“Stranger Things” closes out 35th annual PaleyFest


(CREDIT: Michael Bulbenko)

Yes, yes this news is a tad late about the 35th annual Paley Fest that I had the pleasure of attending for a first time, but it’s never too late to talk about Netflix’s hit series, Stranger Things.

If you’re not familiar with the festival, it’s a TV lover’s dream, bringing together the stars and creators from the most popular series on network, cable and streaming TV. The festival runs in Los Angeles at the Dolby Theatre from March 16 to 25, 2018. So, we’re not THAT late in bringing you behind-the-scenes updates on your favorite series.

The celebration closed its two-week celebration of all things TV with Executive Producer/Director Shawn Levy and some of Stranger Things cast including Winona Ryder (Joyce), David Harbour (Hopper), Paul Reiser (Dr. Owens), Sean Astin (Bob), Millie Bobbie Brown (Eleven), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan) and second-season addition Sadie Sink (Max).

Not familiar with Stranger Things? Shame on you. But for the uneducated, read below:

Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, the first season focused on the investigation into the disappearance of a young boy amid supernatural events occurring around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities who helped the missing boy’s friends in their own search. The second season, aptly titled Stranger Things 2, is set a year later, and deals with attempts of the characters to return to normal and consequences that linger from the first season.

While fans of the supernatural show that celebrates all things ’80s, were certainly there for Millie Bobbie Brown, who of course plays Eleven, they were also ready to hear from David K. Harbour, who plays small-town cop Jim Hopper and Winona Ryder, who plays stressed out mom Joyce Byers. Actor Wil Wheaton (TNG, Stand by Me, Big Bang Theory), moderated the panel.

While things were fun and engaging – learned that Ryder had a crush on Sean Astin in Lord of the Rings – most of the panel was sworn to secrecy with the threat of being sent into the The Upside Down if they breathed a word about S3. Levy at least announced, “We are going back to work next month and we’re super excited.” The rest of the night was spent reminiscing about Season 1 and Season 2 of the mega-popular Netflix series.


Ryder didn’t just have a crush on Astin Opening the panel on a sweet note, Ryder admitted that as a young actor in Hollywood she had legit crushes on moderator Wil Wheaton.

David Harbour says he got to be “Ripley” In the Season 2 episode, “Chapter Six: The Spy,” David Harbour revealed that director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) created detailed storyboards for the episode that were inspired right from James Cameron’s seminal action-horror film, Aliens (1986). And the best part, was Harbour got to essentially play the Ripley role played by Sigourney Weaver.

Everyone shut out the intense popularity of Season 1 to make Season 2 Executive Producer Shawn Levy said when everyone returned to start work on the second season, he addressed how everyone’s lives changed between the seasons. He shared, “At the first table read, we said the world knows about us now but we’re going to hunker down and it was a willful tuning out of the outside world.”

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The series’ production crew pays close attention to recreating 1980s America Millie Bobby Brown said immersing themselves in the accuracy of the sets is one of their favorite parts of working on the show. McLaughlin said the costume designers even gave them “tighty whities” underwear to wear (apparently Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin Henderson, was all in with this choice).

The younger cast members say they also researched the period by watching a video that the Duffer brothers (the creators) had made, which featured scenes from all of the movies and shows of that time period that inspired them.

Reiser said he didn’t know if his mysterious Dr. Sam Owens was good or bad He played scenes both ways and says his “goal was just to not bring this whole show crashing down.”

Harbour is not a parent himself, but he gets to feel that connection when he works with Brown “I love acting, like so much. And what I love about acting is that it’s personal and that you get to explore parts of your psyche that you may not get to explore in real life,” he says. “I don’t have a child… so all my experiences with love have been somewhat like romantic or either my parents or, like, a dog. This was an unlocking in me, as a human being, of a love of a human that was pure, but like you’d take a bullet for someone, too.”

Unlike her character, Sink is not an ace skateboarder

“It’s hard to learn in two months how to look like you’ve been skateboarding for your whole life,” she says.

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Sean Astin has a reason why Bob didn’t run out of Hawkins Laboratory Moderator Wil Wheaton put Astin on the spot by asking why Bob didn’t run the extra five feet to get out of the lab’s front door before he was killed by the Demodogs. Astin replied the reason was because the script said, “Bob stops.” He laughed and said he really tried not to stop but the Duffer brothers would not allow it. Astin also said he was incredibly grateful that the Duffers wrote Bob as such a heroic everyman who got his big moment. And as a lover of period pieces, he still blown away that his childhood has made such a great period piece and that he was able to be part of it.

Closing out the night out, Wheaton offered a heartfelt advice to the panel’s young actors, telling them, “Do not let this industry take your childhood away from you. You only get to be kids one time in your life. Take time to be kids.”Reel Chicago will periodically bring you more updates on your favorite shows. So don’t change flip that remote!

Contact Colin Costello at colin@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.