WARNING: This article contains spoilers about Stranger Things 3. Read at your own risk!
Remember when Joe Keery’s Steve was just the d-bag with great hair on Stranger Things?
The hair has remained but the douche bag quotient has gone down significantly on Stranger Things 3. Over the last three seasons, Steve has evolved from high school bully to ice-cream scooping hero and a full-fledged fan favorite. No one is more surprised than Keery. “It just feels like a fever dream,” says Keery of the last three years. “I’m constantly, consistently surprised about the material that they consistently give me in the show and how it challenges me in new ways. Also, what they really have done is help showcase me. I just don’t know what I did to deserve something so amazing.”
EW talked with Keery about Steve’s big season and his great chemistry with costars Maya Hawke (Robin) and Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Steven and Robin’s relationship is one of the great surprises and delights of this season. Did you and Maya have immediate chemistry?
JOE KEERY: I remember as we were ramping up to go into the season, I had talked to the Duffer Brothers. They had said that they were introducing this new character, and they wanted me to come in and do a reading with different actresses. I remember Maya was the first to come in, and it was just pretty clear immediately that there was chemistry. It felt like we had already worked together, something like that. So that, paired along with the Duffer Brothers’ really great writing and planning of the year, it just felt really natural, and it’s pretty easy to dive in straight away. Once we started shooting, it just felt pretty natural, so I’m glad that it came across that way.
Speaking of chemistry, Steve and Dustin have sorta become the friends no one expected but now everyone loves. I know you and Gaten like working together. How was it?
Totally. I mean, that was another thing that they had talked about. They had pulled me aside at the end of last year and said that they were really happy about the stuff that we were doing and that they were going to continue to write some more for the following season. So I was so, so pumped to work with Gaten. He is just so professional. He has a profound amount of talent. For somebody his age, he has such a brilliant work ethic and is just also so humble about the whole thing. You give him two takes, and he can just nail anything you give him. And then along with Maya as well, and Priyah [Ferguson, who plays Erica]. I felt so blessed.
And the thing I feel that works really well about Gaten, we both bring different things to the table. And maybe that’s why people really enjoy watching it because it’s kinda like The Odd Couple. It’s this match that you didn’t really even know you needed. And then when it does work out, it’s just really fun to see these people from these two different worlds, who both think they have it totally figured out really help each other out.
Robin coming out to Steve in episode 7 is another highlight of the season. Did you know that was happening?
That was something I had heard about earlier on. There was a rumor about that and I think the brothers wanted to keep it close to their chest, so they didn’t want to get the news out. I think it was something that was held close intentionally and for good reasons. But man, that scene might be one of my favorites of the entire season to shoot, just because they handled shooting it with such tenderness. The whole flip in the scene is that I’m making this confessional, and I’m shedding the skin for Robin and bearing my heart on my sleeve. And then she does the same for me. And to see it handled with such acceptance on both parts, it’s just a real beautiful friendship moment and definitely a growing moment for my character because it’s continuing on the path of learning to be a little bit less of a narcissist. He started out as such a selfish guy. Slowly and surely it seems like he’s growing up and yeah, learning to put other people before himself.
By the end of the season, were you ready to burn your Scoops Ahoy sailor suit?
I remember reading the first four, and in every single episode I was wearing it and I’m like, “Okay, I must change at some point.” And then eventually, yeah, I read all the scripts, and then we did the costume fittings. I don’t think it really hit me until the first day. I went into my trailer, put on my top, and come to set, and I looked at myself in the mirror. And I was just talking to myself, “Oh, Jesus, am I ready for a billion people to see me in this dinky sailor uniform?” But after we shot the first day, to be honest with you, it grew on me. It really is perfect for the character. It’s such a good grounding tool. You know? You couldn’t ask for something more perfect. So maybe I might burn it at some point or maybe just give it away for charity.
Steve finally gets to win a fight and you get to do a lot more stunt work in this season. Was that fun?
I really love that stuff. It’s a challenge, and it’s a different skill set, but there’s something about it that for me is really immersive. If you’re doing that stuff, it’s really easy to forget that you’re acting on the show. You just forget that you’re on set acting. It just feels very real. All those sequences in [episodes] five and six, I thoroughly enjoyed.
You and Maya also have to be tied to each other for a good chunk of time. She said that was actually very challenging.
Oh, totally. You don’t think about every time you have to reset or everybody’s like, “Let’s take a five-minute break.” And it takes you five minutes to get untied. So you’re just like, “Let’s just stay tied together for six hours.” That actually proved to be one of the more difficult sequences, much more than any of the stunt choreography. Tied together was like kind of tiring.
And then you have to pretend to be high. How did you maintain that loopiness? Shots?
Honestly, maybe we should have taken a shot. I should have taken it upon myself to do that. That was actually one of the sequences that I was probably most nervous about filming, hoping that it cut together. Because when you’re shooting something like that, you’re shooting it out of order and you are trying to give it some consistency. And also, the symptoms of this unknown serum that they give both of us in making sure we have the same thing.
The season ends with so much shock and huge shifts for the series in general. Do you know anything about what Stranger Things 4 would look like?
I don’t know any details necessarily, and I’m not really allowed to say anything. But I do know what my hopes and aspirations for it are and there are conversations going on. They do leave it in a way where I do think that there are more stories to be told.
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