'Stranger Things': Maya Hawke Pulls the Curtain Back on Season 3 Breakout Role

"[The show] has such a reach and so many people watch it in the middle of the country. Even a little gesture like having a gay character is a big deal," the star tells The Hollywood Reporter about her critical role in the Netflix drama's new season.
Courtesy of Netflix

[This story contains major spoilers through the season three finale of Netflix's Stranger Things.]

The Duffer Brothers established Steve Harrington and Dustin Henderson as the official Stranger Things dynamic duo in season two. In season three, they go one step further by introducing a literal Robin to the mix.

An ice-cream scooper who can crack an elaborate Russian code almost as easily as she cracks jokes at colleague Steve's expense, Robin comes into the Stranger Things universe courtesy of Maya Hawke. The Netflix drama represents a breakout role for Hawke, the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, who previously starred as Jo March in BBC's 2017 adaptation of Little Women. As Robin, Hawke stands at the heart of some of season three's biggest action-driven storylines: a transformation from bored Scoops Ahoy employee into a rookie counterintelligence operative who infiltrates a top secret Russian base alongside Steve (Joe Keery), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson, upgraded to series regular after a breakout recurring role in season two). Despite the storyline's heightened world-ending stakes, it's a more intimate and personal confession that stands out as the highlight of Robin's journey, and the high point of Hawke's work in the season.

Final warning: spoilers are ahead.

In "Chapter Six: E Pluribus Unum," Robin and Steve are captured by the Russians, staring down the barrel of almost certain doom. "I can't believe I'm going to die in a secret Russian base with Steve 'The Hair' Harrington," says Robin, laughing uncontrollably despite the dangerous situation. The laughter eventually gives way to Robin opening up about her first memories of Steve in high school.

"Do you remember Mrs. Click's sophomore history class? Mrs. Clickity-Clackity. That's what us band geeks called her. It was first period Tuesdays and Thursdays, so you were always late. You always had the same breakfast: bacon, eggs and cheese on a sesame bagel. I sat behind you two days a week for a year. Mr. Funny, Mr. Cool, the King of Hawkins High himself. Do you even remember me from that class? Of course you don't. You were a real asshole, you know that? But it didn't even matter. It didn't matter you were an ass. I was still obsessed with you. Even though we losers pretend to be above it all, we still just want to be popular, accepted, normal."

After escaping the base, and with an added element of truth serum flowing through their veins, Steve and Robin wind up recovering on a bathroom floor where they continue their heart-to-heart. Steve professes his budding romantic feelings for Robin. As it turns out, Steve — and very likely many others in the audience — did not fully understand Robin's story about Mrs. Clickity-Clackity's class.

"It isn't because I had a crush on you," she tells him. "It's because she wouldn't stop staring at you."

In coming out to Steve, Robin becomes the first major LGBT character in the Stranger Things universe, a major point of pride for Hawke as an actress.

"The great thing about Stranger Things is it has such a reach and so many people watch it in the middle of the country. Even a little gesture like having a gay character is a big deal," Hawke tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It feels wonderful to have a piece of that humanity involved in this giant action-packed drama. It's such an amazing thing the Duffer Brothers did, stopping the whole show — there's an action scene going on [elsewhere in the episode] — and it stops for a seven-minute conversation between two people who really care about each other. It's a really beautiful thing. I feel really lucky that I got to play that."

In the comingout scene, Robin tells Steve all about Tammy Thompson, the girl she had a crush on in school: "I wanted her to look at me, but she couldn't pull her eyes away from you and your stupid hair, and I didn't understand, because you would get bagel crumbs all over the floor, and you asked dumb questions, and you were a douchebag. You didn't even like her. I would go home and scream into a pillow." After his initial "holy shit" reaction, Steve quickly accepts Robin as his friend, never more bonded than the laughter they share mocking Tammy's terrible singing voice. 

"Robin starts the season with a lot of hard walls," she says about Robin's journey. "The more she gets involved with this mystery, the more herself she becomes. The reason she has all these hard walls is that she doesn't feel like she fits in. She feels like an odd one out. She's gay, and nobody knows that. There's a lot she's bored by, and there's a lot she's too nervous to express about herself that makes a person put up a lot of walls. But once these other characters start to reveal themselves to her, and once she gets to be on the front of a mission, her personality really comes through because she feels like herself. She can use her abilities, and she be useful, and nothing makes a person feel better than being useful."

Season three ends with another status quo shift for Robin and Steve's partnership: the end of their time together at Scoops Ahoy, thanks to the Starcourt Mall's destruction. "As [the season] went on, it started to feel more and more like my superhero costume," says Hawke, referring to the fact that she and Keery were clad in their Scoops Ahoy uniforms for the entirety of the season, save for their final scene: applying for a new job at the local Hawkins arcade. Robin is hired on the spot, and eventually gets Steve a job as well, selling him as a "chick magnet." When Keith (Matty Cardarople) asks why Robin is sticking her neck out for Steve, her answer is simple: "We're just friends."

"I hope more and more of her is revealed," Hawke says about her future hopes for Robin, looking ahead toward a fourth season, a sure bet for renewal, if not quite official yet. "The amazing thing about the show is that every season, more about the characters comes out. Like, Joe's character is the perfect example. In season one, he seems like the biggest jerk. Slowly, each season, he learns more about how to be a good man and a good person. It's such an exciting transformation to go through, and I hope Robin gets more and more comfortable in her own skin."

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