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With only a little over a week to go until Stranger Things 3 drops, anticipation is reaching a fever pitch for the new season of Netflix’s hit series. Fans are scouring every new trailer and shred of footage for clues to potential twists and turns, conducting close readings of episode titles, and dreaming up elaborate theories (some slightly more plausible than others). Even the brands are getting into the mix, with Coca-Cola bringing New Coke back from the dead and IKEA showing fans how to recreate the Byers'… "unique" décor choices in their own living rooms.
Still, the cast doesn’t sense any added pressure as a result of the show’s rapid ascension to pop culture phenomenon status. "You don’t feel the weight of the fandom. I just feel like we’re all there making the best possible product," explained Dacre Montgomery, the 24-year-old Australian actor who plays Billy Hargrove, the brutish older stepbrother to new-kid-on-the-block Max (Sadie Sink).
As one of the show’s main human antagonists from Season 2 — a nasty obstacle for when the Hawkins kids weren’t busy fending off Demodogs and the Mind Flayer — Billy appears primed for an even bigger role this season. Speaking to SYFY WIRE in Toronto this past week, Montgomery said he can’t wait for fans to finally see what the Duffer brothers have in store.
"I'm excited to see what they think of it as a whole, but also, selfishly, Billy’s story arc this season," he says. "I’m so excited to share it."
It’s something Montgomery says he and the showrunners have been discussing since all the way back in Season 2, in which his character’s arc ended rather unceremoniously: after trading blows with his rival Steve (Joe Keery), Billy’s drugged and knocked unconscious by his stepsister as the gang leaves to fight more pressing bad guys.
The Duffers have said there was originally a much larger arc planned for Billy last season — “a whole teen supernatural storyline” — but with so much already on the ensemble series’ plate, it got pushed to Season 3.
"They had sort of promised this arc," Montgomery confirms. “We had discussed it.” So when the Duffers touched base with the actor before Stranger Things 3, he was ready: “I came in with a whole backstory for Billy. They rang me about two months before they started writing, and I read them this crazy side storyline — it’s actually embarrassing looking back at it — but I wrote a whole thing. And they included elements of it.”
He continues: "I wanted to delve into who my biological mother was, and that’s something that’s explored this season. That just shows you how collaborative they are. Whether they were thinking about that already or not, that was something I brought up with them when they asked me."
As to what else the showrunners have planned for Billy, fans have theorized everything from zombies to a Russian spy plot. And, of course, the actor’s personal favorite: "Apparently Billy is Zac Efron’s dad. He fathered Zac Efron. I heard that the other day," he says, laughing.
Still, if you’ve seen the trailers, you don’t need a tinfoil hat to predict there’s something big coming for Billy in Stranger Things 3. After a short time jump to the summer of 1985, the town bully takes a summer job as a lifeguard at the local pool, attracting the attention of the Hawkins moms, and potentially something far more sinister...
Not to mention, as fans have pointed out, having a name that starts with the letter B is practically a death sentence on this show. RIP Barb, Bob, and Benny. (Along those lines: new Season 3 addition Jake Busey is playing a character named Bruce. Just sayin'.)
Montgomery wasn’t about to spoil anything just yet, but discussing his Season 3 homework gave us a few clues. The Duffers had him pay special attention to Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining, as well as the rest of the three-time Oscar winner's oeuvre. "His whole career. Every role he’s played. Because he has this unpredictable nature," he explains. "That was the thing that the Duffers had mentioned to me."
That unpredictability is key for Billy, a character who can go from charming the local moms to terrorizing his stepsister and her friends at the flip of a switch. And while he got left out of the central Upside Down plot last season, Montgomery promises that Billy will have a much more important role to play in that arena this year. "The fans are going to get even more than they bargained for on that front, for this season," he teases.
Previously, the actor has revealed that he spent more time in the makeup chair for Stranger Things 3, and it sure sounds like the team wasn’t just taking extra special care attaching Billy’s signature mullet... Discussing the show's visual effects, Montgomery appeared to confirm fan theories about his character transforming from a figurative monster to a more literal one, saying, "Certainly, at least for Billy this season, I had a lot of CGI tracking dots on me."
As for how exactly that all plays out, the actor won’t even tell his family. "You don’t want it to be ruined, right? Because then the whole surprise is gone," he reasons, laughing. Like the rest of us, they’ll just have to wait to see. July 4 can't come fast enough.