The buzz around the new Netflix series Stranger Things has been building for a while now. When the first look at the series hit the web, fans were treated to a throwback in every sense of the word. From the cast including Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, to four kids riding bikes through the echoes of suburbia, to the the eerie combination of a Stephen King novel and the hauntingly familiar images of a Steven Spielberg coming-of-age tale, Stranger Things promises to be a respectful throwback that stands firmly on its own two feet.
A visit to the Atlanta set was a treat for this genre fan in every sense of the word. The locations and sets were done with incredible detail and the cast and crew were the most enthusiastic. We had the opportunity to speak with the set of young actors and the Duffer Brothers, who created, show-ran, wrote, and directed a big portion of the series.
Working in the time period was not only fun and nostalgic for the Duffer Brothers but also a necessity, as Matt Duffer explained: “Well, there were a couple of reasons [for the 80s setting]: for the story it’s important to have that – we needed it during the Cold War and during the paranoia then and experimentation, and a lot of it is based around MKULTRA and things that were going around during that.” He continued, adding, “There’s the aesthetic thing and it just felt like a time when, especially when you’re kids, your parents can’t text you or they’re not tracking you on a GPS; there’s this sense of when you go outside you’re free and you’re on this adventure.”
Ross Duffer sums it up, saying, “I think it was realizing this is a good time to tell the story and it also allows us to pay homage to all of these movies that we grew up on. So that was kind of when the idea clicked into place.”
Considering how tech savvy children are growing up with phones and access to the internet living in their pockets, you’d think it would be a challenge for the young cast to get used to the time period but in reality, for the actors, it turned out to be quite the opposite. The time period even led to star Millie Bobby Brown, who plays the mysterious and powerful young girl Eleven, to her favorite Christmas gift from 2015. “I worked in the basement [set] and I saw — this was before Christmas — and I saw this thing, it had a disc in it and I was like, ‘what is that? What does that do?’ That’s a record player, Millie. What does it do? It plays music. So I got one for Christmas and I love it!”
It appears the boys who spent a lot of time in that same basement set, filled with Dungeons & Dragons, movie posters, and vintage toys, also enjoyed the time warp. “Did you guys like it? Because I fell in love with it,” Finn asks co-stars Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin.
I want to live in there!,” Matarazzo proclaimed. “I walked in there and I was like, what’s that? It’s a typewriter?”
Lack of technological advances aside, the kids also fell in love with something else during the making of Stranger Things: the coming of age movies of the 80s. Required viewing from the Duffers, the cast screened The Goonies, E.T., Stand By Me, and Poltergeist if they hadn’t seen them before. With CGI and animation taking over film and television today, how did the kids react to stories about kids from 30 years earlier? The answer was, somewhat surprisingly, with major enthusiasm.
“I love 80s movies. When I watched The Goonies I was like, Ah, this is great! I love this! And then I watched Poltergeist, it’s great,” Millie Bobby Brown exclaimed. The boys echoed a similar excitement when I brought up The Goonies with an enthusiastic, “Oh yeah!!!”
There was a similar affinity for Stand By Me with Caleb McLaughlin explaining, “I love the bond in that. Because I see the bond in the movie with our relationship.”
Gaten Matarazzo agrees, noticing common threads and themes in the movies, “It’s really similar, they’re looking for someone, they’re all together, they become better friends.” He continued, “In The Goonies you can definitely see that Lucas’s character is Mouth probably,.. and he’s [Finn’s character Mike] definitely like Mikey. People will think [of my character Dustin as], ‘Oh, Chunk from The Goonies but I think he’s a mix of all of them.”
Stranger Things, starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, and Matthew Modine, premieres on Netflix Friday, July 15.
Image Credits: Netflix