After a first season that took the country by storm and turned the show into a national phenomenon — and its young stars into instant celebrities — Stranger Things had a lot to live up to in its second installment. Fortunately, the Duffer brothers’ ’80s-set series delivered more of the supernatural thrills and adolescent camaraderie and humor that fans were craving, and a large part of that credit goes to Noah Schnapp, who proved more than up to the challenge of assuming a greater dramatic burden this time around as Will Byers, the possessed young denizen of Hawkins, Ind. And nowhere was that more apparent than in the season’s climactic moments.
Speaking to Yahoo Entertainment as part of our My Scene to Remember Emmy series (video above), the 13-year-old actor chose to revisit the confrontation in Episode 8 (“The Mind Flayer”) between Will, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) — a showdown in which Will is tied to a chair in an undisclosed location and interrogated by his loved ones, who want to help him escape the clutches of the Shadow Monster that’s possessed him ever since his Season 1 trip to the Upside Down. It’s an intense sequence that’s equal parts moving and harrowing, and one that Schnapp admits was an arduous process that, as he says in the video above, required that he smear his face with Nutella and wear incredibly uncomfortable contact lenses.
Moreover, it took its toll on his vocal cords. “We did this scene for a lot of takes,” he tells us. “Of course, this season was a lot of intense scenes and screaming, and I had to really get into the character for a lot of the scenes. This scene I didn’t lose my voice; I almost did.” Nonetheless, another scene at the end of the ninth episode, “The Gate,” did cause him to go mute for the rest of the week, which is part of why he admits that “I think my voice is stronger for this season.”
No matter the physical wear and tear, Schnapp enjoyed the “challenge” of Will’s struggle in Season 2, which saw the character fighting an internal war with an alternate-dimension creature determined to take him over — and, then, the world. “I had to always decide — am I playing Will in the scene, or is it the monster, or is it a little bit of both?,” he explains. “I had to show two different sides of one person in a scene. They were definitely very opposites, because Will is this sweet little innocent sort of kid, and the monster is fierce; he’s intense. You really have to show both sides.”
That inner battle, unsurprisingly, leads to personal change for Will, whom Schnapp describes in the first season as being “shy and scared to speak up about anything, and he just lets things happen to him.” Following his second-season ordeal, however, Schnapp reveals that “Will finds his courage, and he’s getting brave. … He’s definitely a little changed, and you see that in Season 3.”
While his most recent Stranger Things performance was anything but easy, Schnapp says he was aided throughout by his co-stars, who brought a lot of experience and talent to the table. “Winona and David — I learned so much not even from their advice, but just from watching them work and seeing how they work with other people, and what they do with the directors and the cinematographers. They’re really great at what they do.”
As one might expect from a show that’s quickly become the object of fans’ obsessive desire, many steps were taken to ensure that no bombshells escaped the set. “Season 1, they just didn’t care,” he recalls. Now, though, because “people know about our show, they had to come up with a code name for all the scripts, and some characters didn’t use their actual names. … It was very intense, and no spoilers got out because of it.”
Security is even tighter when it comes to the forthcoming third chapter in the Stranger Things saga, which has been shooting for a month. Schnapp is predictably tightlipped about secrets, but he is confident fans will be pleased — in large part he was blown away by the direction the Duffer brothers have taken the show. “There was a lot that I hoped for in Season 3. … I was speculating on certain things that were going to happen, because I just had no clue where it was going to go after Season 2. And it took a whole different way, but in a good way. It just really surprised me, because they came out of nowhere with such a good season. I didn’t know they could go anywhere from Season 2, but it just got better.”
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