Presenting a story sewn with supernatural forces, mysterious pasts and strong, homely friendships, Stranger Things is a melting pot of horror and heart, and for its upcoming S4, the stars of the hit Netflix series joined their fans in the Asia Pacific online for a night celebrating the joys of finding friends and family in a show about monsters and evil.
“I think all the relationships evolved a lot, and everybody gets to know each other better and someone else along the way, and I think the group as a whole is just such an honor to be a part of,” Maya Hawke, who plays Robin Buckley since the show’s third season, shared her thoughts on how the characters evolve and help their actors cultivate a familial relationship with each other.
“It’s such a special environment, and all of those relationships are just melded into one amazing broth.” Her soupy metaphor is a fun little jab at newcomer Joseph Quin, who opined that his “chaotic” character, Eddie Munson, is the cayenne pepper in the ensemble’s broth.
“He’s a little bit spicy, a little bit ‘do I want that in there?’, divisive, I guess.” he said.
Hawke adds that the show’s familial energy on the set helped with her not ever being nervous to be back for the fourth season, to which Natalia Dyer agreed. The actress, who plays the headstrong Nancy Wheeler, went on about how that same sense of being one with the cast and crew extends to the roles that they play.
“[Nancy Wheeler] feels pretty natural to me now, and I think a lot of that comes from the Duffers and their writing, and how they’ve written their arc,” she shared while giving a shoutout to the show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, and their resolute mission to fully flesh out the show’s ensemble.
“I think season one Nancy was definitely somewhat similar to my own self in high school. There’s similarities there that felt kind of natural. She goes through some crazy things, so I think it’s sort of a natural progression of who she is, and it’s sort of fun to find out what her values are and see how they’re challenged.”
These stories of growing bonds and introspective growths go hand-in-hand with the series’ darker undertones, which Stranger Things veteran Noah Schnapp elaborated on when asked how this upcoming season will progress.
“It’s a lot darker. I just watched the first two episodes and it just shocked me how crazy and scary it is.” Schnapp, who plays the quiet D&D enthusiast, Will Byers, bolstered what Netflix has been teasing since the early days of the new season’s promotion.
Hawke agreed with the show taking on a much darker path, while also adding an element of growing pains the young cast of characters must face, together and alone.
“It’s darker, and I think it’s also so much bigger in terms of the relationships and the dynamics. I got to see some of the episodes and there’s just so many storylines and so many interconnected details and it just feels like the scope is huge.”
The upcoming season, which will be split into two volumes, is dubbed by the Duffer Brothers as “the beginning of the end”, and will feature settings which include the Creel House, a run-down residence in Hawkins with a bloody past. Whether it will serve as a nexus of all of the show’s upcoming chapters or just as another backdrop in its eerie storytelling, it sure will contribute greatly to the supernatural powers that govern Hawkins and the Upside-Down.
Speaking of the Creels, Dyer and Hawke collectively gushed over series newcomer, horror legend Robert Englund, who will grace the silver screen as the horrible Victor Creel.
“It was so cool. Just kind of watching him do what he does was really kind of incredible,” Dyer recalled. She added that she doesn’t know what else to say about him other than he’s “such a kind person” on-set, a stark contrast to what his iconic Freddy Kreuger reminds people of. Hawke supplemented her co-star’s thoughts by sharing that Englund’s powerful monologue during one specific scene made her hope that she someday comes in a new acting environment with the same amount of integrity and care that the Hollywood haunter brought to the set.
Englund, as well as other new additions like Quin and Eduardo Franco, received nothing but praise from the show’s mainstays. “Getting to work with Eduardo totally brought a new flavor to the show,” says Charlie Heaton, who plays the reserved but brave Jonathan Byers. Franco, Heaton, and Gaten Matarazzo bonded over their love for memes inspired by the show, and caused the cast to break into a laughing fit recalling their favorites over the years.
“My favorite meme off of Stranger Things…maybe the one where Finn’s like flipping off the camera and it says, ‘The strangest thing I ever did was trust you’, I think maybe that. That’s my favorite one.” Franco had to stop for a moment to let everyone catch their breath from laughing too hard. “I love everything about Finn, man,” he adds, right after dubbing the show’s fans as the “Upside-Downers”, prompting boisterous laughs from his castmates.
It’s moments like these that shine a light on just what Stranger Things really has that not a lot of shows possess: a strong family unit built by years of friendship and companionship that’s not afraid to reach out to newcomers. The cast makes them feel like they’ve been with them since day one. Inside jokes and references are rife in the short conversation the press shared with the crew, from Priah Ferguson‘s wishful allusions to a spinoff series starring her character, to Schnapp and Matarazzo’s unapologetic love of D&D, but there’s always some way that the newbies are involved.
“Having Joseph Quin and having him along playing such a fun character, kind of introducing this new spice into something that’s kind of been established, is such a fun way to think about your own character and how they might interact with people that are outside of their sphere,” Joe Keery, who stars as the suave and protective Steve Harrington, explained. Keery and Quin japed in between questions that young Sheldon might be on season four, prompting Hawke and Dyer to laugh out loud.
“It’s so cool watching the show when we were so young, Priah and Sadie as well. It’s amazing to see the whole gang grow up in the show.” Matarazzo mentioned after Sadie Sink, who first appeared on the show during season two, noted the group’s closeness that persevered even after the set shutdowns they experienced mid-COVID.
“COVID was a weird time. We didn’t really know when we were gonna be able to go back to work. We kept in touch and communicated individually with one another, and we were so excited to come back…we were really grateful when we did get the opportunity to return.”
Heaton added, also touching on his friendship with Joe Keery and Dyer, “we came on the show together and around the same age, so just working with your peers, we all have gone through this crazy trajectory together throughout every season. Having someone your own age kinda going through the same things and understanding you really, really helps, and seeing the characters and where they’ve grown as well has been pretty impactful.” Heaton also touched on his brotherhood with his on-screen brother, Schnapp, who he mentioned was his go-to partner for playing old video games on set.
Just like how its off-screen relationships have developed, Stranger Things 4 has so much to show its fans, where the stakes for its plethora of intertwining characters have never been higher.
“Not only are we struggling with dealing with regular things like fitting in in a new social climate, but also trying to cope with everything that has gone on in the past six months,” Matarrazo gushes over how the implications of season three’s bombastic Battle of Starcourt will play out over the next episodes. “It’s really cool to see how that unfolds through classic good old ST storytelling and dialogue. We’re really stoked.”
The first half of Stranger Things 4 will premiere on Netflix on May 27, while its second installment is set to be released on July 1, 2022.
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