During an exclusive interview, Charlie Heaton reveals the secrets of filming season 4 of Stranger Things.
In a few days, fans of the series Stranger Things will (finally) discover the rest of the adventures of Eleven and her gang in season 4. Scheduled for the next may 27 on Netflix, this new burst of episodes already promises us a lot of action and a good dose of thrills. Remember, at the end of season 3, Hopper was in a Russian prison after the great battle of Starcourt, the Byers and Eleven – deprived of her powers – were on the move to live in California, while the rest of the characters stayed at Hawkins.
Before discovering what the future holds for them, we were able to meet Charlie Heaton, who portrays the character of Jonathan Byers, Will’s brother and Nancy’s boyfriend, during the Paris Fan Festival. We asked him a few questions about the future of his character, about the shooting conditions during the pandemic, but also about what makes the originality of this fourth season.
A matter of references and chemistry
It’s been six long years since Stranger Things first appeared on our screens. At the time, the very concept of a series based on teenagers and children (for the most part) was original, but not new. Very inspired by Goonies or evenAND., Stranger Things quickly found its audience and made a real hit on Netflix. When Charlie Heaton was asked if he expected this popularity, he replied:
“No, not on the scale of what has become [la série]. You hope people will like it, but you have no idea. It would be impossible to know or even to imagine such success.“
As far as he is concerned, however, the series quickly won his heart. Monsters, a missing child, and an atmosphere that borrows from the best works of the 80s, both visually and musically, it was enough to seduce him. It was during his audition that Charlie Heaton realized the potential of Stranger Things.
“Originally, the series was to be called Montauk and it was to take place on Long Island. The same concept, but in a different place. They sent me a lookbook and a short two-minute video clip of 80s films to create a concept. And I remember watching it and thinking it was very special, just the way they put it together, and how they divided it between adults, teenagers, and kids. [J’ai aussi beaucoup aimé] the references of course, like Jaws.
Then they sent me three scenes, two with Nancy and one with Joyce, and I had to film myself, which I did in my bedroom with my sister. Then I Skyped with the directors. We discussed the character, and I remember talking a lot about the musical element with Jonathan because I was playing in a band at the time, and he liked The Clash. They sent me to Los Angeles where I did a test with Natalia, to see if there was this chemistry between the characters. And three weeks later, I got a call from the directors saying they had accepted me for the role of Jonathan..”
If Charlie Heaton’s musical career is now behind him, he still tells us an unexpected anecdote on an emblematic passage from season 1. The scene in which Jonathan and Will are in the bedroom listening to “Should I Stay or Should I Go” would not originally have been written for this music. Instead, viewers should have heard the tune “Break On through to the Other Side” by The Doors. However, “they realized afterwards that it was a bit too literal compared to the Upside Down.” This scene was therefore almost radically different.
Jonathan Byers takes center stage
Back to season 4 and its fabulous characters. In this new batch of episodes, we will discover more about Eleven, the reason why she lost her powers, but the spotlight will also turn to personalities a little less explored so far. This is the case of Jonathan, who hasn’t really evolved since the start of the series. However, that could change quickly.
“[Jonathan évolue] quite a bit this season. I think at the beginning, when he was looking for his brother, he had a kind of self-confidence, he knew very well who he was… What I love about this season in particular is that we see a new facet of Jonathan. He moved to California, he made a new friend named Argyle, and he also has a long-distance relationship with Nancy. I think that makes him quite vulnerable. And the way he handles that, I think it feels like a heroic flaw to him.”
The pandemic has changed everything
If we are just beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the path has been strewn with pitfalls for season 4 of Stranger Things. This delay is largely due to the pandemic which has upset the entire industry of the small and the big screen. Charlie Heaton explains that it had spectacular consequences in terms of filming time.
“We started shooting around the end of February in 2020. I think we shot for two weeks and then the production closed because of the Covid and then we stopped for seven months or something, where there was no filming at all. Then, when we came back, the protocols were totally different, the way of filming was difficult, we finally got there, but it took a long time. I think we had 399 shooting days this season, which is a record for the show. Season 4 is twice as long as last season.”
Shawn Levy, the producer of the series, had already told the media that this great time for reflection had allowed the writers to refine the script and rewrite certain parts. If that didn’t change the filming habits of Charlie Heaton, who didn’t even realize the difference, he explains that “the screenwriters must have had more time to write, they are always in such a hurry as usual. I think they may have landed […] that they added some scenes and we removed some other things.”
The best of all seasons? In any case the most awaited
The key word for this season is therefore change, and this will go through a total change of scenery. Goodbye Hawkins, and welcome to California for Jonathan and his family. Charlie Heaton explains to us that this difference had an impact on the filming atmosphere, which was even more relaxed than usual.
“This season we shot in a different location, in New Mexico. We usually shoot in Atlanta, which brought a whole different energy to what we were doing. It felt like we were filming another series at times. Eduardo Franco, who plays my friend Argyle, introduced his character with great enthusiasm and I think people will really like him. Working with him was very fun, we did a lot of improvisations and we had a lot of fun.”
He is also very eager to show it to the public, who have been waiting for it for so long. He even admits to thinking “what it could be [la meilleure saison]” and this for two main reasons: the return of iconic characters that we adore and the plot that should “answer many of the questions people ask“. For the final word, we couldn’t resist asking him what a geek is according to him. We can only agree with his answer:
“You can be a geek in many ways. A geek is a fanatic, a person who is passionate. I think that’s pretty cool.”
Appointment on next may 27 to discover the first five episodes of season 1. The next five will be available from 1st of July on Netflix.