'Stranger Things' Season 4: Gaten Matarazzo Says New Episodes Will Be More 'Mature' & 'Ambitious' (Exclusive)
By Leanne Aguilera
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Did you know that it's been more than 635 days since the last season of Stranger Things dropped on Netflix?
That's right! Season 3 of the hit '80s-set drama premiered July 4, 2019 and since then we've endured nearly two nears without any Hawkins hijinks in our lives. We're desperate, frazzled and, to paraphrase Dustin, "We're on a curiosity voyage and we need our paddles to travel."
Keep reading to find out about the "mature" episodes coming next, if the Duffer Brothers currently have any endgame plans for the series, and Matarazzo's epic ideas for a Stranger Things spinoff starring Dustin and Steve. Plus, if you thought the Prank Encounters host would be the one pulling off stunts on set, you're wrong -- and you won't believe which Stranger Things stars are the real pranksters on set!
ET: I need you to give us some kind of nugget about season 4. What can you tell me?
Gaten Matarazzo: I'll give you one. I'll tell you what I can: We're making it. That's for sure. I'm very excited about it. I'm not right now, I'm actually home in New Jersey right now, so I'm not working on the show now, but it's little increments here and there. We get to go in and film. It's very hard with COVID, and it's a big production, and we film a lot of our stuff in big locations, outside with a lot of people involved. There's a lot of steps and a lot of measures that need to be made before we can think about consistently going into filming. I'm hoping that a big chunk comes up soon though. I actually just recently finished reading the whole season.
What was your reaction?
I'm pretty stoked! [Laughs]
How would you describe the tone of this season? Do you feel like you guys are stepping it up?
I think we kind of have to. I think what the goal for the boys, for Matt and Ross [Duffer], to do is to make sure that the bar is raised every single season, but it's raised not too much to a point at which we couldn't be able to exceed or match what we've done prior. And they're ambitious. They are hungry guys. They know what their show is, they know what people like about it. They know what they want and they're going to get it too. That's what a day working with them is like, it really is incredible.
When it comes to the tone of the season, it's definitely, I think the tone is definitely matured for sure, and I think they do that on purpose because I think they want their show to mature with their kids. As we are growing older as people, we have to grow older as characters. They're confronted by this issue, but they embrace it, and they use it to their advantage. And they don't freak out when we get taller or when our voices drop or anything like that. They use it and they use it as ammunition for their writing. It's incredible what they can do. Working with them, it's just exceptional. Always has been.
You've read season 4. Have the Duffer Brothers told you Dustin's overall fate? Do you know how the show is supposed to end?
Ohhh! Here's the thing: I heard from them that they have a pretty clear idea as to where they want to wrap the show up. And I think they have a completely clear outline as to how they want their show to end. But what's good about them is that though they have their conclusion and though they have their idea of how they want this to wrap up, they're very keen on letting it play out by ear. Especially for, and this is really clear in season 2, when we were filming, we were already filming most of the show before we had even read the second half. We didn't know much about it at all.
With me and Steve pairing up, that was kind of by accident, that was a fan favorite for sure. But that was kind of an accident. That was pretty much like, there were two characters that needed to go to the same place and they were going through pretty similar dilemmas at the time. They were both dealing with girl trouble and they basically looked at each other and were like, all right, might as well. And then they become best buds, and they let it play out. And that wouldn't have happened, that became clear throughout the rest of season 2. And us even being paired up halfway through that season was a complete accident.
So they're very OK with letting the path that they've created divert into different directions as long as it continues in their intended direction. But it really is quite cool to see a process even play out like that.
We're hearing that the end might take place after season 5. Thoughts?
That the end of what?
That the end might take place after season 5? I don't know about numbers. That's all the business side of that. That's all stuff that I don't really like to worry about too much. If they want a season 5, I'll do a season 5 for sure. I love this show, I love the people. I don't even know. I don't know if they know exactly when they want to end it. I think they know how they want to end it. I think they know where they want their characters to be. I think the question is they're just going to figure it out, they're going to play it by ear and figure out what's going to go down while they write.
Sounds like you're on board for this 'NeverEnding Story,' Gaten.
Oh, man. I don't know. Maybe we can do like a spinoff where it's just all of our kids. [Laughs]
There have been rumors of spinoffs! Would you ever want to do a Dustin-Steve spinoff?
I think a Dustin-Steve spinoff would be good if it were in, like, a weird niche format. Like, they didn't do a full show of it.
Like a WandaVision?
Yeah, like a WandaVision type thing or like a web series type thing where on YouTube, there's weekly episodes of little hijinks they get into, like every now and again, like a skit show. That'd be great. You kind of break that format.
Dustin and Steve go to the mall...
I don't know if a Dustin and Steve full-series spinoff is sustainable. What are they going to do for a whole season, just them?
Go to different places?
Yeah. Just them traveling the world together.
Road Trip: With Dustin and Steve.
I like it! [Laughs]
We love the fact that we did get to see Dusty-Bun and Susie-Poo sing for us in season 3. Gaten, how many people ask you to sing that song now, and could we expect more singing in season 4?
[Laughs] It's a substantial number of people. It's a substantial number of times I've had to hear that song. I think that completely, correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I think that our version of "NeverEnding Story" ended up becoming a bigger download on Spotify or Apple Music than the original did in its peak. I've actually walked down the street and heard people listening in their cars to that version of the song and I'd be like, oh gosh, it isn't. And I've had to lean it a little bit more. I'm like, yeah, that's me. That's it right there. It's on the soundtrack. It's literally on the album for season 3. It's pretty epic.
It's pretty epic! Would you sing again in season 4?
Would I? If they wanted me to. I don't really have many complaints. I don't really have many demands with what I can and can't do. If they want me to do something, there's very little that'll get me not to do it.
You have your own hidden camera prank show on Netflix called Prank Encounters, so we've got to know: Have you already pulled a prank on the set of Stranger Things? You guys have long days on set.
Oh no. Yeah, we have quite long days, so things get tempting for sure. Actually, I got to say, when it comes to pranksters on set, Millie and Noah take the cake for that one. Surprisingly! Them as a team, you get them together and there's no stopping them. Seriously. [Laughs]
Have you been a victim?
Have I been victim? Not to them. I've been victim to them separately, not to them collectively as a group, thank God.
What have they done?
They've done some crazy stuff! Usually it involves the phone. It usually involves them calling somebody and telling them something. I remember somebody on our production was soon to be married at the time. She was very excited obviously. And I think Millie and Noah called her on her cell from an unknown number, from a prank dial number, and convinced her that Noah was Brian from the wedding venue, and that there was some crazy accident and they weren't going to be able to hold their wedding at the venue. And her wedding was two weeks out. Her wedding was, like, two weeks out. And she was of course freaking out. I think they let it hang there for a good couple hours too. If I'm mistaken, I wasn't there for this.
You can stream season 2 of Prank Encounters Thursday, April 1 on Netflix.