonDemogorgon (species)The Mind FlayerSlug-like creatureHawkins tunnel systemVines
Visitors Joyce ByersWill ByersElevenSteve HarringtonDustin HendersonBarbara HollandJim HopperMax MayfieldBob NewbyShepardLucas SinclairMike WheelerNancy Wheeler
Miscellaneous Upside Down eggThe Upside Down (episode)Dungeons & DragonsThe Void
Articles may contain spoilers.
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