There was one major difference when the cast of Stranger Things headed back to Atlanta to film season 2: much higher security. While the series’ creators, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, filmed the first season of the Netflix horror hit under the radar, there was a lot more curiosity about the vintage-monster-movie tribute after its tremendous success on the streaming giant.
“We had higher security, I guess, on things like scripts and story stuff and pictures,” Natalia Dyer, who plays high schooler Nancy, told reporters this week. “They were a lot more precious and careful about that. But, you know, I think we all definitely trusted the writing and the Duffers for what they were making. Every time we read a script it was like, ‘Yes! Oh my god, yes!'”
Joe Keery, who appears as Nancy’s boyfriend Steve, also credits the Duffers for keeping the material fresh.
“I think the best sequels throughout time have been things that keep what you really like about the first things, but then they’re not afraid kind of to do their own thing for the next season and grow,” Keery said. “And I think by adding these new characters and these new themes, they’ve done a really good job of incorporating things you really liked about the first season and things that you’re gonna hope carry over — the vibe, the way that it makes you feel. But the story goes to new and interesting places.”
The story — of tween Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who goes missing after a monster escapes an alternate dimension and terrorizes the small town Hawkins, Indiana — will pick up nearly a year after the events of season 1, with life slowly getting back to normal for his family and friends, including mom Joyce (Winona Ryder), BFFs Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Mike’s older sister Nancy, Steve, and police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour).
Or is it? Will seems to be having flashbacks, and soon everyone is sucked back into the mystery of the Upside Down and a new monster haunting Hawkins.
“What we saw in the first season is just a very small fraction of what we’re really dealing with, and I think this season we get a better perspective of what is going on,” Dyer explained.
Keery added, “I think it’s more scary, I don’t know. It’s a little more all-consuming than most, instead of just being this one thing, that can kind of only get you this one way. It’s more of an entity this year.”
Also back? Nancy’s dearly departed BFF Barb (Shannon Purser) — well, sort of. Though executive producers have confirmed that the fan favorite character is definitely dead, she will still play a major role in Nancy’s storyline.
“For Nancy this season, what really just drives her whole arc is her relationship with Barb,” Dyer says. “For me, it was kind of great, in a way. I would imagine that the fan response from season 1 maybe put an impetus on that storyline and maybe made [creators the Duffer Brothers] feel like they needed to address it more. So for my character, it’s really great because it’s a huge thing to have happened. And thinking about it realistically, losing anybody is a big, big deal. They really address it as much as possible, of course, this season.”
Another major storyline will be the redemption of Steve, who has matured beyond the high school d-bag he was in season 1. This year, with the help of the kids — specifically Dustin — Steve learns how to become a mentor instead of a bully.
“They found this way to connect these two characters that both kind of needed somebody, Keery said, adding, “Kind of in the way that Steve needed Nancy last year to grow up, I think he needed the kids this year to kind of grow up. And he sort of learns this new lesson that he wouldn’t have been able to learn without them.”
Plus, spending more time with the younger cast members was a lesson in and of itself.
“Working with the kids is crazy,” Keery said, “because one second we’ll be in the scene, next second they’ll be joking and punching each other, and trying to pants each other, and yelling profanities at each other, and then it’s like ‘action’ and then they all go [gasp] at the same time. They just switch it on and switch it off and they don’t take it so seriously. Sometimes you get kind of caught up in the fact that you have to memorize these lines and do this stuff, but at the end of the day, they really have a fun time with it. So that was a really nice presence to have.”
There’s a new d-bag high schooler in town in the form of Dacre Montgomery’s Billy, the terrifying, mulleted older brother of the boys’ new friend Max (Sadie Sink).
“The narrative’s full steam ahead, and I just jump into it with my ‘moulee,'” Montgomery said, referring to his fabulous ’80s hair, adding, “You’re gonna see everything about this guy and his background, and you’re gonna get to see this more multifaceted character that we see towards the end [of the season]. You get to see why Billy is the way he is.”
By the way, the mullet is not real.
“Look, it’s a wig, I can only dream about growing beautiful locks like this in real life,” he confessed. “It was great. I think the head of the hair department, Sarah [Hindsgaul], did a fantastic job. A lot of the crew didn’t even realize that it was not my hair on the sides. I just saw the latest poster this morning and it looks, it’s come out very well. I’m very happy with that.”
And yes, Keery does feel threatened by the new, fabulous hair in town.
“Every day, yeah,” he joked.
Stranger Things season 2 premieres Friday, October 27 on Netflix.