WARNING: The following contains spoilers from the second season of Stranger Things. Read at your own risk!
What a difference a year makes. Last season on Stranger Things, Steve (Joe Keery) was a huuuuge d-bag. This year? He’s an action hero. The character not only provides some very helpful spiked-baseball bat defense but also gives new pal Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) a makeover.
EW talked to Keery about Steve’s evolution and revealing the secrets to that famous coif.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Steve was kind of a douche in season 1. This season, he’s much more of a nice guy. Did you like playing that? Or do you miss the d-bag?
JOE KEERY: Well I think there’s a little bit of both in the character still. I kinda see it as a continuation of this arc from season 1. Like meeting Nancy and pursuing her at the beginning of season 1 is sort of this catalyst for massive change in this kid’s life. He truly falls in love for the first time. Similarly, the catalyst for season 2 is the conflict at the part with Nancy. They’ve both been dealing with the events of season 1 for this entire year but in a different way. Nancy feels it’s better to get this information out and find this justice, and he’s kind of a little more scared and eager to keep it closer to the chest. The conflict, although it isn’t necessarily what he thinks is in his best interest at the time, I think it’s important because if that doesn’t happen at the party then he’s not going to meet up with these kids and kind of have this hero’s journey, kind of a growing up. The way I looked at it is he’s kind of a little bit self-absorbed on this journey and Dustin’s character kind of helps in a major way.
How was that to play? The Duffers told me that came a bit late in the game.
Yeah. I mean it was great. I didn’t get to work with him the first season at all. I saw the first season and I was like, “Oh man this kid is so talented. All the kids are.” It’s great. Story-wise, I kinda look at it as these two characters that kind of get left in the cold by their friends. They’re kind of there for each other when no one else is. It’s kind of an unlikely friendship because it’s almost as if they don’t get along but they do get along very well and they kind of learn a lesson from each other that they needed to know. It kinda pays homage to those ’80s movies of having this duo you wouldn’t necessarily expect. It was just a blast to play to and also Gaten is such a talented actor.
Were you happy that the secret to Steve’s hair was finally revealed? Did they have to burn those scripts out of secrecy?
[Laughs] Oh yeah, they were burning many scripts this year and that was one of them definitely. I think they discontinued the Faberge Organics but I’m hoping that maybe Netflix will get a deal with Faberge where they can reissue the stuff. My dad said, “Oh yeah I remember that stuff!” So it was around. People did use it at some point.
The junkyard sequence is so scary and you kinda get to be an action hero.
Reading the scripts alone was like, “Are you kidding me? This is going to be the most fun ever.” Yeah, that episode was directed by Andrew Stanton. He’s so excellent. It’s really a huge collaboration because of all the monsters and stuff. Those days were a lot of collaboration and rehearsal and making sure we transferred what was on the page to the screen correctly. And we brought a lot of new ideas. Like just off the top of my head, when I dive over the car, I was originally just supposed to jump over the car and run into the van. But like I dove over the car and we thought it would be cool to add this monster diving and hitting it and crashing through the windshield. So we kind of took liberties on the day and just tried to give the VFX people and the editing room a ton of stuff to work with so that we could make it seem as exciting and scary as possible so it really seems like, oh dude, Steve’s gonna die here. Filming that stuff was like the dream. You watch movies as a kid, like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, and they all have cool, crazy action scenes like that and to actually get to do one on a show that I really love, it’s so crazy. I wish I could do it again.
Billy (Dacre Montgomery) shoves you a bunch of times on the basketball court and then beats you up.
Yeah, Steve gets beat up once per season. So next year he’ll probably get beat up. I think it’s in my contract. The fight scene wasn’t too bad. Last year, Charlie punched me in the face once or twice so I was like, “Oh man I gotta get ready.” No offense to Charlie, but Dacre is like a big dude. He could do some damage.
Well, he’s a Power Ranger!
He’s the Red Ranger! He could squash me. The only time we got close to getting hurt was the plate we used to break was a homemade plate and it was a little thicker. And we only got two takes in but he hit me right with the ridge on the side of my head and that was like, “Oooof,” and after that I was like, “Okay guys, I think we got it! Let’s wrap it up!”
How do you feel about Steve and Nancy breaking up?
I think the brothers have done a nice job of making it pretty realistic. It’s messy. Those types of things are never clean, especially when you’re that young you don’t know the rules. I think it’s important though because I don’t think Steve would have necessarily ended up the way that he did if he hadn’t had this blow to him. It’s kind of taking this person who has had everything and had it all and kind of showing him that his whole world can turn on its side. I think it’s a humbling experience for the character and I think it’s about putting other people before yourself. I think he truly does love Nancy and it’s an example of him finally saying, “I love you so much that I’m gonna let you go and do your thing. If it’s better for you to be with this other dude, you gotta do it but just know I do care about you and love you.” I think that’s where we do leave it.
Do you know anything about season 3?
Yeah definitely. Whenever there are like events and stuff, we’ll all kind of pester them and ask them what’s what. They’re very collaborative in terms of your ideas about the character. We’ve talked about it and I’ve got some ideas. I feel like I should probably not say just in case any of them come true then I’m spoiling the season.