NEW YORK – It’s 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, and summer’s heating up. School’s out, there’s a brand new mall in town, and the Hawkins crew are on the cusp of adulthood. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger looms. When the town’s threatened by enemies old and new, Eleven and her friends are reminded that evil never ends; it evolves. Now they’ll have to band together to survive, and remember that friendship is always stronger than fear. David Harbour plays Jim Hopper, chief of Hawkins Police Department. After his young daughter died of cancer, Hopper divorced and lapsed into alcoholism. Eventually he grows to be more responsible, saving Joyce’s son as well as taking Eleven as his adopted daughter. Harbour has already won a SAG Award, a Critic’s Choice Award, and he received two nominations for the Emmy Awards and Golden Globes for his performance in Stranger Things. He’s also a Tony nominated actor who’s performed some of the most classic works including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf and The Coast of Utopia. He spoke at SAG-AFTRA foundation about his experience on the show.
It’s only been three years since Strangers Things came out and took the world by storm but I remember it started pretty quietly…
We had a premiere for this third season that was incredible, so many people. Season 1 premiere was completely different, just a couple of people with signs probably painted that day saying Stranger Things to hold up for us to take pictures. Plus, a couple of dudes with cameras that clearly Netflix had hired to pretend people were interested in the show. We were thinking no one’s going to watch this and then it became this grassroots movement. It wasn’t hyped, it organically grew from people on Facebook, Twitter, IG and it just spiraled out of control and it felt like a revolution – it’s incredible to see how far the show has gone in terms of the hearts of people.
We fell in love with Hopper since the beginning but then season 2 gave us this amazing relationship between him and Eleven. What can we expect from them two?
Their relationship has severely deteriorated, there was a lot of love and now she has a boyfriend… and a controlling man like Hopper. Last thing in the world he wants as a father is, for her, to be kissing Finn Wolfhard. He’s angry at her about nothing, she’s growing up, she’s becoming a teenager. That’s the fun thing about the show, everything is unexpected. This season has a light comedy to it and kind of lightness that I don’t know we’ve quite had yet to this degree and it really comes out of a depth of these relationship. We’re getting to see Hopper expand in a lot of ways so he has this problem with his daughter and it’s gonna force him to uncover what he needs to know about himself as a man again. It’s gonna force him along the path of trying to get advice from the only other single parent in Hawkins who does a very good job raising her two boys and that will lead him to a whole new bunch of shenanigans.
What’s it like for you to get a script cause in addition to being on the show, you are a fan of the show?
It’s a huge page-turner. I only wish I didn’t have to read it so I could be surprised when I watch it but I still am. I still forget some of the scenes that we shoot after we’ve shot because it’s kind of a blur. We’re down there in Atlanta shooting a lot of stuff and then I’ll rewatch the show and I’m still moved by the story even though I know what’s gonna happen. That’s the replay-ability of our series, I watched episode 8 of season 3 already three times because it’s a masterpiece, not only the content but how it’s told. It’s so moving that every time it’s like listening to your favorite song, watching the show has the same quality for me.
What’s been the most challenging part of playing this role?
The most difficult thing in this season happen in episode 1 where I have to say a line, which I’m usually very serious about, but I couldn’t stop laughing. We didn’t get a closeup take of it. It’s done a little bit wide because I could not say the line for an hour. And Finn was like «Come on man, you got this» and I thought «You’re a 14 yo child and I’m 43 yo, I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’m being coached by a child». It was very embarrassing, probably the hardest experience I’ve ever had on the show.
Do you really intimidate the kids? Because it seems like they love you…
I break down a little bit but I can also drop the hammer. They were on set messing around, the Duff brothers couldn’t handle them so I went «Hey what’s up guys?» For me the most important thing in the world is the experience that the audience has so as much as we have a good time shooting it, I’m always aware that I’m working in service of an audience. I want this to be perfect so you will watch it and feel something powerful so when the kids start messing around, I remind them that we have a duty toward the people who love the show and you can change lives with it by inspiring people. I believe that anything you do whether you work at a fast food joint and you serve with pride and dedication, you can contribute to an inspiring world and I feel it’s the same thing with acting.
How much attention do you pay on social media?
It’s a crazy world when you have millions of people who want to share their opinions about you and what they think of you so I’ve changed my relationship with social media a little bit recently. I do feel some people deserve the content I can offer especially the fans who create art and theories about the show, but people can also be not so great on the platforms and it gives them license to feel like they can be cruel in a way… I’m still a human being.
- Here you can watch the official trailer of Stranger Things, season 3