The return of the massive Netflix hit Stranger Things is right around the corner, and it looks like Hawkins, IN is about to be invaded by a new monster much more terrifying than the Demogorgon from season one. Also coming to Stranger Things 2: a big batch of new main characters, some of whom will be played by some very familiar faces.
In other cases, show creators the Duffer Brothers went back to the well of ’80s movies for casting choices. Other parts went to relative unknowns, but if these new cast members are anything like the talented kids we met in the original run, they won’t stay unknown for long.
If you needed more evidence that the Duffer Brothers were consciously hiring all their nostalgic favorites, look no further than the casting of Sean Astin as Joyce’s boyfriend and Hawkins RadioShack manager Bob Newby. Astin is ridiculously prolific and has starred in everything from the Lord of the Rings series to Rudy to Encino Man. He’s even appeared with Winona Ryder before in 2009’s Stay Cool.
But it’s his role as Mikey from The Goonies that undoubtedly prompted his addition to Stranger Things 2. The Goonies served as one of the series primary inspirations and Mike was named for and inspired by Astin’s Mikey character from the film. There was even some debate amongst the showrunners that Astin might be too well known by their audience to drop into to the world they were building.
“I don’t want it to feel like we’re just being cute about any of this,” Ross Duffer told Collider. “And I don’t want any of it to take people out of the show and out of the world. So we’re just trying to find the people that were the best fits for those roles. And sometimes it works out, with Winona Ryder or Sean Astin or Paul Reiser. But particularly with Sean Astin this year, I think he’s playing a character that’s not like anything he’s played before.”
Speaking of Paul Reiser, he’s another character plucked from a movie that has influenced Stranger Things greatly. As the series slides from Spielberg-style science fiction more towards a sci-fi horror feel, the Duffers have referenced James Cameron’s Aliens as a season two inspiration. In that film, Paul Reiser plays the cowardly corporate stooge Burke. No word yet on if he’ll share any of the same attributes when he plays Dr. Owens, a high ranking member of the Department of Energy sent to mop up after the events in season one.
While Reiser has been showing up in great dramas like Whiplash and Concussion lately, he’s generally known more for his comedic work which started in stand up and earned him roles in the first two Beverly Hills Cop films. From there, he went on to co-create and star in sitcom Mad About You with Helen Hunt for seven seasons and write several bestselling books on marriage and family. In the end, it was that family which led to Reiser agreeing to do Stranger Things 2.
“The character was named Paul Reiser for a long time and we were just like, ‘We should just reach out, we should just see if he wants to do it!'” Ross Duffer told Entertainment Tonight. “And he did want to do it because his kid liked it! He didn’t understand the show but his kid explained it.”
As with many of the other kids on the series, Sadie Sink’s resume is relatively short but she’s still got some impressive credits to her name. Sadie starred in Broadway productions of The Audience alongside Helen Mirren and the musical Annie, which led to impressive videos of her singing ending up all over YouTube. Our personal favorite has her performing a duet with Stranger Things co-star Millie Bobby Brown.
Beyond that, she’s done a turn on the short-lived NBC war thriller American Odyssey and appeared in an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She also has a past connection to Stranger Things. Sink already knew Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) and Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) from their time in the New York theater scene, and Sadie revealed that her chemistry read with them influenced her character’s role on the show.
“They didn’t even have the whole storyline finished when we did the chemistry read,” she told Vulture. “They built the storyline of our characters based on how we worked together on camera. That’s something that they always do with their characters.”
Brett Gelman may be the biggest name you don’t immediately recognize. He’s starred in tons of TV shows, from Adult Swim’s Eagleheart to Netflix’s Love to Amazon’s Fleabag. The credits go on and on: he’s appeared on Twin Peaks, Kroll Show, The Inbetweeners, Lemon, Drunk History, Married, and movies like The Disaster Artist, The Other Guys, and Jobs. For Stranger Things 2, he’s playing Murray Bauman, a discredited journalist turned conspiracy theory chaser who has come to Hawkins to investigate the events of season one.
Dacre Montgomery is an Australian actor best known for his role as the Red Ranger in the recent Power Rangers movie. In Stranger Things 2 he plays Billy, Max’s sadistic stepbrother and the new teenage bad guy after Steve unexpectedly morphed into one of the good guys by the end of season one. “It was important to us to have a human villain in there that could disrupt the lives of our characters,” Ross Duffer told TV Guide. “And Billy, really, he disrupts the world the teenagers and stuff.”
By far the most mysterious new addition to the cast is Roman, played by Danish actress Linnea Berthelsen. Berthelsen’s only credits are a starring role in the short film Natskygge (which is Danish for “Nightshade“) and an episode of the Danish mini-series The Desert. Her character Roman is described as a troubled outsider connected in some way to the Hawkins National Laboratory.
Stranger Things 2 debuts on Netflix in full on Friday, October 27th.