EVEN ‘STRANGER’

Duf­fer Brothers’ plans.

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Gre­gory Ellwood

The last year has been some­what re­mark­able for twins Matt and Ross Duf­fer, bet­ter known in Hol­ly­wood col­lec­tively as the Duf­fer Brothers. As the cre­ative forces be­hind “Stranger Things,” they gave birth to a pop cul­ture phe­nom­e­non last sum­mer that has be­come one of Net­flix’s big­gest hits (as far as any­one can guess, as the ser­vice does not pro­vide stream­ing sta­tis­tics) and an early Emmy fa­vorite with 18 nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing drama se­ries. For the Chap­man Uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates, whose pre­vi­ous cred­its in­clude the Warner Bros. hor­ror movie “Hid­den” and writ­ing stints on Fox’s “Way­ward Pines,” the in­dus­try love has been both un­ex­pected and hum­bling. That recog­ni­tion truly be­gan in Jan­uary with a sur­prise ac­knowl­edg­ment from their pro­duc­ing peers.

“I think the PGA Award, when we won that, was so shock­ing to me,” Matt Duf­fer says. “I thought, ‘Ab­so­lutely no way.’ I was barely lis­ten­ing when they were an­nounc­ing it.”

The Duf­fers and fel­low pro­duc­ers Shawn Levy, Dan Co­hen and Iain Pater­son were the sur­prise win­ners in the episodic drama se­ries cat­e­gory at the Pro­duc­ers Guild of Amer­ica Awards, but that was hardly the end of the in­dus­try love, as the se­ries’ cast took the tele­vi­sion en­sem­ble honor at the SAG Awards the fol­low­ing night. It was an in­cred­i­ble re­sult for an un­der­dog prop­erty fo­cused on a bunch of kids try­ing to solve a su­per­nat­u­ral mys­tery in the early 1980s, whose most rec­og­niz­able face was Wi­nona Ry­der (an Os­car nom­i­nee whose ca­reer ar­guably peaked at the turn of the cen­tury), whose soul was cap­tured by David Har­bour (hardly a house­hold name even now with his first Emmy nod) and didn’t launch with much fan­fare even if Net­flix in­sisted it was be­hind the show. “That is what they told us: They said, ‘Don’t freak out if you don’t see a ton of mar­ket­ing.’ They thought this was go­ing to be word of mouth and that this was go­ing to build,” Ross Duf­fer says of the “Stranger Things” launch. “I think it built faster than they thought. I think it was faster than any­one ex­pected, ob­vi­ously. That was sort of what they were hop­ing for.”

The brothers knew they could have some­thing spe­cial on their hands if the five young leads (Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaugh­lin, Noah Sch­napp and Mil­lie Bobby Brown) had gen­uine chem­istry, be­cause, as Matt Duf­fer notes, “If the kids don’t work, then the show doesn’t work.”

The first scene filmed was one of the first scenes of the pre­miere episode in which the boys play Dun­geons & Dragons. Within min­utes, the Duf­fers knew that as­pect of the show was go­ing to work.

“The kids just re­ally brought it,” Matt Duf­fer says. “Be­cause you thought maybe one of them was go­ing to freeze, or they weren’t go­ing to click to­gether and, you know, their chem­istry was in­cred­i­ble.”

Pro­duc­tion has al­ready been com­pleted on the sec­ond sea­son, and the brothers are now spend­ing most of their days in a rented edit­ing fa­cil­ity in the heart of Hol­ly­wood, with a pre­miere date of Oct. 27 loom­ing. They are try­ing to keep as much about the nine new episodes se­cret as they can, but they say it’s darker, takes place around Hal­loween 1984 and puts Will By­ers (Sch­napp) in the spotlight.

“Noah — the Sch­napp­ster — he’s amaz­ing,” Matt Duf­fer says. “We al­ways knew Sea­son 2 was go­ing to kind of re­volve around him, and so we cast a kid who we thought — even though he wasn’t in much of Sea­son 1 — we thought would be able to hold his own in Sea­son 2. He’s very much like a David Har­bour, in terms of that he re­ally sur­passed ev­ery­one’s ex­pec­ta­tions. And so I think peo­ple are go­ing to be blown away by what he did.”

With the kids grow­ing older (McLaugh­lin turns 16 in Oc­to­ber), there is no op­por­tu­nity for the Duf­fers to take a year off to work on some­thing else. That also means the num­ber of sea­sons it takes to tell the epic story they want to tell is racing against the clock as well.

“We’re try­ing to set the chess pieces, so to speak, for this sea­son to start head­ing to­ward that end goal of what it is,” Ross Duf­fer says. “We know what the des­ti­na­tion is. We’re not 100% sure how long it’s go­ing to take to travel there.”

‘I think it built faster than they thought.’

— ROSS DUF­FER,

on “Stranger Things’ ” au­di­ence and Net­flix ex­ec­u­tives’ ex­pec­ta­tions

Mel Mel­con Los An­ge­les Times

THE DUF­FER BROTHERS, Matt, left, and Ross, are cre­ators of Net­flix’s youth mys­tery “Stranger Things.”

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