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Stranger Things stars look back on what made Season 4 ‘special’

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 30/06/2022 Nathalie Tomada

MANILA, Philippines — Volume 2 or the last two episodes of Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 will drop today, July 1.

And what better timing than this month when the ‘80s-themed, sci-fi thriller is celebrating the sixth anniversary since it started telling the story of Eleven, a girl with telekinetic powers, and her small-town friends, and how they battle monsters from the alternate universe, Upside Down.

When the first volume premiered last May, Stranger Things Season 4 officially became the most popular English-language series on the streamer’s all-time list, which measures viewership during a season’s first 28 days.

Incidentally, Season 4 is already the penultimate season, as previously announced by the Duffer Brothers (a.k.a. the showrunners). Six years after the pilot season and three years after the end of the third, it’s not just the kids in the Stranger Things saga who are all grown-up – obviously, the actors playing them, too.

So, when we chatted virtually with lead stars Millie Bobby Brown (as Eleven), Finn Wolfhard (as Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (as Dustin Henderson) and Joe Keery (as Steve Harrington) last year, it wasn’t hard to feel nostalgic. During our roundtable interviews, they readily spoke about their own journey and surreal moments with the show.

Millie, who visited Manila back in 2016 when she was only 13, recalled how she knew they had a hit show in their hands.

“The moment I knew that the show had taken off was really when I woke up from a nap and Mike in the car took my phone and my face, like my shaved, bald tennis ball face, was everywhere and I was like, oh this is really it,” the 18-year-old shared.

“And going on Netflix and seeing the show was just on there and it already had gotten five stars within two seconds, I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is legit, people love this.’”

One of the most unreal moments for her though was the Season 2 red-carpet premiere, where the crowd was just wildly chanting the cast members’ names. “I was just like, this moment will last forever and the show has immortalized itself. I feel it’s gonna last forever,” Millie said.

Finn, on the other hand, felt that they’ve grown side-by-side with their characters over the years. “(The show) is kind of like a camp in a way that we are coming back every year, and seeing the same people and seeing what everyone’s up to in real life and in the show, too,” the 19-year-old said.

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From left: Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson, Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair in a scene from the fourth installment of the hit series.

“It’s obviously changed and impacted our lives completely. Definitely for the better… To be in the position that we’re in, we’re so lucky. And we’re just happy to be back every season when Netflix asks us to come back.”

Gaten, for his part, said that after the first season, it took some time for the show’s success to sink in.

“It’s gonna sound weird, but I didn’t even realize that I was already getting recognized on the street. I was already seeing posters and stuff, trailers and a bunch of merch coming out for the show but it didn’t really hit me until they made a Lego set of us,” he said.

“I had like a collection of all of them at home already (laughs) and I was like, oh, I need to get my hands on this one and so I got it. And then, I just sat there for a while and looked at a little Lego Dustin. And for some reason, it was that little moment that made me go, ‘Oh, okay.’

“That was pretty funny, considering all the stuff that we’ve experienced when making and promoting the show, it was something so little as that, but that was it for me,” added the 19-year-old.

Asked to weigh in on why the Stranger Things managed to win over global audiences, Joe credited the Duffer Brothers — Matt and Ross.

“Seeing it before it had been made into a show, when it was still just on paper, I think what made me so excited about it and what helped me to connect to it on a personal level so quickly was the respect that the Duffer Brothers gave to their young actors and the emphasis on, ‘Just so you know, we’re not here to baby you,’” the 30-year-old actor said.

Despite Stranger Things being an intense and very complex story, with a lot of things going on, Joe noted that the Duffer Brothers made sure everyone was treated as an important part of the whole production.

“They gave us just as much of a challenge as they would everybody else in the cast. There was that deep respect that was already felt even though we had not been that experienced at all,” he said.

“You felt as though you were just as important to telling the story as everybody else was. And that’s rare, especially in your early teenage years working on certain projects. That was the kicker for me. And, I think, it translates to screens the way we tell our story. It’s not a kids’ show. But kids like it just as adults do,” Joe added.

Meanwhile, having to film at the height of the COVID pandemic, the stars admitted that the experience did make Season 4 a bit more special and meaningful to them.

In response to a question from The STAR, the stars looked back on how Netflix built a “really, really safe net” for the cast when it came to health protocols.

“It kind of delayed a lot of stuff, but COVID did a lot of different things for the show, too,” said Finn.

These included the Duffer Brothers writing the show before the production even shot it. “Usually, what happens is they write as we go,” the teen actor bared.

Millie, on the other hand, said that Netflix acted like their second parents and truly looked after the largely youthful cast.

“They’re so protective over us kids because we legitimately have grown up with Netflix being our boss… So, during this journey, we didn’t go back to shooting until it was the right time and the time that felt right to them,” Millie said.

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From left: Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler and Noah Schnapp as Will Byers in Stranger Things Season 4.
Photos courtesy of Netflix

“But this season definitely feels very special because of COVID. I feel like it’s wild that in 20 years’ time, (we) get to look back and even tell kids or whoever, you know, that we legitimately filmed a TV show in a global pandemic. And that really happened! Like we created, still told and brought to life these stories that Matt and Ross made in a global pandemic. I think that’s a wild thing to say. So, this season holds a very special place in my heart,” she further said.

As for Gaten, the pandemic situation helped him realize how much he took filming for granted in the past.

“After the pandemic started, it made us realize how much we took it for granted because it was kind of like just preparing for that next season. Whenever we were filming any season, starting from the first one, there was always that sense of security when we found out oh, we’re gonna get through another season and we got that confirmed, and then it was just waiting until we got to go back to work and get back in that mindset.

“But when you prep for that (and you’re told) it’s not going to happen and you’re actually going to be sitting at home for six months, that was, for sure, stressful. It kind of made me realize, they made everybody realize — and this isn’t just for anybody filming, this is for anybody who had to stop working — how fragile our minds would be when locked up in our houses for that long. But that’s what made getting back into it so special,” the 19-year-old actor reflected.

“I think now that we’re actually able to enjoy it and consistently work at it safely, it’s been one of the best seasons to film. It’s because we’ve realized how special it is and how much we need to cherish what we’re doing here because it’s not gonna last forever.”

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