Star Joseph Quinn discusses joining Netflix’s horror hit, and previews the “carnage” of the year’s final two episodes, set to hit screens on Friday 

Since Stranger Things premiered in 2016, the ’80s horror drama has established itself as a pop culture phenomenon rivalled perhaps only by Game of Thrones in recent years. Climbing aboard such a series in its fourth season could seem about as terrifying as encountering the Demogorgon in real life—which is why its newest addition took a more detached approach to his audition process. “Sometimes you get a job, and that’s great, but 99 per cent of the time, you don’t. So I wouldn’t say that I was massively invested,” says Joseph Quinn, who nonetheless admits to having already been a huge fan of the show. “Like everyone else, I was completely consumed by its charm, its scope, its vision, its ambition and its heart, really. To be in this season of it is crazy.” 

Stranger ThingsNetflixIndeed, the 29-year-old Game of Thrones alum found himself in Atlanta during the pandemic, portraying Eddie Munson, Hawkins High School’s Dungeons & Dragons ringleader who, while initially presented as a bit of a bully, soon turns into an ally when he witnesses the terrifying and impossible-to-explain murder of cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien). “It’s interesting when you meet characters that you have a very clear sense of who this person is—in this case, this high-status guy,” says Quinn. “I was interested in trying to make someone initially quite unlikeable have compassion and [for viewers] to have empathy for him.” 

It’s a tall ask for cast and audience alike to accept new friends at this stage, and the British actor was thrown right into the deep end from the start. “My first day was a scene in the boathouse, with Joe [Keery], Gaten [Matarazzo], Maya [Hawke] and Sadie [Sink],” he recalls. “It was nice to have a group scene as the first one. Everyone was very open and welcoming, and none of them take themselves too seriously, which helps as well.” Stranger thingsNetflix

Especially when you’re running away from—or perhaps in this situation, towards—a monster that wreaks havoc underneath your small town. Quinn, whose character lives in a state of perpetual fear after the first episode of the season, describes simulating dread as something of a bonding experience. “There are moments in the show where we’ve got a bunch of different invisible threats coming in quick succession. There was an earthquake, and then it was bats, and then there was another earthquake,” Quinn explains. “Getting those notes off-camera, it’s really hard not to laugh at 4 a.m., in very cold temperatures, when you’re just running from stuff that’s not there, and then wobbling around like there’s an earthquake. We had a giggle.” 

He soon learned that the way to best respond to invisible threats was to take direction from series creators Matt and Ross Duffer. “You just listen to them tell you to breathe, and breathe faster and run faster. Then, I think, you get something that looks a little spooked,” he says, adding: “There are certain aspects to it where it has to be rooted in something that feels authentic to you, and you have to kind of believe what is happening, but then also realize that you can get another latte at the end of this take. You’re fine.” 

Stranger ThingsNetflixThe scenes that involve a lot of special effects take time, says Quinn, who watched his co-star Van Dien look “pretty forlorn” in her harness, in the scene that truly sets Eddie’s storyline in motion. The upside of participating in the highly technical scenes is that Quinn can then watch the show as if it’s his first time. “Obviously, I’ve read the scripts, but I don’t remember anything, so it’s very rewarding to watch it as a fan,” he says. “Also, it was so fragmented, and there’s three main storylines, and all of them are so massive that it’s very easy to watch, because I wasn’t there. Obviously, it’s then surreal when your face pops up in it.” 

It’s not just Quinn’s face that’s left a mark. Eddie Munson’s metalhead ’80s look, in particular the hairstyle that falls somewhere between Alice Cooper and Jon Bon Jovi, made not just an impression on the audience but the man underneath those wild locks. “It does 99 per cent of the work. I should just shut up and let the wig talk,” the actor cracks. “It was just very funny. You stick this thing on and it’s amazing. It kind of flips a switch in your head that feels very different. I don’t miss the wig, though. It itched.” 

Stranger ThingsNetflixIt’s likely that Quinn will have to get reacquainted with his headdress if Eddie survives “volume two” of this fourth season, which premieres on Friday. “I can’t really think about that until this next bit is out,” he says, describing the remaining two, feature-length episodes as “carnage.” “People’s reactions to volume one, and how invested they have been in the scale and the variety of narratives in the season... they haven’t seen anything yet. The end of episode seven [was] crazy, absolutely. But it gets worse.” 

The Stranger Things season finale airs Friday, July 1st on Netflix