When the science fiction-horror series Stranger Things was released on Netflix in July last year, it rocketed to the kind of popularity that no one, not even its cast, was expecting. “It was such a crazy thing to see. There was just one billboard. It (the show) was such a small thing that became so big and spread so quickly. I really enjoyed reading the scripts for the first season, but I didn’t expect this,” says actor Noah Schnapp. The 13-year-old, along with his co-actor Millie Bobby Brown, is meeting the press at the Corinthia Hotel in London, and is on hectic promotional rounds for the second season of the hit series — a stark contrast, he says, from the days before the release of the first season last year.
“It was a lot more relaxed then, we weren’t rushing to get anything done,” he says. “This time we had to worry about the paparazzi a lot,” chimes in Brown, “The security was tighter. There were fans coming to us for autographs when we were outside our school trailer.”
With its potent mix of horror and suspense, and liberal hat-tips to pop-cultural touchstones from the 1980s — movies such as Aliens, The Goonies and E.T., besides John Carpenter’s oeuvre and Stephen King’s novels — one can see why within a month of its release, Stranger Things itself became a cultural juggernaut. The first season revolved around the disappearance of 11-year-old Will Byers and the web of government conspiracy, dodgy experiments and supernatural phenomena that draw the rest of the characters in.
The show generated some initial interest based on the nostalgia it triggered in viewers who were children in the ’80s as well as the casting of Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine in key roles. But soon, it was the child actors who started garnering attention, playing the group at the heart of the story — friends Will Byers (Schnapp), Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and the mysterious girl Eleven (Brown), who comes into their lives.
Given how much hinges on the suspense generated by the finale of the first season, the two actors are leery of revealing too much before it premieres on October 27. However, they do confirm that their characters — who only had one scene together in the first season — will develop an interesting dynamic in the new episodes. “We might find out that Will becomes powerful, and they (Will and Eleven) become more like doppelgängers in a way,” says Brown, “It’s a lot darker, more intense this season.”
In the two years since they shot the first season, the young actors have landed other major projects – Brown is filming for Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Schnapp hints at something “interesting coming up in the fall”, even as co-star Wolfhard’s It continues to do well at the global box-office. “Of course, I had to go around in coats with my hood up so that people wouldn’t know what my character looked like,” says Brown, “Even at the airport, I would have to put on a wig.”
But the more pressing issue, they say, is that all the children have changed so much between the two seasons. “We’ve all gotten taller, we’re feeling different and puberty is hitting us. We’re worried for our voices, while they (creators Matt and Ross Duffer) are worried someone’s going to have a moustache,” laughs Brown.