Nancy star Natalia Dyer on Steve vs. Jonathan and Dustin's 'sweet' scene in the finale

By Shirley Li
October 31, 2017 at 08:30 AM EDT
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WARNING: The following contains spoilers from the second season of Stranger Things. Read at your own risk!

Nancy (Natalia Dyer) took some big swings in Stranger Things 2. She gave closure to the parents of her late best friend and fan-favorite demogorgon victim Barb (Shannon Purser), exposed as many of the lab’s secrets as she could with the help of journalist-turned-conspiracy-theorist Murray (Brett Gelman), and ditched Steve (Joe Keery) for Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) in the middle of her dogged pursuit for truth.

Sure, she wound up getting wasted at a party to figure out her feelings and later skipped school to infiltrate the lab, but to Dyer, it was all worth it to help Nancy grow. “I was kind of like, ‘I don’t know if fans will like Nancy this season, just because the decisions she’s making aren’t completely flattering,'” Dyer tells EW. “understand it, of course. It just makes her more human.”

Below, Dyer reflects on her character’s moves this season and where she’d like Nancy to go next.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with the ending. What were your thoughts when you read that scene when she saves Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo)? She was his heroine.
[Laughs] I mean, it was such a sweet thing. I’m very happy [with it] because I’ve been there… I think it just shows how much this group of people cares for each other and tries to look out for each other. And filming it was a lot of fun, it was just like a school dance. It took me back to middle school, with all the kids dressed up. And Gaten, he’s great. He’s always fun to work with.

Nancy gives him dating advice, which works well because it comes at the end of her own journey of exploring her feelings for the two guys in her life. What do you think of her growth on that front?
I don’t know if she completely understands what she’s doing, you know? Emotions aren’t always very logical, and I think sometimes, Nancy is kind of a logical person and so emotions are a little harder to decipher for her. I think she does care about Steve, and they do care about each other… but after what happened in season 1, I think they needed some time to be apart at least. They were growing in different ways. What happened with Jonathan, that had been building, and she had a connection with him that needed to be… [laughs] explored.

Do you think she made the right choice? Is this even a final choice, or is this something that still needs more exploring?
I think the ending is left open-ended. They’re kind of in an ambiguous place. Are they dating? Are they not dating? Is she totally over [Steve]? I would say that there’s a lot to explore there, I don’t think it’s neatly tied up.

She played a huge role this year in taking down the lab. What was it like getting into that headspace of a stronger, more badass Nancy?
I found it to be a really natural progression. Despite whatever mistakes she’s made, I do think she has a strong moral compass, and when she thinks something is right, she goes after it. She made that decision [to pursue justice for Barb] with confidence. I think she’s headstrong in that way about getting to the bottom of it, and she’s reckless in the sense that she’s not thinking through all the consequences of what might come after, but it was a lot of fun to play that and to get into that, to burn that lab to the ground.

So do you think justice for Barb has been served?
Yeah, I guess it’s a tricky question, because in some ways Nancy does do what she set out to do, but it’s hard to quantify what justice for Barb means. I mean, losing somebody is never something you can get back, you can’t just do an eye for an eye. It’s hard, but I think getting her parents some kind of knowledge [of what happened], having the funeral, and closing down the lab is definitely steps toward justice. And what else can she do at this point? She’s just doing what she knows she can do. Obviously, the truth that got out was the watered-down truth, but I think she’s aware of the need for it. It’s a subjective matter, I suppose.

With all that said, what would you consider Nancy’s most badass moment this season?
Oh man… [Laughs] The confrontation with Paul Reiser’s character, the whole thing of getting into that lab and getting detained, those scenes were pretty powerful. And the moment when she grabs the gun, not that the gun gives her power, but it’s something where she’s saying, “I’m qualified. Don’t look at me like I’m just a girl.” That felt pretty strong. I think all of it accumulated toward the end. She’s not really thinking about herself, she’s gung ho about doing what’s right.

She goes from being unsure about avenging her best friend’s death to stabbing Will with a hot poker to force the monster out.
I have to say, Noah [Schnapp]’s performance has just been so amazing this season, and being in the room with him [in that scene] when he’s thrashing around and being possessed, he was amazing. He could turn it on and off, and he was absolutely terrifying in real life. There were also silly moments, of course. When I stabbed him, it wasn’t really him, it was a dummy so the smoke comes out. We did a lot to pull all of that together, but it was also a very fun-filled day.

Looking ahead, what do you hope Nancy gets to do more of in the future?
I know nothing about the next season, but I think it would be fun to have Nancy interact more with the supernatural elements, maybe go to the Upside Down again… And I would love to see more of a dynamic between Nancy and Murray. I think they have kind of kindred spirit connection, you know? They kind of think in similar ways, there’s something about how they have journalistic, investigative minds. And he’s kind of, almost like a mentor for her.

Stranger Things 2 is streaming on Netflix.

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