07/12/2016 AT 02:15 PM EDT
“The kids were amazing – it’s really their show,” Ryder told PEOPLE at the premiere of the atmospheric adventure/horror series in Los Angeles. “They were just remarkable!”
The series, set in small town Indiana in 1983, follows a set of preteens and a set of teenagers in the wake of the paranormal disappearance of a local boy.
“It was really nice to see that these particular actors genuinely enjoyed acting,” said Ryder, 44. “A lot of times, I’ve had experiences with kids that were sort of pushed into it, and maybe didn’t really want to be doing it, but … there wasn’t any of that. So it was like this genuine [experience]. They just genuinely really, really loved it. Which I did, too, at that age!”
Curtis Baker / Netflix
Ryder plays the distraught but determined mother of the missing boy in the show, which is designed to pay homage to a specific brand of ’80s-era films, including movies directed and produced Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Poltergeist and The Goonies) and films adapted from the works of Stand By Me author Stephen King.
Ryder admitted she especially bonded with the two actors who played her character Joyce’s sons, Charlie Heaton and Noah Schnapp, as well as Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the enigmatic, unearthly powered runaway known only as Eleven.
“I mean, I’m not a mom, but I grew very attached. I’ll just leave it at that,” she revealed. “They’re just amazing. They helped me a lot.”
Curtis Baker / Netflix
Ryder explained that playing an already struggling single mother suddenly faced with a parent’s worst nightmare definitely took an emotional toll on her.
“I was sort of a wreck for a few months every day,” she admitted.
Brown says she was a fan of Ryder’s film work coming into the project and was intrigued by working with the star “because she was a child actress, and now I am one. Yeah, it was interesting just to be around her and tell me new things about the industry.”
One of Ryder’s teenage costars, Natalia Dyer, was impressed with how far the actress was able to push herself on the project.
“When she needs to get down to business, she had a lot of emotional work to do in this,” said Dyer, “and it was really humbling, inspiring to watch her get into this role – but also be able to be like nice and be approachable outside of that, too.”
Stranger Things premieres Friday on Netflix.