Stranger Things’ Sean Astin: “We’re all living in the Upside Down right now”

Stranger Things 2 star Sean Astin says the paranormal drama could be closer to reality than we think. Plus, the show's music supervisor Nora Felder explains why the 1980s are making a comeback

The Big Issue: This might not be a long answer, but tell us everything you are allowed to about Bob Newby and Stranger Things 2…
Sean Astin: It is not hard to tell you everything. Bob Newby [pictured above] works at Radio Shack. Do you know about Radio Shack? It gained its prominence in the 1980s, and if you needed a soldering iron or any coaxial cable, that is where you went. Bob is a geek and a thoughtful, kind guy. He comes in as a love interest for Winona Ryder’s character, Joyce. That might be all I can say.

Casting you opposite Winona Ryder, who also achieved fame at a young age, is many a film fan’s dream…
We love each other. Winona is just fantastic – I just feel like putting my arms around her and giving her a big hug. Bob feels protective of her in the show, I feel protective of her in life. If you say something bad about Winona in front of me, we’re going to have a row.

What was the Strangest Thing that occurred during filming?
There was a storm that was unlike any I have ever been in. The lightning went on for six or seven hours. It was like being inside one of those electrical balls you put your hand on, where the electric light nodes are attracted to your hands. You know the things? We were filming in the Byers house – when we stepped off the stage, we just sat there in the rain. Even when I got back to the hotel, I sat up all night long watching this spectacular lightning storm.

Films like E.T., The Goonies – they are all films in which the kids are the heroes, going on the quest. Why is that style of storytelling so compelling?
There is a feeling a lot of adults have: “There is only so much you can do.” But kids don’t have that. They see what is right, see what is wrong, and act on it. You do whatever you have to do to help your friends.

I have grown to hesitate before luxuriating in the anger, because I have realised it only breeds more anger

Has the way that young people are looked after in show business changed since you started out?
There will always be abuse and so it must be guarded against vigorously. That said, I’d like to believe that it is a little bit better. The shadows aren’t as big. They are there, and the corners are horrifying. You see lots of examples of children who grow up and end up in really dire circumstances with drugs and alcohol and all kinds of problems. This time is not immune.

Stranger Things 2: The four boys hold a meeting
Stranger Things 2: The kids get spooked

How often do you have your previous work quoted back at you?
Quite frequently. “It’s our time down here” is one, or “Goonies never say die.” Also, “There’s some good in this world that’s worth fighting for” from Lord of The Rings. I have been blessed to be in movies that have been memorable. The word iconic gets over-used, but it certainly feels like some of those lines are iconic. They are alive.

Where are your politics at right now?
I live and breathe it. At the same time, in this divisive age, I know that whenever that sensation is inside of me, that enjoys and embraces anger, there is going to be an equal and opposite reaction. So I have grown to hesitate before luxuriating in the anger, because I have realised it only breeds more anger. It locks in people who are pro-Trump – because people want to defend their beliefs and ideas, so logic and reason are the first casualties on all sides, really.

You recently called the current US administration “a corrupt group of deranged sociopaths who should be in jail”. Can we relate Stranger Things to the political moment we are in?
With Brexit, what is going on in Catalonia and Donald Trump, there is this strange thing that is happening all over the world. It’s a kind of retraction, a recoiling from modernity, from technology. So it definitely feels like we are living in the Upside Down being on Planet Earth right now…

Stranger Things is available now on Netflix. Stranger Things – Music From The Netflix Original Series (Legacy Recordings) is out now on CD and digital download

Why the 1980s haunt us

With many things in life, the past has come back to haunt us. The eighties are back with a pulsing synthy score and a rack of classic hits in the form of the Stranger Things soundtrack. Nora Felder, music supervisor for the show, explains why the eighties are making a comeback.

Generally speaking, Stranger Things, as a whole, pays tremendous homage to the eighties, so it’s no surprise that the music, (along with Eggo waffles, fashion, and everything else) are coming back around, in full circle.

Everything starts with the scripts, which is when ideas can start brewing. From that point on, and all throughout the process, right up until completing each chapter to the story, ideas can come to light, in many ways.

The music complements the characters, establishes the mood and era, and also moves the plot along

The music (both song and score) not only complements the characters, and aids in establishing the mood and era, but also effectively moves the plot along. This came through the combination of the equally innovative and nostalgic score that Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon have created, intertwined with the songs that stamp the time, place, and characters.

It’s no secret that the story of Stranger Things resonates loudly with a large and varied worldwide audience of very devoted viewers. When a fan of the series later re-listens to a song they heard in the show, it can allow them to revisit the story in a visceral way, as well as reunite them, in sentiment, with their favourite characters that any given song may be tied to.

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