Strangers Things Brett Gelman talks teaming up with Winona Ryder and going full “80s action-comedy duo”

It’s no secret that Stranger Things is a love letter to the films of the ’80s. Over the years, creators Matt and Ross Duffer have talked openly about how the show has been inspired by some of the decade’s most iconic releases, from E.T. and The Goonies to A Nightmare on Elm Street, and its retro vibes are undoubtedly one of the reasons why the Netflix show remains so popular. 

Its stars aren’t immune to its unapologetic nostalgia fuel, either. In the sci-fi horror’s soon-to-be-released season 4, Brett Gelman – who was a kid himself in the ’80s – returns as journalist-turned-conspiracy-theorist Murray Bauman, having been promoted to series regular this time around, and he can hardly believe some of the stuff the Duffers had him do in the new episodes.

“It’s so unbelievably exciting. I feel like I’m in a movie that I would’ve watched as a child that would have made me want to be in movies,” he tells Total Film in a new interview. “To be doing that with a movie star that I grew up worshipping is just all part of this dream-like experience that I’m having on this show.”

That movie star is Winona Ryder, who rose to fame in titles like Beetlejuice (1988), Heathers (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1990), and who Gelman shares most of his scenes with in Stranger Things 4. As teased in posters and first look pics, Ryder’s Joyce Byers teams up with Murray to investigate the mysterious “death” of Jim Hopper (David Harbour)

Brett Gelman as Murray Bauman in Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

In the season 3 finale, which aired almost three years ago now, the former police chief looked to have been killed when they blew up the machine keeping the gateway between our world and the Upside Down open. But Joyce’s hope is ignited at the start of Stranger Things 4 when she receives a strange parcel from Russia, with a note that suggests “Hop is alive”, prompting her and Murray to embark on somewhat of a globe-trotting rescue mission.

“We get to be, like, a classic ’80’s action-comedy duo, and the fact that I get to do that with a hero of mine is insane. The fact that, through this process, she’s become a very good friend of mine is also insane,” Gelman says. “I learn from her. She’s a complete acting genius so to see how she can immediately, at least from my perspective, snap into it is a great lesson. Simplicity of process is always an amazing lesson, as much as a complicated process. She has that, too, but she keeps it to herself. She doesn’t put that out on set, you only see the work. That’s been incredible.”

While Joyce and Murray are away, the kids are not all right back in California. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is struggling to fit in at her and Will’s (Noah Schnapp) new school, and her long-distance relationship with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is taking its toll. 

Things aren’t much better in Indiana, either, as Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) juggles his time between the cliquey basketball team and his old pals, and Max (Sadie Sink) finds herself unable to accept what happened to her late stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Not to mention the fact that Vecna, a new evil, has descended upon Hawkins. (This wouldn’t be Stranger Things without a monster or two, would it?) 

The cast of Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

For once, though, previously paranoid Murray seems remarkably unfazed compared to everyone else. “I think it comes from his journalistic roots. He’s a character in his 40s in the ’80s, so when he was starting out in journalism it was the ’60s, and that was a very turbulent time,” Gelman explains of the character’s new chill demeanor. “He saw a lot of very, very upsetting things but it was also a time of ideals. He lives in a bunker, he’s been through terrible, personal, traumatic experiences to lead him to completely isolate from the world.

“His steady arc as a character has been coming out of that isolation and being able to connect with people, maybe in richer ways than he’s ever been able to before. It was unexpected to him. He was very discriminatory to small-town people before he met all the characters on the show.”

He continues: “I also think he just loves adventure. As much as he loves to play the pessimist and to point out all of the ways in which things could go wrong, he’s ultimately a junkie for it. He hems and haws the whole time but at the end of the day, it’s his comfort zone. To him, life is dangerous to begin with and even though things happen that he’s never seen before, that’s very much the status quo.” 

Stranger Things season 4 – Volume 1 is set to arrive on Netflix on May 27, before the second half is released on July 1. While we wait for the new episodes, why not check out our list of the best Netflix shows and bulk out your to-watch list. 

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