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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

'Stranger Things' star shares behind-the-scenes prank crueler than any Demogorgon

Plus behind the scenes fun from "The NeverEnding Story" Season 3 singalong.

By Benjamin Bullard
Stranger Things Season 3 Dustin Gaten Matarazzo

Being part of a show that taps straight into the 1980s’ pop culture-infused energy has gotta be a total blast, right? After hearing Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) spill some fun insights into the behind-the-scenes antics of the show’s cast and crew, the on-set atmosphere sounds almost as fun as doing donuts on the Hawkins high school football field — at least, that is, when things don’t go too far.

Appearing recently on the Inside of You podcast with Michael Rosenbaum, Matarazzo recalled an epic prank from the show’s early days that came this close to derailing a crew member’s real-life wedding date. The culprits? None other than fellow Hawkins kids Noah Schnapp (Will) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven).

Making sure to distance himself from the guilty parties (“It’s not my prank!” he assured), Matarazzo said Schnapp and Brown thought it would be funny to pose as the owners of a wedding venue and call the set to say that the crew member’s big day had been called off.

“…[I]t’s pretty messed up,” he said. “I remember there was one of our crew members who worked in costumes; she was getting married very, very soon — this might be Season 1 or 2. She’s so excited, of course — she’s about to be married! It's incredible. Noah and Millie decided to prank call her, and Noah prank called her as 'Brian,' the manager of the venue that her wedding was, telling her that there was a construction issue at the venue and they were going to have to cancel their reservation for her wedding.”

Oof. We see a Demogorgon-dark cloud on that horizon. “This is like two weeks out of her wedding, so she's freaking out; she's crying," Matarazzo said. "So Noah can't see it — he's just on the phone on one end, and Millie is in the room [with the pranked crew member], and she's like, 'Cut it, cut it!’ I think she took it well…I think afterwards, she took it well. Maybe not for, like, the first day or two. …But I remember that, and I was like, ‘Whoa — so maybe no more pranks on set.’”

Matarazzo didn’t say whether anyone’s taken his no-pranks proviso to heart since then. But punking the crew isn’t the only kind of fun the Stranger Things cast gets up to at work; they also do just fine goofing around with their scripted character roles. Matarazzo offered some behind-the-scenes details on how he and Season 3 co-star Gabriella Pizzolo (Suzie, Dustin’s not-so-imaginary girlfriend) went above and beyond the call of duty to bring a little something extra to the S3 finale’s sensational duet-by-distance singalong of the theme to The NeverEnding Story.

Since both he and Pizollo are experienced stage singers (she’s starred in both Matilda the Musical and Fun Home), Matarazzo said the two just naturally started riffing on the song by themselves, without any oversight from the creative team. Singing a capella (with no supporting background music), they got into such a tight musical groove that they ended up working the bit into an entire Broadway-style, over-the-top sing-a-thon. When the production team started noticing all the Broadway belting, though, the actors realized things had gotten kind of out of hand: “They were like, ‘Guys, tone it down a bit!” joked Matarazzo.

It’s been a while since the Hawkins gang has paid a visit to Netflix, with the COVID-19 pandemic leading to early production delays on the series’ fourth season. That’s all in the past, though: Stranger Things 4 — “by far, far, far — the most ambitious of the seasons,” according to executive producer Shawn Levy — is heading our way this summer with a May 27 premiere date at Netflix.