Stranger Things managed to pull off a tough feat: Living up to fans’ high expectations after a wildly successful first season. With Stranger Things season 3 on the way, details are beginning to emerge about the next season of the hit Netflix series, including a pair of casting additions that include the star of of a beloved ’80s film.
After its first season arguably earned the show the title of Netflix’s best original series, the bar was set high — especially once the streamer renewed it for two more seasons. Fortunately, the latest adventures of the Hawkins gang proved to be just as riveting, keeping our hopes sky-high going into season 3.
The next set of episodes isn’t expected until 2019, but here’s we know about Stranger Things season 3 so far.
There are spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
As you wish
Netflix announced the addition of two new cast members to the series in April, with Cary Elwes and Jake Busey both joining Stranger Things in guest roles for the third season.
Elwes has had a long career, but he’s best known for starring in director Rob Reiner’s 1987 classic The Princess Bride, in which he played farmhand-turned-hero Westley (pictured above). In Stranger Things, Elwes will play Mayor Kline, a “handsome, slick, and sleazy” character further described as “your classic ’80s politician — more concerned with his own image than with the people of the small town he governs.”
As for Busey, who’s probably best known for his role in 1997’s Starship Troopers, but recently appeared in Showtime’s Ray Donovan series and History Channel’s Texas Rising miniseries, among other projects. Busey will be playing a journalist named “Bruce” in Stranger Things, a reporter for the fictional newspaper The Hawkins Post, who has “questionable morals and a sick sense of humor.”
Back to the Future: 1985
PaleyFest brought together Stranger Things stars and producers, giving them the perfect opportunity to share new season 3 plot details. They delivered, both on the red carpet ahead of the event and during the panel itself.
Shawn Levy, one of the show’s executive producers, discussed the time jump that his colleagues Dan Cohen and the Duffer brothers had previously mentioned, and he was more specific. Levy confirmed that the series will move forward a year, to the summer of 1985, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That means we will see the same gap between seasons 2 and 3 as we did between seasons 1 and 2. Additionally, the particular year opens the door for a Back to the Future reference, as Levy pointed out.
The state of the unions
A lot can happen in a year, especially when it comes to young love. Still, it sounds like the kids’ relationships — those of Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) as well as Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) — will have managed to outlast the average middle school student’s. That doesn’t mean they’re rock solid, though. Levy indicated to The Hollywood Reporter that there will be ups and downs.
“Mike and Eleven and are going strong, so that’s a relationship that continues, and same with Mad Max and Lucas. But again, they’re like 13- or 14-year-old kids, so what does romance mean at that stage of life?” Levy said. “It can never be simple and stable relationships and there’s fun to that instability.”
Making “Dad Steve magic”
The Stranger Things kids will have a stable presence in another area of their lives: Steve (Joe Keery). After helping them take on Demodogs and the Mind Flayer in season 2, he’ll again work his “Dad Steve Magic,” according to Levy. The executive producer admitted that they “stumbled into a gold mine” with that storyline, and they’re planning on doing more with it.
“We’ll definitely get to see some more of Steve Harrington in season three, and I’ll just say we won’t be abandoning the Dad Steve magic,” Levy told The Hollywood Reporter.
Big money, looming start
In March, The Hollywood Reporter indicated that the stars of Stranger Things — adults and children — will receive a massive pay raise for the show’s third season after a long and intense renegotiation process. While that’s all well and good (for them), the report also indicates that closing on deal heralds the start of a production — which is expected to begin April 23.
Netflix has yet to confirm when cameras will roll on the season, but reaching an agreement on the cast’s paychecks is indeed a step in the right direction.
This season’s new girl
Much like the series’ second season, which added Sadie Sink as Max “Mad Max” Mayfield to the featured cast, season 3 is bringing in another new girl to join the kids (and teenagers) in Hawkins, Indiana.
Maya Thurman-Hawke is headed to Hawkins as Robin, an "alternative girl". That is her literal character description so get ready for some angst. pic.twitter.com/zbyUteq3kA
— Netflix US (@netflix) March 2, 2018
Variety reports that Little Women actress Maya Thurman-Hawke (the daughter of actors Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) will play a lead role in the show’s third season. Her character is described as an “alternative girl” who is “bored with her mundane day job. She seeks excitement in her life and gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a dark secret in Hawkins, Ind.”
The report also confirms that Priah Ferguson — who played Erica, the younger sister of Caleb McLaughlin’s character, Lucas Sinclair, in the second season — will indeed have her screen time increased to a recurring role.
Season 3 returns to original episode count
For those of you who blazed through the first eight episodes of Stranger Things and wished for more, it appeared that Netflix heeded your frustrations when it added an additional episode for season 2, bringing the total to nine. Now it seems that what Netflix giveth, Netflix can taketh away, as TVLine reports that season 3 will return to the eight-episode format.
For some, this is good news, as the episode count for season 2 might have made it seem too long overall. Too much of a good thing, perhaps. But for others, the report is akin to Netflix breaking the cardinal “no backsies” rule.
A break for poor Will
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has had a rough two-plus years. After being abducted by the Demogorgon in season 1 and filled with nasty Upside Down stuff (including baby Dart), Will found himself possessed by the Mind Flayer in season two before Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy turned up the heat to force it out. All the while, Will was experiencing eerie visions and nightmarish flashbacks.
Luckily (for Will, anyway), our young hero will be having an easier go of it in season 3. In an interview with Glamour, executive producer Shawn Levy said as much: “We’re going to give Will a break. We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock-bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play.”
Fans may have to wait until 2019 for new episodes
Fans of the series may have to hold their excitement for a while before they get new episodes, according to an interview with star David Harbour in Variety. Harbour says the Duffer brothers are hard at work writing scripts for the new season, but the process is slow and exacting. The actor said the production team was supposed to begin work around April 2018, and added that fans will likely not see new episodes until the following year.
“One of the things that’s annoying for fans is that it takes us a long time to do [new episodes]. Like, you probably won’t get [season 3] until sometime in 2019,” he said, before talking about how hard at work the co-creators were. “Part of the thing is, like any good thing, [the Duffer brothers] need time. And those guys work so hard. I mean, they just sit in their apartment and write for 12, 14 hours a day.”
Season 3 officially gets the green light
We all knew it was going to happen. The Duffer brothers have been open (if a little cagey) about seeing the series span at least a couple more seasons, and given just how successful and popular the series is, Netflix would, of course, want to keep the gravy train running.
The official announcement came care of Netflix’s official Twitter account, with a humorous pair of tweets asking fans if they should make season 3 or not.
Should we make another season of Stranger Things?
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 1, 2017
FOR THE LOVE OF STEVE, DUH! So hold tight baby darts — season 3 is officially happening.
— Netflix US (@netflix) December 1, 2017
With the next season officially on the way, now the waiting game begins.
Taking on the teenage years
With season 3 still in its “early days,” as the Duffer brothers told IndieWire after their Master Class session at Chapman University on November 3, they are enjoying exploring the possibilities. Part of that includes the new avenues that have opened up as their young cast has gotten older. The show creators have come to embrace the fact that the kids have entered their teens.
“We are leaning into it,” Matt Duffer said. “I love the fact that they’re going through adolescence.”
Although aging impacts what they can and cannot do moving forward, the Duffers pointed out that the teenage years have built-in drama that will benefit the show. We saw as much in season 2 as characters dealt with crushes and romantic rivalry, for example.
“I think it’s good it forces the show to evolve,” Matt said.
This may help the Duffers, as they hinted they will focus on character growth rather than see the show become “bigger in scale” as it continues.
“What I am really excited about is giving these characters an interesting journey to go on,” Matt Duffer said.
Another jump forward
With the Stranger Things kids growing up, the show has to keep pace. Like season 2, which jumped forward a year from the events of season 1, the show’s third season will leap-frog more time. Executive producer Dan Cohen spoke to Collider and highlighted that the show’s stars are teenagers now and they can’t gloss over that.
“The passing of time in these kids’ lives, and everyone’s inner community, is part of the charm of the show, and [the Duffers] will continue to lean into that,” he said.
The Duffer brothers have expressed similar sentiments and have been clear that season 3 will have to move forward. They told E! News that “there will be a time jump for sure.”
The Mind Flayer looms
Season 2 brought a victory for the Hawkins kids when Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was able to close the gate and trap the Mind Flayer in the Upside Down. The problem, however, is that the monster hasn’t been destroyed and it now has them on its radar. Based on a tease from the Duffer brothers, this could play a role in future seasons.
“They’ve shut the door on the Mind Flayer, but not only is it still there in the Upside Down, it’s very much aware of the kids, and particularly Eleven,” they told The Hollywood Reporter. “It had not encountered her and her powers until that final episode. Now, it knows that she’s out there.”
With that ominous note, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mind Flayer back in season 3.
A scene-stealing actor gets a bigger role
Getting to know the family of Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) meant that we got to meet his hilarious younger sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson). She won us over with her quips about her older brother’s nerdy habits and love life and, not surprisingly, she stole the hearts of the Duffer brothers and writers as well. It turns out that her role was actually supposed to be smaller than it was in season 2 but once they realized how great she was, they gave her more screen time.
“[Ferguson] was just a local hire we made in Atlanta,” Matt Duffer told Yahoo. “Erica wasn’t even supposed to be in [season 2] as much as she was. We fell in love with this girl.”
Matt Duffer described Ferguson as “GIF-able” and said that the writers quickly realized they needed more of her. As such, “there will definitely be more Erica” in the upcoming season, according to Ross Duffer.
No end date in sight
Beyond season 3, the show’s future is somewhat murky. Although the Duffer brothers have spoken about concluding the series after its fourth season, their plan isn’t set in stone. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they shared that while they do have an idea of how they’ll end the show, they aren’t ready to say how many seasons it will take to get there.
“We think we know where we want it to end basically,” Matt Duffer said, “we’re not sure how long it’s going to take to get there.”
Popularity alone won’t keep it going; they also require a “narrative reason.” Not only that, they want to make sure they and the rest of the team are still excited about what they’re doing.
That is interesting to hear, of course, but before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll return to eagerly awaiting season 3.
Updated on April 18: Added the casting of Cary Elwes and Jake Busey.