The level of fandemonium that awaited the cast of Netflix’s Stranger Things at PaleyFest L.A.’s closing night event on Sunday most certainly went to—wait for it—Eleven.
And while fans of the supernatural show that celebrates all things ’80s (except, perhaps, the movie I just referenced) were certainly there for Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the numerically monikered heroine—a couple even went so far as to interrupt the panel to take pictures in front of the stage—there was certainly support for other cast members as well. David K. Harbour, who plays small-town cop and de-facto father figure Jim Hopper, started a GIF-able dance craze when he made his entrance, while an audience member shared her appreciation for Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas, by asking him to show off his best New Edition impression. (The young actor, who played Ricky Bell in last year’s BET miniseries about the R&B group, obliged). Even Winona Ryder, who plays stressed out mom Joyce Byers, admitted that her girlhood crushes were on—appropriately enough—Sean Astin, who plays Joyce’s sweetheart of a boyfriend, Bob, in Season Two, and actor Wil Wheaton, who moderated the night’s panel.
Mushy stuff aside, here’s what else we learned from the Stranger Things PaleyFest panel.
It was important to Astin that Bob be a good guy.
“For Bob to come into Joyce’s world—which has been a horribly traumatized world, and he doesn’t understand why—and to be able to just love her and care about her try and be anything that she needs was a gift,” Astin says.
When he started, Astin told creators Matt and Ross Duffer that no matter what they do with his gadget-loving character, “Just let this guy do something heroic. There’s so much bad in the world. There’s so much tension and drama and things that are wrong. Everywhere you go, you see people who are doing the right thing… For me, you’d love to see that person do something spectacular.”
So why didn’t Bob save himself when he was so close to escaping the monster in Season Two?
“There’s a good reason,” Astin says. “When you read the script, it says right there: ‘Bob stops.’”
You’re not wrong in thinking that Paul Reiser’s Season Two character may have looked like something else on his resume.
Harbour says that the sixth episode of the second season had “shot for shot” storyboards set up to parallel Reiser’s scenes in 1986’s Aliens. (And Harbour jokes that he got to be the lucky guy who replaced Sigourney Weaver.)
“I have a limited range,” jokes Reiser.
Reiser says he didn’t know if his mysterious Dr. Sam Owens was good or bad when he got the scripts.
He played scenes both ways and says his “goal was just to not bring this whole show crashing down.”
Season Two newcomer Sadie Sink also didn’t receive a lot of background about her character, Max Mayfield, before filming.
“Going into it, I didn’t think it was going to be that hard. It wasn’t. Everyone [on set] was very welcoming,” Sink says. “As far as acting and the story goes, I wasn’t given that much information about my character… We were just getting the scripts as we were filming.”
The scene where she fights back against her stepbrother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery)? She says she was shaking after filming.
One thing Sink did have to work on: skateboarding lessons.
Unlike her character, Sink is not an ace skateboarder. It took a lot of work to fool us otherwise.
“It’s hard to learn in two months how to look like you’ve been skateboarding for your whole life,” she says.
Noah Schnapp doesn’t have much to do in Season One, as his character goes missing early on in the season. But producers knew he was up to the challenge for Season Two.
Schnapp wasn’t at the panel, but Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy says, “We knew that Will Byers was going to spend Season One in the Upside Down. We knew when we were casting Noah that he wasn’t going to be in Season One very much. But, we saw his ability… I call this ‘the Season of the Schnapp.’”
Brown says she had an easier time playing Eleven as the show went on.
“When you figure out who your character is and how you can portray it, it becomes so much more fun,” she says, adding that she also “went into Season Two with the same mindset as Season One, just with more hair.” (No more E.T. inspired wigs for this girl!)
The series’ production crew pays impeccable attention to detail when it comes to recreating 1980s America.
McLaughlin says the costume designers even gave them “tighty whities” underwear to wear (apparently Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin Henderson and was also not there to defend himself, was down with this choice).
The younger cast members say they also researched the period by watching a video that the Duffer brothers had made, which featured scenes from all of the movies and shows of that time period that inspired them.
“I love period movies and stuff from the ‘20s and ‘30s and the fact that my childhood would be a great period piece…” laughs Astin.
Harbour is not a parent himself. But he gets to feel that connection when he works with Brown.
“I love acting, like so much. And what I love about acting is that it’s personal and that you get to explore parts of your psyche that you may not get to explore in real life,” he says. “I don’t have a child… so all my experiences with love have been somewhat like romantic or either my parents or, like, a dog. This was an unlocking in me, as a human being, of a love of a human that was pure, but like you’d take a bullet for someone, too.”
So when’s the show coming back for Season Three?
Brown knows, but Levy won’t let her tell us.
“I can’t say much [about Season Three],” he says. “We are going back to work next month and we’re super excited.”