Stranger Things premiered last July with little fanfare, slotting in between sophomore season airings of Marco Polo and BoJack Horseman (also Netflix Originals). Within days, the first wave of viewers had binged through all eight episodes. Within weeks, it seemed as though all corners of the world were enraptured by the eerie events down in Hawkins, Indiana. By late August, Netflix had greenlit a second season.
After a gruelling fifteen-month wait, all nine episodes of Stranger Things 2 will air on October 27. It’s 1984: one year has passed since Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) vanquished the demogorgon. While all those involved have been sworn to secrecy by the white-coats at Hawkins Lab, some are performing normalcy better than others. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has weekly psychiatric visits to help assuage terrifying memories (or are they visions?) of the Upside Down. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and the gang have taken a break from Dungeons and Dragons and A.V. club to coordinate their Ghostbusters costumes for Halloween. Though it’s the best day of the year, Mike can’t help but notice that something, someone is missing. His gaze lingers on the haphazard blanket fort in the corner of his room, undisturbed since its last habitant vanished a year ago. Eleven, where are you?
Back on campus, two new students have skidded onto the scene in a cobalt blue Camaro. There’s MadMax (Sadie Sink), a skater girl with a knack for arcade games, and her bad-to-the-bone older brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery).
Hailing from Perth, Australia, newcomer Dacre Montgomery – armed with roguish good looks and charm (à la Val Kilmer in Real Genius), acting talents honed at a prestigious arts school, and a mononym-worthy name – is poised and ready to take over your screens. Not long after graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), the 22-year-old scored his breakout role as the Red Ranger in Dan Israelite’s Power Rangers reboot (2016).
“It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve been pursuing a career in this industry for a long time, so when I was finally given an opportunity, I didn’t take it for granted. For the last 24 months I’ve been a human sponge, soaking up and learning as much as I can, both on and off set. I’ve been really lucky to be getting these opportunities, but I’ve also worked really hard for it.”
If there’s any franchise that could eclipse the '90s Mighty Morphin juggernaut, it’s the Duffer Brothers’ homage to 80s sci-fi; the cultural phenomenon that is Stranger Things.
“It’d been about four months since shooting Power Rangers, and Stranger Things was the first thing I saw that made me think, ‘I need this.’ I had one day to get my act together, so I made a short film rather than a self-tape. It had an opening score, opening titles, and I may or may not have put on a g-string and danced to "Hungry Like a Wolf".”
It seems you can’t go wrong in a thong – the Duffers called Montgomery back the morning after he’d sent the tape, and within days he’d landed the role.
Burly, scowling, and clad in double denim, Billy could be the eighth Greaser in The Outsiders (1983). The Duffers envisioned his character as a human antagonist that offsets the supernatural one. MadMax’s monster doesn’t have gnarled claws or rows of razor-sharp teeth. It has her brother’s crazed eyes, his sociopathic tendencies, and his constant threats of violence.
“Billy is initially perceived to be a bit of a dick – the high school bully. But there’s a lot more sinister stuff going on, which slowly progresses through the season in a way that hopefully puts the audience on edge through its unpredictability. Jack Nicholson was a reference for me for this role. His style of acting, and the choices he makes are very unpredictable, and that’s what makes him so scary in The Shining.”
Filming for season two primarily took place in Atlanta, Georgia – home of some of the world’s greatest hip-hop artists. Montgomery is a huge hip-hop fan, and would often venture out to the city’s famed clubs with crew and cast members after they’d wrapped for the day. One day after filming, he was on the bike at the gym when a certain Louisville artist slid into his DMs.
“Bryson Tiller reached out to me and was like, ‘I loved Power Rangers, dude. It was the dopest movie ever, and I just wanted to say I really enjoyed it.’
I think I was actually listening to his 'True to Self' album at that moment, too.”
It wouldn’t be their last exchange. After helping to book Australian rapper Allday for a performance at Drai’s, the Vegas superclub, Montgomery sent his record In Motion to Tiller, and urged him to check him out.
“Bryson came back and said, ‘This guy’s sick!’ and I said, ‘You guys should collab.’ So I guess I’m going to quit acting now and get into music producing.”
While Yung Dacre’s talents remain to be seen, Montgomery’s love of music is best embodied through the medium he knows best: film. He recently starred alongside actress Courtney Eaton in Angus and Julia Stone’s video for "Chateau". Directed by Jessie Hill, lilting vocals follow the lovers as they wander a sensual Mexican dreamscape, all the while ensconced in Winding-Refn pinks and blues.
“Filming this for Angus and Julia was very special. I think they have reignited their duo career with this album incredibly well. I grew up with their music, so it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of their creation.”
According to Montgomery, the supernatural genre – another childhood love that he would later actualize – is intrinsic to the universal appeal of Stranger Things.
“It’s a coming-of-age story we’ve all been through: we’re all at one stage of being kids, teenagers, or adults. You have viewers who are of David Harbour’s and Winona Ryder’s age (Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers), there’s an older audience that was of that age in the '80s, as well as young kids who are watching the show with their families. Throw in a supernatural element, and that makes it binge-worthy material, in my opinion.”
For all its cinematic triumphs, Stranger Things did leave one small loose end that is to this day nitpicked and aggrandized by fans. When Barb (Shannon Purser) went missing, no one except her guilt-stricken friend seemed to care, prompting the fandom to demand “justice for Barb”.
At this year’s Comic-Con, Shannon Purser made a surprise appearance at the Stranger Things panel. “Is Barb going to be in season two?” she asked, to thunderous ovation.
Montgomery, who has been stoically silent with spoilers thus far, caves slightly.
“Barb… is returning… potentially.”
Stranger Things 2 airs on Netflix on October 27.