Meet Joe Quinn, the actor behind Hawkins' zealous dungeon master on Stranger Things
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You wouldn't know from looking at his character on Stranger Things, but Joe Quinn isn't big on Dungeons & Dragons. He tried it. He just can't get into it.
The London-based actor, 29, one of the main newcomers of season 4, debuts on the Netflix hit as Eddie Munson, the leader and dungeon master of the Hellfire Club, Hawkins High's premiere D&D group. Quinn has already been named by some critics as the MVP of the show, thanks to the zeal and ferocity with which Eddie approaches all his campaigns, not to mention his total metal head 'tude towards everything in life.
But, no. That's not Quinn. "I played my first game in L.A. when we were doing some press," Quinn tells EW. "I bought a book to try and understand what Dungeons & Dragons was about, and it didn't agree with me. Though, I knew that wasn't going to be my way in, as it were."
Instead, Quinn's way into the character was music. "I listened to a lot of heavy metal and that was my... God, it's impossible to not sound pretentious when you say it, but, yeah, that was my way in," he says.
Quinn's strength was that he already played guitar, maintaining a nostalgic adoration of the Gibson SG due to his love of Jack Black in the 2003 film School of Rock. "I've played since I was 7, and I've had huge breaks," he admits. "I wouldn't consider myself a brilliant guitarist, but I can play it. That was very lucky because those scripts came out, I think, at some point in the pandemic. I did start practicing pretty furiously."
Minor spoiler warning: With the kids of Hawkins now in their freshman year of high school, they face the harsh growing pains that come along with adolescence. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) have all joined the Hellfire Club, but Lucas is torn between his geek posse and the popularity that comes with being a jock on the basketball team.
But the gang are united under a common cause once more when Eddie is blamed for the gruesome murder of a Hawkins cheerleader, sparking a wave of Satanic Panic among the town that links the D&D life to occult worship. When the gang learn the killing was the work of a new demo-monster from the Upside Down, Vecna, a being who's able to project his mind into their world and psychically attack victims, they vow to protect Eddie and clear his name.
It's not the easiest promise to keep for Steve (Joe Keery), who initially butts heads with Eddie over Dustin. Steve and the kid used to have the kind of bromance TV bingers shipped, but they've since been growing apart. Seeing Dustin now find camaraderie with Eddie isn't easy for him.
"There's a fraternal thing there, really," Quinn explains of the Eddie-Dustin relationship. "I definitely had a couple of friends that were older than me when I was growing up, in that confusing period of 13-17. Life changes very quickly, and what you're exposed to changes. I think having people just that little bit older than you that have been through it was always very comforting to me. I think that's what Gaten and I tried to establish with this relationship. It was just brotherly love."
Quinn has been involved with larger productions before. Early in his career, he had a bit part in the seventh season of Game of Thrones as one of two guards who heckle Arya (Maisie Williams) when she returns to Winterfell to reunite with her sister. He also had a part in the action horror film Overlord and played Prince Paul in Helen Mirren's Catherine the Great series. But Stranger Things offered a collaborative experience and a meaty part to dig into.
The '80s wig helped with that process.
Quinn had two weeks of fittings to get the perfect Eddie wig. The Duffer brothers first settled on a particular look that the actor describes as "very David Bowie in Labyrinth." He adds, "Unfortunately, I'm not David Bowie, so I didn't think that I could pull that off."
"I wanted something that was normal, of this world, more like a mullet," he continues. "But we compromised. I mean, it's still objectively ridiculous, but it serves the character really well. It's very useful as an actor to put something on and instantly you feel like you're looking at a different person."
The down side: "It itched a lot," he says.
Stranger Things season 4, Volume I is streaming now on Netflix. Read our full recap.
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Netflix’s hit sci-fi series follows a group of kids in the '80s battling supernatural forces in Hawkins, Ind.