Break out the value-pack Eg­gos and pre­pare to binge as the nos­tal­gia-drenched Net­flix fave re­turns. We chat with the kids and cre­ators the Duf­fer Bros.

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the ’80s-set show that came from nowhere to con­quer the world, is back for a hotly an­tic­i­pated sec­ond sea­son. Richard Ed­wards gets the intel from the Up­side Down

ou’re gonna fuck­ing love sea­son two!”

Stranger Things’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer shawn levy as­sures SFX, speak­ing on the phone from his la of­fice. “You can quote me on that if you want. trust me, i’m sit­ting here watching episodes, and i’m like, ‘oh shit, i think we did it!’”

if he’s right – and let’s ad­mit it, he may be a lit­tle bi­ased – mil­lions of Stranger Things fans can breathe a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief. last July, the ’80s-set net­flix se­ries came from nowhere to be­come one of the most pop­u­lar shows of the year, de­fy­ing the seem­ingly set-in-stone law that to be suc­cess­ful, a movie or tv show must be based on an ex­ist­ing fran­chise or brand. as the show’s af­fec­tion­ate riffs on am­blin movies, Dun­geons & Dragons and stephen king nov­els tapped into a col­lec­tive vein of nos­tal­gia, the ques­tion wasn’t so much whether you’d watched it, as whether you’d binged it in one, two or three nights. within days of its launch, wa­ter­cooler chat was dom­i­nated by talk of the up­side Down, De­mogor­gons, and a lit­tle girl with cropped hair, psy­chic abil­i­ties and a sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to nose­bleeds. its child stars be­came reg­u­lars on red car­pets. eg­gos, frozen waf­fles from amer­ica, sud­denly be­came fa­mous in the uk – where, as far as we’re aware, they’ve never even been avail­able.

“i knew it was good, but we had no idea whether peo­ple would tune in,” re­calls levy. “i re­mem­ber as early as the day af­ter launch, the vol­ume of so­cial me­dia i started see­ing was as­ton­ish­ing. within a week it felt like a wave, and within a month it felt like a tsunami. it feels like some­thing that would only hap­pen in the up­side Down [the show’s scary par­al­lel world], but it’s real life, and it’s thrilling!”

“we were just try­ing to tell a story that we knew we would want to watch,” says ross Duf­fer, who – along with his twin brother Matt – cre­ated the show. “we thought that it would ap­peal to peo­ple like us who were nos­tal­gic for this type of sto­ry­telling, but i guess what sur­prised us the most was that it reached a much broader au­di­ence than that. for younger peo­ple who aren’t nec­es­sar­ily as nos­tal­gic for this type of thing to em­brace it like they have was a great sur­prise.” this be­ing the 21st cen­tury, hits of Stranger

Things’ pro­por­tions tra­di­tion­ally re­quire se­quels. But how do you fol­low a once-in-adecade phe­nom­e­non like sea­son one?


“as much as pos­si­ble we’re try­ing to stay true to what we did in sea­son one which was just tell sto­ries that we think are cool,” ad­mits Matt Duf­fer. “i guess the thing that we don’t have any more is the el­e­ment of sur­prise. But the good news is this time we had a lit­tle bit more money from net­flix to play with. we also know now that peo­ple re­spond to the show and there’s a re­lief in that.”

“any one of us who said it was nice but not daunt­ing would be ly­ing,” laughs levy. “it’s le­git­i­mately thrilling to work so hard on some­thing that peo­ple like so much. it’s also in­tim­i­dat­ing as hell, be­cause we want to sat­isfy the ex­pec­ta­tions and an­tic­i­pa­tion. But we don’t view this as sea­son two. we view this as what we ti­tled it: Stranger Things 2. it was al­ways in

We're try­ing to stay true what we did in sea­son one, which is just tell sto­ries we think are cool

our minds as an eight-hour movie – this year it’s a nine-hour se­quel.”

of course, some of the best se­quels to ’80s clas­sics – James cameron’s Aliens and

Ter­mi­na­tor 2, we’re look­ing at you – took the “big­ger is bet­ter” route to ex­pand­ing their re­spec­tive uni­verses. and, given the sight of a gi­ant spi­der-like crea­ture in sea­son two trail­ers and posters, the smart money would be on

Stranger Things fol­low­ing suit. “when there’s a se­quel to a suc­cess­ful movie it tends to get big­ger in scope and the stakes go up,” ad­mits Matt, “so it was im­por­tant to us that we up the ante a lit­tle bit with this sea­son. James cameron is a mas­ter of the art of the se­quel in that he doesn’t lose what made the first movie spe­cial, but he also pushes it in new di­rec­tions and tries new things, so we kind of looked at his movies in terms of what to do. and then of course there’s lots of ex­am­ples of what not to do in se­quels!”

ross chips in, “we wanted to move away from that Home Alone 2 thing of, ‘ev­ery­one liked this and this and this, so let’s lean into that and just con­tinue to sort of play those same notes over again.’”

even though a sec­ond sea­son was by no means guar­an­teed when the first launched, the Duf­fers didn’t have to make ev­ery­thing up from scratch – in­deed, chief Hop­per leav­ing boxes of eleven’s beloved eg­gos in the woods, and young up­side Down es­capee will By­ers cough­ing up a slug in the sea­son one fi­nale hinted things weren’t all tied up in a neat bow.

“we knew roughly where we wanted to go and we had some of the big ideas,” says ross, “but it was cer­tainly a lit­tle vague com­ing into this. and once you start writ­ing, it starts go­ing in di­rec­tions that you’re not ex­pect­ing, be­cause you can’t force cer­tain char­ac­ters to be­have in a cer­tain way. i think you can only pre­pare so much and the same goes for sea­son three [the Duf­fers have since said they see the show as “a four-sea­son thing and then out”]. we have big ideas of what we want to do [and] we know where we want to end up with it, but be­yond that it’s go­ing to take a lot of dis­cus­sion.”


so what do we know about Stranger Things 2? as is the norm th­ese days, se­crets are wrapped up more se­curely than the uber-clas­si­fied Hawkins na­tional lab­o­ra­tory that was the source of most of the bother in sea­son one. But we do know that it’s now one year later in Hawkins, in­di­ana, with the retro clock wound for­ward to 1984.

“we couldn’t hide the time jump, be­cause our kids un­for­tu­nately are age­ing,” says Matt Duf­fer. “i mean, it’s good that they’re age­ing – some­thing would be very wrong if they weren’t! – but you have to take that into ac­count in the nar­ra­tive. it’s funny, though, that in the story they were nor­mal kids in sea­son one and then they go through this ex­tra­or­di­nary thing that’s changed them. in a way that’s also hap­pened in their real lives, be­cause they were very real kids last year and they went through an ex­tra­or­di­nary change when the show came out. now they’re th­ese lit­tle celebri­ties.”

it’s also not a mas­sive leap to say that eleven is back (not least be­cause we’ve in­ter­viewed star Mil­lie Bobby Brown), de­spite dis­ap­pear­ing when she de­stroyed the De­mogor­gon at the end of sea­son one, and that will’s ex­tended stay in the up­side Down has had last­ing ef­fects.

“we wanted to treat this as re­al­is­ti­cally as pos­si­ble in terms of how th­ese char­ac­ters would re­spond to some­thing as trau­matic as the events in sea­son one,” ex­plains ross. “what we came to is that there would be this des­per­ate de­sire for things to re­turn to nor­mal, but they wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be deal­ing with th­ese events. will’s back but he’s not do­ing so well – th­ese vi­sions that he’s hav­ing in the trailer, are they real or are they in his head, are they flash­backs, and if they are real what do they mean? that is the jump­ing-off point for the sea­son.”

Meanwhile, new­com­ers to Hawkins in­clude a love in­ter­est for will’s mum Joyce (wi­nona ry­der) in the form of Bob (played, ap­pro­pri­ately, by an ac­tual real-life goonie, sean astin), Aliens slime­ball Paul reiser as new Hawkins lab head Dr owens, and Max (sadie sink), a new girl who joins Mike, lu­cas, will and Dustin’s gang. the Duf­fers say a new per­spec­tive was es­sen­tial.

“You lose a lit­tle bit of that or­di­nary-meet­s­the-ex­tra­or­di­nary be­cause th­ese kids have al­ready seen the ex­tra­or­di­nary,” ex­plains ross. “that is one rea­son we’ve brought in new

char­ac­ters. we wanted to in­tro­duce new peo­ple to this crazy world and see their eyes go wide. there’s some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing in do­ing that.” the Duf­fers were born the same year

Stranger Things 2 is set, so their knowl­edge of the era was fu­elled in­stead by be­ing very loyal cus­tomers of their lo­cal video li­brary. “for me the ’80s are a nos­tal­gia trip, for them it’s a film nos­tal­gia trip,” says the slightly older levy. “the Duf­fers are self-de­scribed film nerds, and the ’80s are the set­ting of all their favourite films.”

But for all its ’80s lit­er­acy and a taranti­no­like pil­fer­ing of themes from John car­pen­ter, steven spiel­berg and be­yond, it’s not try­ing to be a ref­er­ence-heavy spoof. “You can’t just link a bunch of movie ref­er­ences to­gether and tell a story, it doesn’t work,” says Matt. “More than any­thing we’re try­ing to re­cap­ture the spirit of those movies and the feel­ing that we had when we watched them.”

“we didn’t want to make the pe­riod stuff too in your face,” adds ross. “of course, we wanted cer­tain

The jump­ing-off point for this sea­son is Will's vi­sion - are they real or just in his head?

We don't want you to feel like this is some mag­i­cal ver­sion of the '80s - this is what it re­ally felt like

toys or what­not fea­tured that we knew would be nos­tal­gic like the Mil­len­nium fal­con, but we wanted you to feel like this isn’t some mag­i­cal ver­sion of the ’80s – this is what it re­ally felt like.” so don’t read too much into the fact that

Stranger Things has been for ac­tors of a cer­tain ’80s vin­tage as Game

Of Thrones has been for Bri­tish thesps – hav­ing ry­der and Matthew Mo­dine in sea­son one, and astin and reiser in sea­son two isn’t just homage.

“even with wi­nona it was al­ways less about who was a star back in the ’80s,” says ross. “it’s more about what ac­tor out there do i want to see more of? that’s how we cast wi­nona – we grew up huge fans, and we just felt like she was be­ing un­der­utilised by the in­dus­try. with reiser, we were look­ing for some­one to run the lab, we wanted him to have a very dif­fer­ent feel than Mo­dine did, al­most as op­po­site as you could get. we said we needed some­one charis­matic, some­one that puts you at ease, but also has some edge that maybe this guy is not a good guy. all th­ese dis­cus­sions led us back to reiser, so we just started talk­ing about him as Dr reiser, and then even­tu­ally we were just like, ‘why don’t we just cast Paul reiser!’”


it’s per­haps ironic that Stranger Things, a show so steeped in ’80s cul­ture, should have been con­sumed in such a 21st cen­tury way – hav­ing ev­ery episode drop in one binge­able go is to­tally alien to how Mike, lu­cas, Dustin and will would have du­ti­fully tuned in ev­ery week for the next (non-se­ri­alised, of course) in­stal­ment of the A-Team or Knight Rider.

“i guess we wrote it and tried to struc­ture it as much as pos­si­ble like a big eight-hour movie,” ex­plains Matt. “But the cool thing about net­flix is you don’t have to do it [in one go]. You could spread it out and do one episode a week – though i think we try to make it as hard as pos­si­ble

Af­ter his time in the Up­side Down, is Will feel­ing okay?

Have you tried turn­ing it off and on again? Hurry, ev­ery­one! Es­cape to Witch Moun­tain! The Duf­fers grew up on a steady diet of ’80s movies.

How’s Eleven been get­ting on in the Up­side Down?

“Stop talk­ing about Mean Girls! Have you never seen Heathers?” Jonathan By­ers and Nancy Wheeler also re­turn. Chief Hop­per was dis­traught he’d run out of Eg­gos.

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