Stranger Things’ Matthew Mo­dine

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As the sci­ence fic­tion hor­ror se­ries Stranger Things 2 con­tin­ues on Net­flix, Barry Did­cock took the op­por­tu­nity to pose some search­ing ques­tions of star Matthew Mo­dine ...

The se­ries has been a huge hit. What do you think it is about it that ap­peals so much?

A global phe­nom­e­non. Amaz­ing. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, so I’ll do my best to ex­plain do­mes­ti­cally why. It’s pre 9/11. Pre cell phones, pre com­put­ers, home com­puter games, pre so­cial me­dia, pre in­ter­net. Pre cli­mate change. Pre “he­li­copter par­ent­ing”. In just a few short decades the world has be­come what it is to­day. There is so much fear to­day. To­day, if Wi­nona Ry­der’s char­ac­ter didn’t know her son was miss­ing un­til break­fast – she would be pub­licly hu­mil­i­ated in the 24hour news sys­tem, de­stroyed on so­cial me­dia, and ar­rested and im­pris­oned for bad par­ent­ing.

What can you tell us about how your char­ac­ter – and the story – de­vel­ops in sea­son two?


Al­though Stranger Things is a story which deals with the su­per­nat­u­ral and which is framed by a very de­lib­er­ate and know­ing sense of 1980s nos­tal­gia, at its core are some very hu­man sto­ries. Would you agree – and if so which re­la­tion­ships in par­tic­u­lar are the most in­ter­est­ing?

What is su­per­nat­u­ral? Do you think this is all there is? Just like un­see­able spec­trums of light, there is more to see than what meets the eye.

Does Stranger Things pack more punch if you know the 1980s films it’s riff­ing on, or does that not mat­ter?

All art is theft. But not all theft is art. Our team has done a great bit of steal­ing and done an amaz­ing job of mak­ing it art.

You worked with Wi­nona Ry­der on a Roy Or­bi­son video in the 1980s, but you hadn’t worked with her since. Tell us about the ex­pe­ri­ence of fi­nally work­ing with her ...

Wi­nona was a lovely young girl when we did the Or­bi­son video. She’s grown into a won­der­ful artist and strong wo­man.

We hear a lot about what chan­nels like Net­flix and se­ries like Stranger Things have done for tele­vi­sion and for drama. What are the pluses for ac­tors?

The pluses are there are more op­por­tu­ni­ties for work. Also, be­cause of the se­ries for­mat be­ing what it is, it al­lows for more com­plex story telling and char­ac­ter devel­op­ment.

Plot-wise, Stranger Things is a b it of a head-scratcher: do you un­der­stand what’s go­ing on?

I’m not try­ing to fig­ure it out. Harry Pot­ter, Lord Of The Rings, Game Of Thrones – each of these shows came from multi­book nov­els. Stranger Things does not. So it doesn’t have the ad­van­tage of a laid out fu­ture. It has to be cre­ated or in­vented. That can, for the writ­ers and cre­ators, be like try­ing to write Moby Dick, in a storm, on the open deck of the Pe­quod.

When the Duf­fer broth­ers were three years old, you were work­ing with Stan­ley Kubrick. Do they de­fer to you in all things – or are you learn­ing from them as much as they are from you?

I’m teach­ing them ev­ery­thing. (Smile)

You were al­ready busy work­ing in the 1980s. Did you have a chance to see films like Poltergeist, The Goonies etc? If not, have you caught up with them since?

Yes. I was very busy with work, but I al­ways found time to see what my con­tem­po­raries were up to.

You’re (fairly) of­ten cast in “nice guy” roles. How does it feel to be play­ing a less pleas­ant char­ac­ter?

Less pleas­ant is an en­ter­tain­ing com­ment. It tells me more about you than I can tell about the char­ac­ter I’m por­tray­ing. Let me ask you a cou­ple ques­tions. How many peo­ple has Bren­ner killed? Hurt? How many arms has he bro­ken? Did he al­ways calmly ex­plain to Eleven what ex­per­i­ments he was go­ing to per­form? Just ask­ing ...

Has your char­ac­ter be­come a Hal­lowe’en favourite yet – and if he hasn’t, how would you feel if he did?

I’d be cool with that.

A Har­vey We­in­stein ques­tion: what ru­mours, if any, had you heard, and what are the wider im­pli­ca­tions for the film in­dus­try and Amer­i­can so­ci­ety in gen­eral?

I don’t deal in ru­mours. As for the sub­ject of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and the peo­ple that wade in that cesspool – I am glad they’re be­ing ex­posed for what they are. I don’t take any joy in their be­ing outed, but I’m glad their power to ha­rass is taken away from them. It’s such an ugly as­pect of our world. I do take heart that young peo­ple will look upon re­cent events and clearly, soberly, un­der­stand that forc­ing one­self onto an­other per­son is vi­o­lently wrong and un­ac­cept­able be­hav­iour – no mat­ter what.

Stranger Things 2 is avail­able now on Net­flix

Mo­dine thinks the ap­peal of the show is in large part its roots in the 1980s – a time when life was very dif­fer­ent from to­day

Matthew Mo­dine as Dr Bren­ner in Stranger Things

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