Some things have changed in Hawkins, Ind. (there’s a new mall!), and some things haven’t (the Upside Down is still creepy AF!). The third installment of Stranger Things, debuting July 4 on Netflix, picks up in the summer of 1985 with the core group of kids — Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Max (Sadie Sink) — battling a heartless new monster: puberty.
“We wanted to explore the theme of change,” says Matt Duffer, who created the series with his brother, Ross. “The season takes place during the last summer before high school. The kids are growing up, and that transition is going to be messy and awkward and painful. Are they able to grow up without growing apart?” Oh, and their hometown is still a hot spot for a lot of interdimensional terror. “Eleven closed the Gate, but the Mind Flayer is still alive in the Upside Down,” teases Matt. “It will find another way into Hawkins.… It’s just a matter of time.”
Meanwhile, Hopper (David Harbour), rocking a Magnum P.I. look complete with ’stache and occasional Hawaiian shirt, is struggling to raise telekinetic teen Eleven, who’s now in a relationship with Mike. “It thrusts him into a discussion with Joyce [Winona Ryder],” says Harbour. “She’s able to offer me some advice on how to deal with being a single parent and how to, like, you know, stop being so damn controlling.” Unfortunately, parenthood has not been kind to the sheriff’s fitness level. “This season, Hopper does a lot of really big, like, action-y things,” says Harbour. “But he’s fatter than you’ve ever seen him and less capable of hurting people, but a little more capable because he’s just like a big elephant.”
The surprising bromance of Steve (Joe Keery) and Dustin will also get plenty of screen time. “You definitely see more of that,” says Matarazzo. “That’s what I really like about Matt and Ross: They know what fans like and they roll with it.”
For more Summer TV scoop, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy your choice of two different Game of Thrones covers — Daenerys or the Starks — now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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