'Stranger Things' Creators Want a 'Different,' 'Darker' Season 2
Things may be getting even stranger on Netflix ...
"Stranger Things," the steaming service's latest sensation, scored big with subscribers with its spooky/sci-fi storytelling and a vibe that effectively evoked a very specific era of '80s genre filmmaking. And while the series' creators, twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, are still awaiting an illuminating official signal from the Netflix brass, a second season is essentially a foregone conclusion.
In fact, the brothers have been planning all along -- loosely -- where the follow-up story would pick up, right back in Indiana where the Byers and Wheeler families, Chief Hopper, and the enigmatic Eleven must deal with the repercussions of Will's lengthy stay in the otherworldly Upside Down.
On where they are in the planning stages for Season 2:
Matt Duffer: We've thought about it a lot. I mean, a lot of it, we kind of hint at where we might go at the end of the season, where Will was living in this Upside Down, this other dimension, for about a week, and the repercussions of that can't be good. So a lot of it is exploring that, and this inter-dimensional rift is still very much open, so that also can't be good, so it's exploring that.
We want to retain the tone, but I think all our favorite sequels kind of feel a little different. It's not about just taking, "Another monsters comes and it's a bigger, badder monster." It's like, we want it to feel a little bit different. Maybe a little bit darker, but still have the sense of fun.
On whether there's another cinematic sub-genre they'd like to shift toward in Season 2:
Matt Duffer: No, we're just kind of following naturally where the story goes. We're trying to figure out where it's going to lead us.
Ross Duffer: Because at the end, it's stuff that's unresolved. Whether it's with Will, or the fact that this dimensional tear, as far as we know, we left it open. So for us, we've sort of literally opened up the story to a lot of different possibilities.
And also we're excited, in terms of this season, you start with, Will is taken within the first 10 minutes. In the first scene with Joyce, she realizes her son's gone. So we're excited about, if we get a chance to go back, that idea of where you can sort of ramp up more and more and more. Where it's like, Joyce is at an 11 from the beginning, and I think we're excited about the possibilities.
Matt Duffer: So structurally, naturally it's going to be a very different structure.
Ross Duffer: It's going to have a different feel.
Matt Duffer: Which is fun. But we would also keep, we'd still keep the episode length down because I like that at eight it feels manageable, and also it just feels more like a movie. We don't feel like we have to tread water.
Ross Duffer: And once it's green-lit, obviously we'll move as fast as we can. The challenge of it is that it's such a small group of us that are making it, and we try to make it as much like a movie as possible. No, so we have ideas and all that, but we just finished the series. It's not like it was a two-month delay. We were doing visual effects shots up until the last minute. It went on Netflix right after we finished and people watched it. It was crazy.
Matt Duffer: It was really scary because we finished it, and then suddenly there were reviews. I barely had time to process ... and we've never experienced anything like this where you're putting something out into the world. So when the first wave of reviews came in positive, I mean, I was like crying. It's unbelievable.
Ross Duffer: For us I think, and this is something we even talked about with Netflix when we first pitched it to them, is that we realize that we were falling in love with these characters, and the audiences will fall in love with these characters.
So the plan would be right now to continue with it, to treat it like a sequel, but maybe there's a different tension, of course, but at the same time, staying with these characters for a little bit longer. I think you'll reach a point eventually where you're like, why don't these people just leave this town? So I don't know how long.
Matt Duffer: It's scary. I mean, we're TV fans, and there are shows you fall in love with, and then at a certain point they lose you. So that's my nightmare. It's like, "'Stranger Things' was really great the first two seasons," and then stop watching it. That's what we're terrified of.
So the idea would be do it as much as it feels natural and organic to tell the story. When it feels like you should bring it to a close, I think Netflix would support that. That's what's so amazing about them.
It is scary though, because we start talking a lot about sequels, and there aren't a ton of good ones. So that's scary.
On the positive critical and fan emphasis on the nostalgic elements of the series:
Matt Duffer: I was surprised -- not in a bad way -- by how much focus there was on the references and the movies that inspired us. It's not something we worry about too much, just because you can't write the story that way.
You're not like, "Oh, it'll be like this movie and this movie and this movie ..." It's inspired by the way these movies felt -- a lot of it we're not even aware that we're doing it. So you're just following the characters and letting the story unfold naturally.
On their own unique voice coming through within the influences:
Matt Duffer: We're not the right ones to answer. I was thinking about ... I was talking to someone about "Midnight Special," and I really like Jeff Nichols. I mean, I love him as a filmmaker. He did "Midnight Special," and it was clearly influenced by a lot of the same stuff we were, which was like Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, and you see it all over. But it's unmistakably a Jeff Nichols movie, because it's filtered through him, and he kind write something that isn't truthful to who he is.
So I hope that when you're writing it that it's not mimicry. We're informed not just by these movies, but by our own experiences. So you have to hope that there's something ...
Ross Duffer: A lot of these guys, I know it's different because whether it's Spielberg or Lucas, they're channeling their ... our heroes are channeling the stuff they fell in love with when they were kids, whether it's "Hidden Fortress" or "John Carter" or whatever it was. To us, what is it that we loved when we were growing up? What made us want to tell stories?
Yeah, we're making some specific references, like the shed. We were doing some things that are not very subtle, but at the same time, at a certain point, it just goes, "Okay, this mother doesn't know where her kid is. What does she do next?" That's really how we break down the story.
On where they went right trying to capture the '80s Amblin vibe where so many other recent projects with the same goal haven't quite hit the mark:
Matt Duffer: This is something that we were talking about. It's not like, "Oh my God, another like kids versus supernatural forces on television. I hadn't seen that. People act like there's a lot. There's actually not. In terms of like, it's kind of my favorite sub-genres, kids facing supernatural forces.
And there's obviously It," that's a book and a miniseries. Dan Simmons wrote this book, "Summer of Night." J.J. Abrams did "Super 8." And there was a bunch of "E.T." knockoffs in the '80s. That's kind of it. I didn't feel like there was so much of it. I just wanted more of it.
On whether there was a moment they might have gone too far:
Matt Duffer: Oh well, the bike chase. We were like, "That might not be a good idea." Just because the minute you have kids on a bike chase with government agents, and we're like, that's probably, it's way too on the nose, obviously. It just felt ... We wanted to do a bike chase, and we got it out of our system. And if people knock us for it, I totally understand. I agree with you, and it's done.
Ross Duffer: It was super fun!
Matt Duffer: It was fun to do. We got to flip a van. I got to actually rocket a van into the air. It was awesome.
On whether they can tackle another project before going to work on Season 2:
Matt Duffer: Unfortunately, no. I mean, it's so time-consuming. I mean, yeah, it was over a year straight. It would be, if they green-light it, another year straight, so there's no time for anything. Not if we want to be as involved as we were this year.
We don't want to do the thing where you step back and let someone else take over and we're just putting our names on it. Why would we? It's the most fun sandbox in the world. We can tell whatever story we want. It's the best thing in the world.
On whether they've heard from some of those famous influences:
Matt Duffer: Stephen King. We got an email from him and it was amazing. I mean, that was a big moment for us. I took about three hours to compose a five sentence email back to him. So that was amazing. So two emails with him, but he's one of our idols. So it's hard to ask for anything better than that. It was hard to wrap my head around. I'm still kind of wrapping my head around it.
"Stranger Things" Season 1 is available now on Netflix.