Actor David Harbour has spoken out about his early fears that Stranger Things would fail miserably. With fans eagerly awaiting the third trip to Hawkins currently set for 2019, it's safe to say that Stranger Things has become nothing short of a global phenomenon for Netflix. Praised for its Spielberg-esque atmospherics, impressive young cast and an ability to make fans invest in even minor characters, Stranger Things has been instrumental is proving that streaming services can compete with the major networks when it comes to television output.
A significant factor in Stranger Things' success is David Harbour's lovable Sheriff, Jim Hopper. As arguably the leading adult character in the show, the character of Hopper has often been singled out by critics for being utterly compelling whilst also letting the younger faces take center stage. Over the past two seasons, viewers have seen Hopper evolve from a struggling recluse recovering from the death of his child to a noble hero willing to put his life on the line to help others, developing fascinating relationships with the likes of Eleven and Joyce Byers along the way.
But as unlikely as it seems today, David Harbour was initially concerned that Stranger Things would be a huge failure, lacking confidence in both his own performance and the project as a whole. Speaking on the WTF Podcast (via ComicBook), Harbour reveals:
"When we were shooting it, about four episodes in, I thought ‘Yeah, no one’s going to watch this.’ I thought, you know, ‘I’m not good, and it’s not good.' And it didn’t help that, we were all working hard, but we were in a bubble. I just thought it was like, you know, in a long line of failures... I had grown very cynical. But so this was one of those opportunities where my expectations were really low... And so before it came out, I was scared.
And then, I was actually doing a play with a guy who was on a very successful TV show. And before it came out, like three weeks before it came out, there were no ads in New York. No ads on buses, nothing. And then a week before it came out, no ads anywhere. I talked to [the actor] and was like ‘There’s no ads. Is that a bad sign?’ And he was like ‘They’re burying it. They’re trying to bury it.’ And I was like ‘Oh my god. My one f**king shot, and they’re burying my show.’ And then it came out, and it was like a zeitgeist. They claim now that they did it on purpose, where people claim ownership over it because they discover it and then they tell their friends. And it is kind of brilliant, when you think about it, if that is the case."
Harbour's fears would prove to be completely unfounded of course, as Stranger Things was released to massive critical and commercial success but his fears are further proof of the oft stated problem with creatives being too close to their work to properly judge its potential. There are many examples of TV shows and movies that were given no hope of success by the people involved that would eventually go on to become hugely popular. Conversely, projects that are greatly hyped up by their actors or directors frequently end up being painfully average.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is Harbour's suggestion that the feeling viewers had of Stranger Things being 'their' show was an intentional tactic on behalf of the Netflix marketing team. Often, such feelings - and the word of mouth promotion that comes as a result - can only be achieved naturally and so Netflix have to be commended for successfully cultivating a sense of secrecy and ownership over Stranger Things, if indeed that was their intention. However, clever marketing isn't the real reason David Harbour's fear of failure proved unfounded; that can only be attributed to the quality of the series and the brilliant work of those involved.
Stranger Things 3 is set to premiere in 2019 on Netflix.