While plotlines for Season 3 of the Netflix show are largely under wraps for now, Stranger Things EP Shawn Levy said at PaleyFest on Sunday, “We are going back to work next month, and we’re super excited.” Judging by the legions of screaming fans in the audience, he’s not alone in that feeling.
The show, created by sibling team Matt and Ross Duffer, follows the supernatural adventures of a group of kids in 80s-era fictional small town Hawkins, and has been an enormous hit with audiences and critics alike. But rather than feed the Season 3 hysteria and reveal any spoilers, Levy and the show’s cast used the panel discussion to recall some favorite moments of Season 2, with Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the telekinetically-gifted Eleven, leading the charge.
“Season 1 was obviously very different,” she said, “because I had no clue who Eleven was, and I was just being introduced to the weirdest character on Earth.” But by the second season, she’d found her feet. “I kind of had that freedom of saying, ‘I don’t think Eleven would do that,’” she said, adding that the set had to have “double security” the second time around.
Levy recalled the strangeness of returning for Season 2, after finding themselves besieged by attention. “I remember us kind of huddling up and saying, ‘OK, so the world knows about us now. We’re just going to hunker down and trust the brothers,’ and it became a willful tuning out of all that noise.”
Something that came through in the discussion was the family-level affection the cast has for each other. David Harbour, whose role of Jim Hopper meant sharing a lot of one-on-one scenes with Brown, said he’d seen a new side of himself through getting to know her – an experience he called “a gift”.
“I don’t have a child,” he said, “so I don’t know what that’s like, and all my experiences of love have been romantic, or my parents, or my dog, so this was an unlocking of me as a human being; of a love that was human, but was pure in a way where you’d take a bullet for someone.”
“To be honest it was very challenging and we went through so many different emotions,” Brown pointed out. “We get angry at each other. We’re like father and daughter…those scenes were so raw and real.”
Those genuine friendships among the cast are, Levy said, a big reason for the show’s success. “We chose actors who are just authentic humans,” he said, “and it immediately resulted in the chemistry you see on screen. I think that’s why so many people connected to the show.”
Season 2 newcomer Sadie Sink found her confident, skateboarding character Max Mayfield really resonated with fans. “I had this one girl who was kind of falling into that world of, ‘I need to wear make-up, I need these clothes,’” she said. “Then she saw Max and thought, ‘Oh Max is confident and she doesn’t need to be someone who isn’t her, she can just be confident in her own skin.’ That was the most rewarding part for me.”
While Sean Astin claimed his Season 2 high point was, “I got to kiss Winona Ryder,” he added that he’d been satisfied with his character Bob’s death. “There was a moment in the first episode where I went to the Duffers and I said, ‘Please, when you kill me in the next episode or whenever, please let this guy do something heroic.’” Fortunately, Bob was allowed to save the day before meeting his end. “Bob got to know Basic,” Astin said, “and thwarted the enemy with a rudimentary knowledge of 1983 computers.”
It also emerged that 80s authenticity is a very serious business on set. The audience screamed in delight when Brown said, “They give us underwear. What are they called?”
“Tightey whities,” her cast mate Caleb McLaughlin chimed in.
But of course, educating the younger generation on the magic of 80s nostalgia extended well beyond wardrobe, Levy explained. “The Duffer brothers made basically a fake trailer of Stranger Things from movies that exist. That became required viewing for the kids.”
Brown said of first watching this 80s montage, “I was so weirded out when I watched it. I was like, ‘What is this?’ I was so confused. There was a shark and a ghost.” Brown said it included parts of Stand By Me – a fact that brought a smile to PaleyFest moderator and Stand By Me child star Wil Wheaton’s face.