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[This story contains spoilers for Stranger Things season four, Volume 1.]
Joseph Quinn knew he wanted to wear a lot of rings.
When bringing his breakout Stranger Things character to life for the fourth season of the immensely popular Netflix series, the English actor used a variety of sources as references. From The Breakfast Club to bad boys he knew growing up, Quinn had a firm grasp on Hellfire Club leader Eddie Munson.
It would take only two audition tapes for Quinn to land his role in the beloved Duffer brothers’ series, a character who viewers (likely) weren’t sure initially if they liked. Eddie came off as something of a bully before Chrissy Cunningham was possessed and violently killed in front of his eyes. On the run as the primary suspect, it becomes clear Eddie is just a scared kid who’s been something of a loner most of his life (minus his beloved D&D club). But now he has true friends who are going to clear his name as he helps save their lives.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Quinn, who also had the minor role of Koner on Game of Thrones, discussed how he crafted his breakout Stranger Things character, fans’ response to his character and teased that they have no idea what’s in store for Volume 2.
Clearly, the new season is being devoured by the masses. How has the reaction been for you? Fans are loving Eddie Munson.
Very reassuring. It’s a relief, really. I think doing something like this that’s established already, you’re this kind of new cog in the machine. You don’t want to be the one who makes everything fall to pieces. So, it’s very gratifying to know that people have been so accepting and welcoming to Eddie. It means a lot.
How did you land this fantastic part?
It was a pretty color standard process, really. I sent two tapes from my home in London to America and the Duffer brothers watched both, and then after that, they gave me the job, which is mental! That never happens. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sent tapes to America and no one answered, so it was kind of a crazy thing.
Tell me how you went about crafting Eddie once cast?
It’s just so brilliantly written, and everything was on the page. It was clear just from the way they introduced him, and the way they explore him, he’s an incredibly empathetic character. It felt like a real opportunity, a real lottery ticket. I wanted to look younger, so I stopped eating pizza and drinking beer. (Laughs.) Trying to lose some weight to roll back the years. And I worked quite extensively with a brilliant dialect coach named Mary Howland. She is amazing.
I noticed you played Enjolras in a TV production of Les Misérables. He overcomes fear to be a leader. Is there some of him in Eddie? Did you pull from other ‘80s characters?
That’s an astute observation. I think Eddie does start off a little frightened. I think when you first meet him, he’s kind of got this very adolescent kind of veneer of confidence. And he imposes himself on other people, which is a skill for shielding yourself from your own insecurities. I think you only really know who you are under pressure, so when he’s under pressure he’s very traumatized and vulnerable. I don’t know if he’s a coward. And then eventually, he is welcomed into the gang and from there, proves himself. So, there’s a little Enjolras in there.
The Breakfast Club was a film that I found has such great character explorations. But I didn’t want to base him on anything. There was a little reference to people who were older than me at school who impressed me, who seemed quite non-conformist.
How about music? Was there a band or song you blasted to get the Eddie vibes rocking reach day?
A lot of Metallica. (Laughs.) And I listen to a lot of Black Sabbath, mainly Black Sabbath’s “Master of Reality.” That album was going around in my head for years. I was never really that into thrash metal when I was growing up. I knew about new metal bands coming out during the ‘90s, which I liked, but wasn’t obsessed with that kind of music.
How about Dungeons & Dragons? Had you played, or did you have to learn a lot on the fly?
You’re assuming that I learn anything. (Laughs.) I bought the book, read a bit and went, “OK, this isn’t going to happen.” All respect to the D&D community, it just didn’t do anything for me. The first game I played was when we did a bit of press in L.A. a few months ago. It’s all depending on your Dungeon Master, and we had a great one.
Joining such a well-established, incredibly popular franchise, how did you go about being a part of the team? Did you dive right in, or did you wade in slowly?
It can’t be a calculated thing. I didn’t dive in or tread around, I just kind of let it happen. In my mind’s eye, I would have really liked to have become friends with the people in it because I knew that without some friends it would be probably quite a lonely and scary experience. They were very welcoming and encouraging, and I left with some very dear friends.
Did you have input on Eddie’s epic look?
It was very collaborative with [costume designer] Amy [Parris] and [department head hair] Sarah [Hindsgaul]. We had about three weeks of trying different looks. I wanted to have lots of rings. I kept the Reeboks. I was very grateful for the opportunity to have a bit of say.
That’s awesome. Did you get to keep your Hellfire Club shirt?
(Laughs.) Yeah, I’ve got a car full.
And the hair: All you or an epic wig?
It’s a beast of a wig! I didn’t grow it out, that would have taken me half a decade.
Game of Thrones is on your résumé. Were the experiences on these massive productions vastly different or more similar than you might have imagined?
It was nice to be near that kind of excitement of Game of Thrones. I mean, I was literally in one episode and had a few scenes, which I’m still very grateful for, but you can’t really compare it. With this experience, I had a lot more to sink my teeth into. It felt a lot more collaborative. But to be a part of both is a tremendous feeling.
Eddie became an instant fan favorite. I know you mentioned before it was all on the page, but was the role expanded as the Duffers saw what you were bringing to the table?
I really don’t think I can take that much credit for it. It was just so brilliantly written and the dialogue is so vivid. I definitely tried to bring some of my own ideas to Eddie, and they were very encouraging for me to improvise. And yes, some of that’s made in, which I’m very happy about and grateful for. But, I think the writers and directors — he is their creation, and I was just lucky enough to kind of help them.
Two of my favorite Eddie moments are his graduation day plan speech and that moment when Dustin hugs him after they find him safe in the woods. Can you tell me about those production days?
The cafeteria scene was my audition. It was very fun. I was nervous, but it was fun at the end, and I had great scene partners. All of the Hellfire guys were great. What about that hug resonated with you?
At first, I didn’t know if I liked Eddie. He came off as a bully, or at least quite aggressive. And then as the season progressed and layers were pulled back, we could see he was a good guy who lacked people who care about him. And when Dustin [Gaten Matarazzo] hugs him, in Eddie’s face, there was the realization his friends who truly care about him. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.
That’s lovely that picked up on that. I think it’s kind of interesting, isn’t it? Sometimes, we don’t want to reveal how much people mean to us and when you get those little windows into people’s personalities, it is quite satisfying. So, I’m glad you like that.
I know you can’t say a peep about Volume 2, so I won’t even pry. But can you talk about how hard it is to clamp down, especially when so much time has passed due to the pandemic?
I say dumb shit in my life all the time. (Laughs.) It’s a constant high wire act to talk about something without being able to talk about it and hopefully giving an inkling of what’s going on without giving anything away. I’m very new to it aII, but Netflix hasn’t kidnapped my family yet. (Laughs.)
It’s satisfying about Volume One coming out because obviously we’ve been sitting on it for ages, and it was a tough shoot. It was 300 shoot days, but we really rallied around the fact that the scripts were so brilliant, and we were really galvanized to do the best we could.
I think what’s really gratifying is the fact that people have really responded to it, they’ve gone with the long-running times, and they are being patient for Volume 2. So, I think we’ve earned that trust. And I really think that we’re going to exceed people’s expectations with Volume 2. People will really enjoy what the Duffers have in store.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Volume 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix, with Volume 2 concluding the season with its final two feature-length episodes releasing July 1.
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