Karen Wheeler, portrayed by Cara Buono, is the main character in the first, second, and third seasons of Stranger Things.
Warning! Spoiler Ahead
Table of Contents
Karen Wheeler Stranger Things
Karen is the wife of Ted Wheeler and the mother to Nancy, Mike, and Holly. Together the family lived at their home in Hawkins, Indiana.
Nancy believed Karen and Ted never truly loved each other, saying they only got married because she was young and Ted had a well-paying job. Karen herself appeared to be at least somewhat frustrated with her marriage.
History of Karen in Stranger Things
On November 6, 1983, Mike and his friends played a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in the basement for ten hours straight. Karen told them to stop playing as it was getting late.
After the disappearance of Will Byers, Karen told her children that they could not leave the house until he was found, forbidding Mike to search for Will and Nancy to go “study” at Barbara Holland‘s house.
After Nancy returned from Steve‘s party, Karen furiously questioned why she was out so late. When Karen asked about the sweatshirt Nancy was wearing, she responded that she borrowed it from Steve.
Karen tried to tell Nancy that she could trust her and talk about anything that happened, but Nancy brushed her off.
The next day, Karen visited Joyce Byers at her house along with her daughter Holly, gifting her a casserole.
Karen noticed that the house was decorated with Christmas lights, and Joyce gave the excuse that she hung them for Will because he loved Christmas.
Noticing Holly had walked off from the dinner table, she and Joyce found her in Will‘s room. Joyce thanked Karen for the casserole but insisted that they leave the house.
Later, Nancy revealed to Karen she was worried about Barb‘s disappearance.
Later that night, Mike returned home with the news that Will’s body was found, crying in her arms.
Before leaving the next day, Karen asked Mike if he wanted to come with her to rent a movie, even an R-rated one.
Mike declined for fear of leaving Eleven alone in his house. Karen went off on her own to check up on Barb’s parents.
After being questioned by the police about Barb’s disappearance, Karen insisted Nancy was lying to the police about talking with Steve in his bedroom. Nancy finally admitted to Karen that she slept with him.
Karen, Ted, Nancy, and Mike all attended Will‘s funeral where Karen hushed Mike and his other friend, Dustin Henderson when they spotted a Jennifer Hayes crying for Will.
Karen Wheeler Personality
Shown to be a stereotypical overbearing mother, Karen is heavily concerned about the wellbeing of her two older children, Nancy and Mike, following the disappearance of Will Byers.
She is dubious of Nancy upon discovering her relationship with Steve.
Husband. Ted and Karen are married in a loveless marriage. They seem to argue frequently.
Daughter. Karen cares very much about Nancy but they can get mad at each other especially when Karen finds out Nancy slept with Steve.
Son. Karen cares about Mike and is seen comforting him after Will‘s “body” is found. She also is worried about Mike when the government agents arrive looking for him.
Daughter. Like with Nancy and Mike, Karen cares very much about Holly.
Karen meets Billy when he is in search of Max. The two flirt together before Karen gives him the address. It’s unknown if Billy was simply manipulating Karen or really flirting with her but Karen does seem attracted to him, sexually staring at his booty when he leaves the house.
Joyce and Karen have a friendly relationship. Karen brings Joyce over a casserole when Will disappears and comforts her. They had limited interaction in Season Two. In Season Three, Karen and Joyce run into each other on the 4th of July fair. Karen acts pleasantly surprised to see Joyce and compliments her, saying she looks well.
Who Plays Karen Wheeler in Stranger Things?
Cara Buono was born March 1st, 1974 in The Bronx, New York City, in a blue-collar family. She has two brothers and a sister. Cara Buono is an American actress.
Her roles include Dr. Faye Miller in the fourth season of the AMC drama series Mad Men, Kelli Moltisanti in the sixth season of The Sopranos, Linda Salvo in the 2006 comedy Artie Lange’s Beer League, and Karen Wheeler in the horror sci-fi Netflix original series Stranger Things (2016–present).
She has appeared in such films as Hulk (2003) and Let Me In (2010).
Cara Buono Biographical Data
March 1st, 1974
Peter Thum (m. 2008)
Buono attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School and is a 1995 graduate of Columbia University with a double major in English and political science.
She earned her degree in three years. She made her acting debut in Harvey Fierstein’s play Spookhouse at the age of 12.