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‘Stranger Things’: Everything We Learned About Season 3 On Set at the Starcourt Mall

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Stranger Things

It’s a cloudy day in Atlanta, Millie Bobby Brown is bleeding from the nose, and an automobile has been violently flipped over. “There’s a car,” Brown says, psyching herself up between takes, “and I’m going to move it with my brain.”

This was the sight I took in when Collider visited the set of Stranger Things season 3. And when I say “set”, I mean the Starcourt, an actual down-on-its-luck mall just outside the city that the show’s production took over, infused with a healthy dose of neon lights, and transformed into a bustling life-size shopping center straight out of 1985. Trust me, walking into the Starcourt Mall felt like stepping out of Doc Brown’s DeLorean; the attention to detail put in by the set decoration and props team is absurd, down to period-specific Burger King signage, the “Now Playing” line-up on the movie marquee (The Stuff!), and, of course, actual New Coke cans littering the tables. And while I can’t tell you what exactly caused that car to get flipped over in the first place, I can say that, in typical Hawkins, Indiana fashion, something supernatural has once again made its way into town.

Luckily, there is a ton I can tell you after walking around the Starcourt Mall set and chatting with cast members Millie Bobby Brown, Finn WolfhardCaleb McLaughlinNoah SchnappSadie SinkGaten MatarazzoJoe KeeryMaya HawkeNatalia DyerCharlie HeatonPriah Ferguson, and Dacre Montgomery. Here are more than 20 plot details and behind-the-scenes tidbits to know about Stranger Things season 3.

  • Image via Netflix“I think the sound bite that I would give you is, you can expect a hell of a lot more of Billy this season,” Dacre Montgomery told us.
  • This season also features flashbacks to Billy’s childhood, with a 12-year-old actor playing younger Billy.
  • Montgomery told us about an insane “25-page scene” with Millie Bobby Brown and a few of the other kids that director Shawn Levy shot over four days. It apparently felt like a closed set because the location was so contained, the crew so small, and the scene so intense.
  • Image via NetflixSeason 3 is also the first season set during the summer, which mostly means the shortest-shorts you could possibly imagine and a lot of time spent at a new Stranger Thingslocation, the Hawkins public pool, where Billy is a lifeguard.
  • The Starcourt Mall is largely the focal point of the season, setting-wise. It’s the brand new addition to Hawkins and while the kids love it for a hangout spot, small local businesses have been forced to shut down all across the town, causing tension with the locals.
  • “The mall was an enormous task,” production designer Chris Trujillo told us. The actual mall was built in 1983 and had been slowly falling into disrepair in recent years. The funny thing is that part of the mall is still open and functioning; shoppers were strolling around unaware that it was literally 1985 just on the other side of a curtain.
  • Image via NetflixThe movies playing at the Starcourt are Back to the FutureThe StuffReturn to OzCocoon,D.A.R.Y.L., and FletchDuring an early episode, an important plot-point happens during a sneak peek of George A. Romero‘s Day of the Dead.
  • The movie theater facade was built completely by the set dec team. In actuality, there’s a BeautyMaster behind it, one of the last shops in that part of the mall that is actually still open and operating in real life.
  • One of the only stores at the mall that doesn’t actually exist is Kaufman Shoes, a shout-out to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers remake director Philip Kaufman. That store plays a pivotal role in the plot late in the season.
  • Bodysnatchers actually came up the most when the cast and crew were discussing inspirations for season 3. Charlie Heaton noted that the usual references like E.T. and The Goonies didn’t so much inspire this season as much as “darker, scarier” material like Sam Raimi‘s Evil Dead.
  • Definitely the two most unexpected films that came up while discussing inspiration? Mr. Mom and China Syndrome.
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Image via Netflix

  • The season 3 storyline sees our main crew of heroes branching off into separate groups a bit. Mike, Lucas, and Will. Eleven and Max. Dustin, Steve, newcomer Robin, and Lucas’ little sister, Erica. “As the season winds down the mall starts to be where everyone reconvenes and gets to know each other again,” Trujillo told us.
  • We meet Robin—played by Maya Hawke, daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke—as Steve’s co-worker at the mall’s ice cream shop, Scoops Ahoy. “She plays music, and learns languages and she’s really intelligent and creative and funny, but has always been excluded at school, and isn’t one of the cool kids,” Hawke told us.
  • Steve and Dustin are basically best buds now after the events of season 2. “The relationship is almost kind of sometimes like an old married couple,” Keery said, “which is kind of a fun thing to play with [Gaten].”
  • Pretty much everyone across the board mentioned that Priah Ferguson’s Erica Sinclair is going to be season 3’s breakout obsession, much like Shannon Purser’s Barb from season 1. “People are going to meme the crap out of her. Lots of GIFs of her,” Wolfhard said.
  • Image via NetflixDustin’s season 3 role is largely becoming a mentor to Erica, much the same way Steve did for him in season 2. “They learn that they actually have a lot in common, kind of like Dustin and Steve,” Matazarro said. “Instead of Dustin being the Padawan, now Erica’s the Padawan and Dustin’s the master.”
  • Dustin, tragically, will not be wearing his trademark red-white-and-blue hat this season, trading it in for a hat from “Camp Knowhere,” the science and tech camp where he spent the beginning of his summer.
  • Some other wardrobe highlights: Lucas wears a Ralph Macchio-inspired shirt with Japanese lettering on it that spells out “Karate Kid”. David Harbour‘s Jim Hopper wears a very Miami Vice-inspired floral shirt that I can guarantee will cause…quite the stir on the internet.
  • Some “real intense, showdown-y type stuff” goes down at Hopper’s cabin. “Our characters deal with some dark forces in this space,” Trujillo said.
  • Nancy and Jonathan both start the season working for the Hawkins Post alongside characters played by Jake Busey and Michael Park. That storyline, Natalia Dyer says, deals with misogyny in the workplace and mirrors events happening today.
  • Overall, season 3 seems to be delving into as much of a mid-80’s sci-fi element than it is horror. “We’ve gone in that direction a lot,” Trujillo said. “Some of the stories take us pretty deep into some exciting sci-fi territory.”
  • While we were on set, the production team was working on “a massive thing” that is coming toward the end of the season. “That’s being kept a little more under wraps but suffice it to say, it’s the sci-fi element that I’ve been talking about. It’s pretty incredible,” Trujillo told us.
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Image via Netflix

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Image via Netflix

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