Stranger Things star Caleb McLaughlin jokes about show's future: 'We can literally leave you guys hanging on the Upside Down'
Warning: This article contains mild spoilers from Stranger Things season 3.
After a two-year wait, a record number of audience members flocked to watch the third season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. “Every season it grows and the level of the fandom gets bigger, it’s just crazy,” says Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas.
EW talked to the young star about developing his character, his favorite Stranger Things 3 moments, and what’s next for the show — if a new season is even happening.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It’s been a while since the Stranger Things season 2. How do you think Lucas has changed since that second season?
CALEB MCLAUGHLIN: He’s changed a lot, for sure. I feel like Lucas has become more mature. He faces his problems differently. He faces battles differently. He deals with them on a mature, more poised level, and before, he was really intense about things, and he felt that he needed to rely on other people, or nothing would go wrong. He was a little bit more negative, more realistic, like how people in the real world would react to certain circumstances, but in season 3 I feel like he knows who he is as a person, and he knows what he can do. He thinks he’s a man and it kind of shows in season 3. He has clutch moments there.
His style had noticeably changed too. Do you think it’s a reflection of him feeling more confident now?
Right now, in season 3 he’s on the cusp of puberty. He has a girlfriend now, so of course, he wants his appearance and his outfit choices to be a little bit better. Yeah like the short shorts, he has his arms showing, he has like the hats in different colorways and everything. If you notice in watching the season back Max mentions how she loves Ralph Macchio so much, and Lucas ends up wearing a shirt from The Karate Kid that Rob Macchio wears, so he sees what she likes and then throws it on, trying to impress her in a way.
What was your favorite part of season 3? What scenes did you really enjoy shooting?
I probably would say the Battle at Starcourt Mall, the last episode, that was pretty fun. Just like the action sequences. Oh and the shopping montage where Mike and Lucas are shopping for Eleven, and then Eleven and Max are being independent women, doing their thing without the guys. I think that was pretty fun.
You mentioned Battle of the Starcourt Mall, did they have to train you, or give you a refresher on how to use Lucas’ slingshot?
No, I think as the seasons went on, I gradually learned how to shoot it, and how I wanted Lucas to look shooting it. Of course the first season, he wasn’t a G at it, but he got practice because he felt that maybe the Demagorgon or the Upside Down might show up again. But they didn’t really work on it with me, I just caught on easy and quick to it.
One of the big moments of the season was Dustin and Suzie singing The NeverEnding Story theme song, and it’s funny to later see you and Sadie jokingly sing it bad given how you both can actually sing. Was it hard trying to sing the song badly?
When Dustin and Suzie sing it, I was like “Wow they sound so crispy,” and they’re harmonizing, they’re showing the stars, and then you see them flip back and forth with the cameras, they sound so good, and we sound so bad. I know, it was supposed to be funny. How I did my voice, I was trying to imitate the actual singer. It was it was fine. It was funny.
The hard part of it was that they’re like “Alright you’re gonna sing today.” And I’m like “OK.” I had no idea I was singing that day and they had us sing the song a lot of times and I think the shot that they used was our last time singing it, and you can hear me crack a little bit, but it’s fun though. I’m a perfectionist you know, I’m a performer so I just try to not really indulge in that scene too much because I will beat myself up about it, but it’s all good.
Do you want to see Lucas get a true musical moment in a future season of the show?
No, not at all. Lucas is not a singer, he can’t sing. I don’t want him to be a singer, he did that just like to imitate Dustin and Suzie.
I imagine (show creators) Matt and Ross Duffer probably have some sort of show bible, and again we didn’t really see Lucas’s parents, but we definitely saw Lucas and Erica. What kind of background have you been given about Lucas’s his family life and family dynamic?
Well, not much. I remember talking to the Duffers about it first season. I feel like Lucas was really into like the military, maybe one of his family members were in the military. I know he has both his parents in his life. He’s best friends with Mike. That was pretty much it, but I think I have like a whole developed character in my head.
Maybe more is his family life will be shown in later seasons if we have another season, but you got a glimpse of that in season two and that’s when Erica was shown to the public and everyone loved her, she was pretty funny. You could see that my relationship with my parents isn’t that bad. We were all sitting at the breakfast table and my mom was like “Oh you’re so cute.” And I was loving it, I was really into it. A lot of kids are like “Mom stop.” I was really posing for the camera, flexing and stuff, so it was pretty fun.
Do you think it’s clear Lucas and Max are back together at the end of the season?
I feel like we were never not good, It was weird. I was watching and I’m like “Oh yeah.” I feel that Max and Lucas were helping out their friends and got caught up in what they were doing, and really forgot that they were good at that moment—something like “We’re not together.” And it was like “All right then, I guess we’re not.” Towards the end, once Mike and Eleven were good, then we’re like “All right we’re good now.” I think it was like you know, there’s bros before the girls and the girls before the boys or whatever. What is even that saying, I don’t even know what it is.
Do you see Lucas’s next big responsibility as helping Max through grief after what happens with her brother Billy?
Definitely, I mean he probably has to be there for her. He seems very clueless in Season 3 about just being a boyfriend in general, so he needs to take it up a notch and be more mature in those moments.
And is that something you’d want to for Lucas, a more dramatic arc dealing with the trauma they’re facing?
For sure, I feel like if we do have season four you know, and we’re not married, we’re still young, I feel like Lucas wouldn’t know how to do it. Maybe she’ll get mad at him because he might not know how to really be there for her at moments in time. So I think that would be pretty interesting to see that.
Given the cliffhangers, and how the show has worked so far, do you think it’s a show where none of the characters are ever really gone?
You never know you can go any way with the script. It’s all up to the Duffers and the writers if they want to keep going. Maybe they want to stop now. Maybe they don’t want to give anyone another season. Maybe they just want to leave you guys hanging like that. I talk to people about this all the time, we can literally leave you guys hanging on the Upside Down. No one really knows what the Upside Down is, we just know what comes from it, like Demagorgons and like the Mind Flayer, but the Upside Down is an alternate dimension of our world. Our world is so big so there’s more than just Demadogs, and Demagorgons and Mind Flayers, so no one really knows.
Two-pronged question: is there anything else that you would want to see for Lucas in a possible season 4, and then what are you working on in the meantime while you wait for Stranger Things 4 to get a greenlight?
I really love Lucas season 3. I want to see more of his clutch moments. I feel like Lucas is the man with the plan. I want to see a lot of those moments, his battle moments, action moments, more of his relationship with Max like we were talking about earlier, that would be pretty cool. And with me, Caleb McLaughlin, I have a project coming up that, I can’t talk about it right now, but it’s going to be announced soon. I’m excited about it, so stay tuned. And I have music coming out, so I’m going to drop it before the year is over. So stay tuned for that as well.
Netflix’s hit sci-fi series follows a group of kids in the '80s battling supernatural forces in Hawkins, Ind.