'Stranger Things' star David Harbour speaks to 6abc

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- "Stranger Things" star David Harbour (Jim Hopper) stopped by 6abc to speak about the upcoming season, New Coke, his favorite "Back to the Future" moment, and why he calls the show "breathtaking."

6abc: Season 3. Did you know "Strangers Things" was going to become this sensation that it is today?

David: I did from day one of shooting. (Laughs) No, I'm kidding. No, I thought it would be a disaster. I really did. When you're shooting, you're kind of in the trenches and you're doing your thing, doing it for like six months and nobody is really watching anything, you're not getting much response, so I was really worried.

Before it came out, there was like no advertisements. I was like 'they're burying it.' Then it came out and almost overnight, that weekend, it sort of became this zeitgeist and I was blown away.

6abc: Before it aired, there wasn't too much promotion.

David: They claim they wanted people to discover it. That was very gratifying. Normally shows have posters on buses and things like that and there was none of that. I was walking around New York and a friend of mine is on a popular TV show - we're on a week before - I was like 'there're no ads.' He said, 'they're burying you, they hate it.'

6abc: Just a different game plan.

David: A cost effective one, too.

6abc: I'm going to ask you the cliché question - what drew you to the project?

David: I heard that the job was paid that's what drew me initially. I was not at the time in my career really in a position to turn down work or anything. I've been sort of a journeyman actor for a long time in terms of having to do movies to pay my rent. And this was a television show that came along.

To a certain degree, I had grown somewhat cynical. I had a world in theater where I could explore a lot broader things with my acting, but you can't really make a living doing theater in New York. Or at least you can't pay Manhattan rent. So I would go off and do movies.

I sort of treated movies and television as if they were kind of a paycheck. I kind of got to a place in my career where I was like 'I won't advance beyond this' so I'll just be that guy with a gun running after Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson. That was fine and I was happy with that.

Then this thing came along. The pilot was - it's what you see. To me it's breathtaking. I think even if you just watch the show as entertainment, I don't know if you get the sophistication of what is happening in that pilot, in terms of how they're setting up characters, how they're moving story and character along at the same time on each page. Those things are really hard to do. And they don't do it in a flashy way. They do it in a very sophisticated way. So I was blown away by that.

Then I was like - 'This would be a dream job. There's no way they're going to pick me because they have their choice of stars.' So I auditioned and they just sort of chose me and I couldn't believe it.
I remember getting the phone call. It was a weird thing because there was some sort of drama. Then I got a phone call at 10 o'clock at night, I think on a Friday. I remember walking down the street just going 'Wahoo! Woohoo!' I was just crazy. I was crazy.

6abc: You were like 'is this real life?'

David: Yeah, totally. It's just the brilliance of the writing that drew me to it. The funny thing about the show is it keeps upping the ante. Not only is the writing brilliant, but the production design is brilliant, the cinematography is brilliant, the costumes are brilliant, and then on top of that, the direction and the entire editing of the show is so terrific across the board and just keeps getting better with this new season. I don't think "Stranger Things" has ever been better.

Usually shows, you start getting into the third season and everyone is getting tired and fat. I mean, I've gotten fat. But I haven't gotten tired. I'm very energetic.

6abc: So this season takes place in 1985. What was David Harbour doing in 1985?

David: I was 10 years old. I think I had moved to a smaller town. What grade are you in when you're 10 years old? 3rd grade? 4th grade? Probably 4th grade. I started getting that girls weren't gross. I was playing a lot of kickball. I was going to the movies. I was seeing things like "Back to the Future," came out in the summer of '85. I saw that in the theater. Blew my mind.

6abc: My favorite movie.

David: One of my favorite movies of all time. It's almost the perfect movie - and makes me cry every time he rips up that letter. (In his best Doc Brown voice) 'Marty! We can't know the future, Marty!' (In his Marty McFly voice) 'Wait, Doc.' And then he's got it taped together! It's the best. It's almost as good as "Stranger Things."

6abc: It's the same. Scifi. Comedy.

David: Exactly. And that really is my wheelhouse in terms of what I love. I love stuff that has depth in terms of acting, story, complexity, and character. But when it's just a straight-on indie about that stuff, I want a monster to show up occasionally or something. I think "Stranger Things" has most of those elements which is great.

6abc: And it also has New Coke!

David: Yeah, we're bringing back New Coke.

6abc: Have you tried it? Or did you back then?

David: I haven't tried it yet. Back in the day, I remember trying it. I remember like everyone I think I didn't like it. But I haven't tried the 'New New Coke.' Do they brand it as 'New New Coke?'

6abc: You can get it on the website now. But I'm sure you have an in.

David: You'd be surprised. You'd be surprised how difficult it is for me.

6abc: No spoilers, but what can fans expect in Season 3 of "Strangers Things?"

David: I think you see with trailer, it's 1985 so even the color palette kind of gets brighter. The 80s bloom like a flower. It's a summer season. The kids are out of school. Barbecues. Swimming pools. Hormones. The kids are growing up so there's sort of changes happening. In a sense, there's a lighter tone to some of the season. Then in terms of the scares, it amps up a little bit.

It's centered around July 4th, Independence Day. There's something about this show that each season we choose a holiday. The first season was Thanksgiving. The second season was Halloween. This season is July 4. They are all very American holidays. It's about Midwest America. It's not political in any way but it has a subtle theme of 80s, good people, struggling against evil, good American stock people. It's great to do a show about really solid American Midwestern. Hopper is real cowboy in that way. That's my heritage in my genealogy. There's more of that.

6abc: Finally, what's Hopper's journey like in Season 3?

David: Last season, we ended with him adopting Eleven legally. We think we closed the gate and the monster's gone. So he's really kind of in dad mode. He's not popping pills as much, or drinking as much, not acting out as much. He's trying to be a good dad. But he's eating a lot of chips and salsa, sitting in front of the TV, and stewing about the fact that his daughter is growing up in front of his eyes and he can't really handle that. She's starting to like boys. This has got him in like a fever pitch that at the beginning of the season he has to figure out how to deal with this...and then of course supernatural things happen, as well.

In terms of Hopper's arc, it really becomes about who he is as a man. We explore his fatherhood, but then that leads into what he's lost as a man, what's he's longing for as a man, and we start to peel back the onion on that.

6abc: I can't wait! I want to watch it right now.

David: I just watched it.

6abc: So you do have an in.

David: I have an in on that.

"Stranger Things" Season 3 premieres on Netflix on July 4.
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