"No one tells me what to do," Billy Hargrove once insisted while trading blows with Steve Harrington (and laughing as he pummeled him). It's true that most people wouldn't be able to control Max Mayfield's arrogant, violent, teenage stepbrother. But what about... the Mind Flayer? Or the Upside Down?
While fan theories of Billy's involvement with that creepy parallel world—and indeed, maybe even a transformation into Stranger Things 3's featured creature—have yet to be confirmed, actor Dacre Montgomery says his character will, at last, come face to face with the supernatural in Hawkins.
We chatted with Montgomery about Billy's place in the show's summertime chaos, his character's "diverse story arc" in Season 3 and whether he thinks Hawkins' resident bad boy has any redeeming qualities.
We're quite close to the release of Stranger Things 3. How are you feeling? Excited? Relieved to not have to worry about spoilers anymore?
Dacre Montgomery: I feel really excited for people to see this thing we spent so many months on. I think it's an incredible season: The stakes are higher, the CGI is better, there's a lot of heart and amazing comedy built in. I'm also nervous, because I put everything I have into this season, and since my character has a big season, it's a bigger platform — a lot of nervous excitement comes with that, you know what I mean? So it's mixed, nervous excitement.
Which aspects of Billy's storyline in Season 3 are you most excited for fans to see?
I think just that struggle between what's going on outside of him versus inside of him. The opportunity I was given by the creators employs such a diverse story arc for my character.
I read that you came up with some of Billy's storyline for the third season. What can you tell me about that?
I wanted to learn more about Billy's biological mother. That was a conversation I had with (the Duffer brothers) two or three months prior to them beginning to write the season. I had brought a kind of crazy backstory for them, and they included it. It's involved in the redemptive end that I think my character has this season. That shows how collaborative they are—they listen to you. I try to bring ten crazy ideas every time I come to set. They'll always tell me which ones are too crazy, and they'll always take something.
Where did you draw your inspiration from for Billy's character this season? I know you'd watched some Jack Nicholson movies, especially The Shining...
Yeah! I was also bullied in school, so I was trying to shift the lens and see what the bullies' insecurities might've been, in a lot of ways. Also, I think throughout our lives we, as humans, whether it's someone close to us or someone in the street, we all see antagonizing things going on. I think in my subconscious, seeing those things or hearing those things, I'm embodying my representation of the effect those experiences have had on me.
You talked a little bit about redemption for Billy, a redemptive end. Pretty much since his introduction, Billy's been billed as a villain. Do you see redeeming qualities in him?
A hundred percent, a hundred percent. I mean, we're all human beings. I think for me, it's just finding empathy for the character that I'm playing, and humanizing them is so important. You can't just play a "bad person."
Some fans think there's going to be a link between Billy and the Upside Down this season. I know you can't give me spoilers, but what can you tell me about his involvement with that world?
I can tell you that it was really nice to see Billy involved, somehow, in the supernatural element. That added new drama and path-changing directions for my character, and the dynamics it added were so amazing for me to play this season. I had an absolute ball.
In Season 2, Billy spent most of his time with Max, Steve and Mrs. Wheeler. Can you tell me anything about which characters we'll see him interact with this season?
My storyline takes place pretty much just with Eleven, and Millie (Bobby Brown). After the first two episodes I pretty much just worked with her, and she's amazing. The emotional maturity that she has at her age is incredible.
What was your biggest acting challenge this season?
There's a scene in Episode 4, in a sauna, that was amazing. We shot it over five days, and the range my character has in that scene was amazing. Hugely physically challenging, but I loved it. And the final scene, I also had a huge amount of fun with.
I don't really look at it as challenges, I look at it more as opportunities! I hate to sound cliche, but I think it really is that. It's an opportunity to step up to the plate, and I was given a season where my character has a huge amount of stuff going on. I really wanted to show the audience, the cast and the Duffers that I was able to do that and make some really unusual decisions with my character and my acting.
Do you have a favorite scene — from this season or Season 2 — that really stands out to you?
It's hard to give anything away since no one's seen it yet, but the final scene. Touching on that redemptive ending for Billy, that's my favorite to shoot and to watch.
Stranger Things, Season 3 Premiere, Thursday, July 4, Netflix