Put down your Pet Sematary paperback and take off your Sony Walkman: Stranger Things 2 is finally here, Friday, in all its retro glory. Picking up a year after the first seasons ending, the Netflix hit, set in 1980s Indiana, takes us deeper into the supernatural scares of the parallel universe called the Upside Down, as well as the lives of the characters we fell in love with over a mere eight episodes.
The pop-saturated horror drama, about a sleepy small town under siege by mysterious forces and the tween boys who rally to save their friend Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), was a word-of-mouth phenomenon last year. Unlike countless throwback reboots that have limped through theaters, Stranger Things, created by the 33-year-old identical-twin team of Matt and Ross Duffer, was simultaneously an original story and a pitch-perfect sense-memory love letter to the pop culture of the era. Anyone old enough to remember those days got goosebumps, while younger audiences were introduced to a magical time when kids most prized possessions were bikes, not iPhones.
This go-round, expect more sly nods to the 80s compliments of these five new cast members.
The 15-year-old New Jersey actress sees the 1980s as a weird and distant era. I know the fashion and the hair of the 80s from seeing pictures of my mom and dad, says Sink. What she couldnt get over, she says, was the fact that kids didnt have phones! My mind was blown at the fact that they could be anywhere they had no way of contacting their parents. I cant even begin to process that.
Max is a California transplant to Hawkins Middle School who befriends Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Will (Schnapp), the Goonies-esque group at the heart of the show. Shes a skate punk and an ace at the arcade game Dig Dug, which wins her cred with the guys although Mikes still pining for the heroic Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who disappeared last season after vanquishing the monster from the Upside Down.
She and Browns character dont appear together much, but the two young actresses hit it off anyway. We were in school together we had this trailer where all the kids would study, she says of the set; the show films in and around Atlanta. We would hang out during school, but then also wed do stuff when we werent working. Wed have regular sleepovers every other weekend. I definitely think that as the girls, we had a bond.
Ive never seen any of their movies, so I dont really think of them as being these 80s superstars. I just think of them as Sean and Paul.
Sink also holds her own with fellow newcomer Dacre Montgomery as her high-school-aged brother Billy, a mulleted menace who drives a black Camaro. All the scenes Max has with Billy are pretty intense, says Sink. Every time I had a scene with him hed go from fun Dacre to mean Billy in a matter of seconds. Hes just able to flip the switch.
And although she knew other new arrivals Sean Astin and Paul Reiser were well-known actors from back in the day, she hasnt seen The Goonies or Aliens or Reisers hit show Mad About You.
Ive never seen any of their movies, so I dont really think of them as being these 80s superstars, she says. I just think of them as Sean and Paul. She didnt overlap much with either, but she says working with Winona Ryder was a master class in acting. Scenes I had with Winona were incredible, says Sink. Shes just crazy talented. I was always in awe.
Sink, who played the title character in the most recent Broadway run of Annie, says stage fame and Stranger Things celebrity are totally different animals. For Broadway, its a very small world, she says. And with Stranger Things, it was this giant phenomenon. All my friends knew about it. Everybody was talking about it. Being on it is kind of surreal!
Every 80s homage needs a gloriously hateable high-school jerk. Season 1 came closest with preening jock Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), but he took a turn for the noble. This season delivers Billy (Montgomery), a muscle-car driving D-bag with a Rob Lowe face, a Kiefer Sutherland mullet and a grab bag of Jack Nicholson psychosis encouraged by the Duffer brothers: I was given The Shining by the shows creators, the 22-year-old Aussie actor told director Kevin Smith in an IMDb-sponsored interview. [Billys] got that unpredictable nature Nicholson has.
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In 1985, Astin starred in one of the most formative influences on Stranger Things, the action hit The Goonies. Here, the 46-year-old actor plays Bob Newby, former classmate and current love interest of Joyce Byers (Ryder). Hes a Radio Shack manager, a Kenny Rogers fan and an all-around likable schlub. Producer/director Shawn Levy has referred to Astins character as the Barb of Season 2, a reference to the much-loved but short-lived fan favorite who never made it back from the Upside Down. Does this portend bad things? Levy clarified: Bob, I think, is going to be a Barb-level fan favorite.
Last season, Matthew Modine played resident creepy scientist Dr. Brenner. This time around, Dr. Owens (Reiser) is running the newly reorganized Hawkins laboratory, and hes got an overly efficient bedside manner that will set off red flags for anyone who remembers Reiser from his role in Aliens as Burke, that movies corporate baddie. Reiser, 60, admitted as much to Syfy Wire: The Duffers are such fans of 80s films, and Aliens is huge to them, so I think certainly that was part of the chemistry, he said. Whatever subconscious or conscious stuff people are bringing from Burke? Bring it on.
Gelman, 41, has been turning in memorably quirky performances for years, from Comedy Centrals Another Period to Amazons Fleabag to the recent indie film Lemon. Hes a standout as Murray, a conspiracy theorist dedicated to taking down the Hawkins lab. He crosses paths with a couple of main characters and delivers some hilarious meta-commentary on their relationship.