Part of the undeniable appeal of Netflix's Stranger Things phenomenon was that it was just so unexpected. There was little marketing or built-up anticipation before the show dropped on July 15th last year -- its success was largely driven by word-of-mouth. Given all of the big-budget and high-profile content on Netflix, it's astounding the degree to which it broke through and caught fire. Stranger Things is truly a water cooler show for the social media age.
The series resonated with audiences on a variety of levels, but one of the biggest keys was the take-no-shit everyman hero, police chief Jim Hopper, played by veteran character actor David Harbour. Deadline recently caught up with Harbour, whose career is exploding in the wake of Stranger Things, to gather some intel about the upcoming season.
Harbour related that the actors and crew were totally uncertain about the show's potential during filming:
"When you’re shooting it, we’re all just in the trenches. I think we were just all neurotic, and we definitely went through some fearful phases. We were untested in that way. The Duffers had done one movie that was shelved by the studio, and Winona had never played a motherly figure. These kids sure hadn’t done a lot, and I’d never been a leading man in a show. We were all just trying to do our best."
The second season of any popular TV show can be precarious. Creators want to explore new ideas, while audiences want more of what made the first season great. There's no safe formula, and it's risky to focus on one at the expense of the other. Harbour implies the Duffer Brothers' solution was to dive deeper on the characters:
"For Hopper, there needs to be a reawakening. He’s in this habitual pattern where nothing really matters and he can’t make a difference anyway. And what’s key is what sets him off is not the heroic journey. It’s that people start lying to him, and he doesn’t like it when people lie to him. That leads him down a path of heroism. Hopper is just a guy who doesn’t like you to fuck with him. So once that happens, he’s going to go to the end of the rope for that."
Harbour explains that his character is at an existential crossroads, which will push the show in unexpected directions:
"I think the journey, then, has to be something different in Season 2... We start with a guy, in Season 2, who has been on a heroic journey. He’s had this reawakening, and he is a hero, and I think we start with the delusions of what that might bring to you, and the fantasy life that might be dangerous. What does that mean for him going forward? You’ll start to see the pitfalls of that as the season goes on. What I love about Hopper is that he’s not a cartoon. He does come up against real life."
Harbour closed the interview by throwing down a gauntlet, making clear that Stranger Things Season 2 won't be playing it safe:
"We’re going to take a lot of risks. I think people are going to be pissed off by things. I think they are going to be elated and excited about things. It’s all further in terms of going on this journey."
Where do you want the Stranger Things story to go in Season 2? Let us know in the comments down below!
Stranger Things Season 2 hits Netflix on October 31, 2017.
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