Stranger things, 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
YOU’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, water cooler 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-a decade 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. Wt’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 our minds as an eight-hour movie – this year it’s a nine-hour sequel.”
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