Atlanta actor Regina Ting Chen on joining 'Stranger Things' Season 4

Regina Ting Chen portrays Ms. Kelly, the guidance counselor at Hawkins High School in "Stranger Things." (Photo Credit: Bryce France)

Atlanta-based actor Regina Ting Chen admits to being a fan of “Stranger Things” long before being cast in Season 4 as Ms. Kelly, the guidance counselor at Hawkins High School. Chen, who was born in Hawaii and raised in Texas, began acting and modeling while in college, and she’s since landed roles in Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” HBO’s Emmy-winning series “Watchmen” and 2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The actor joined “City Lights” senior producer Kim Drobes via Zoom to share a glimpse into her life behind the scenes. 

Interview highlights follow below.

A self-proclaimed “big sci-fi nerd” getting her dream job:

“They didn’t give us a whole lot of context on what she’s like and what her purpose is, so we really just had to run with who we are as a human being … so that was really fun to just kind of present myself,” Chen recounted. “And then when I found out I booked it, I was actually driving to a friend’s house. It was raining, it was at night, and I forgot how to drive. It was kind of terrifying. It really was like I was dreaming.”

A “stranger” encounter on Chen’s first modeling gig:

“I had signed up on this … I don’t even remember what site it is,” Chen said. “It was some kind of modeling site … This photographer reached out and was like, ‘Hey, I have a studio in my garage, and I need a spokesperson for a phone company in Alaska, and I think you’d be perfect for it. If you want to come, great. You can bring someone, but I’m a trustworthy guy, and we can talk beforehand if you want, and you can come on over, and we’ll shoot.’ And young Regina was like, ‘Sure, no problem. I trust everyone in this world.”

Chen went on, “I got so lucky I didn’t die. That story could have gone south so fast, but I am so lucky I did not die. In fact, he used me as a spokesmodel for this company for several years. I’m really grateful for him for providing me with my first experience with commercial shooting.”

As if acting and modeling weren’t enough:

“[Atlanta is] just a new environment, you know, away from family, “Chen said. “But I joined a kickboxing gym near my place because I had just started kickboxing when I left Houston, and that changed everything for me. I got to meet people who are like-minded. There’s kickboxing, and then there’s kickboxing at 6:30 a.m., and that’s another breed of people, of warriors. I’m actually a coach now. I coach the 6:30 a.m. class. Over the last four years, I’ve evolved, and I love the sport, and I love empowering people … They already have this fire in them. I just like to draw it up. I want them to know that they can do the impossible.”

“I don’t know why I particularly love [painting] tigers and lions, “Chen mused. “I wonder if it was because my grandma was kind of like them, because she was just like, ‘Rawr,’ in my face all the time, and I loved her. But I love the idea of movement in paintings that are still … obviously, they’re not moving, but just being able to dive in and feel whatever the strokes are on the canvas. But I love animals, and then I started painting dogs because my friends were requesting it. And then I was like, ‘Wow, I can make this a side hustle.’”