The actress talks Justice For Barb, Steve’s redemption, and David Harbour’s unforgettable SAG speech.
Warning: This interview contains spoilers about Stranger Things 2.
There’s a lot to love about Nancy Wheeler in the second season of Stranger Things. Having been irrevocably changed by the insane events of last year, season two picks up with Nancy channelling all of the internet’s collective grief over Barb, and follows her relentless mission to find answers. Sure, the Nancy/Steve/Jonathan love triangle is still a major force, and heats up in earnest midway through the season (how was the pull-out?) But between drunk “it’s all bullshit” Nancy, gun-toting badass Nancy, and saving-Dustin-at-the-Snow-Ball Nancy, Natalia Dyer had a pretty great season independent of her love interests.
ELLE.com caught up with Dyer last month to talk Justice For Barb, Steve’s redemption, and David Harbour’s unforgettable SAG speech.
Justice For Barb became a meme last season, but this season it’s also Nancy’s main motivation.
“I think that was driving her in season one too, but now we really see how heavily the situation has sat on her shoulders. At the beginning of this season, we really see how how everybody has been coping with what happened at the end of season one—or not coping with it. Nancy feels such a drive to make things right, as much as she can, and in any way she knows how.”
Dyer is thrilled by Steve’s transformation from the show’s most hated character to fan favorite.
“It’s so well deserved! You really warm up to Steve this season, and one of the things the show does really well is give everybody different shades and complexities—nobody is just one way or the other. So it’s nice to see the sweeter, more nurturing side of Steve. As far as the love triangle goes, I think it goes back to the trauma of what happened in season one; it forces everyone to change, and for Nancy and Steve it makes them realize they need to be apart and work some things out on their own. It’s hard to say where that’s going to go in the future, but things are definitely a little rocky in the love triangle.”
Nancy is more ruthless in her pursuit of justice this season.
“I think single-minded is a good word. She’s much more focused. I think last season she discovered a little bit of what she’s capable of when she really goes for something, and I think this season she goes even more in that direction. She’s very driven by the search for justice, and it’s fun to play that. There’s a decisiveness and a focus to her, but also something a little reckless and dangerous about it that’s a lot of fun.”
It didn’t take long for Dyer to realize that the show was becoming a phenomenon after season one.
“I was very nervous as to how it would be received, but literally the first night that it came out, I got recognized on the street—I was living in New York at the time, so you’re on the street a lot. To see that amping up, people recognizing you everywhere, and just seeing face to face how people felt about the show and how much it meant to them, it was wild!
When people approach me, it’s a vulnerable moment for everybody. You can see that sometimes people don’t quite know what to say to you, but they want to come up to you and you can tell they’re nervous, and it’s really humbling and endearing. Generally the message is just appreciation, people saying how much they love the show. It’s wild and hard to wrap your mind around, but it’s always been positive feedback, so it’s the most you could hope for!”
Dyer’s favorite scenes to shoot are also maybe your favorites in the show—when the entire cast is together on set, as in the final episodes of season two.
“The scenes that really stand out in my mind are those days towards the end of the series when we’re all together, and all the characters are interacting. Those days are just buzzing, they’re so much fun. Everybody in the cast is so close and we all really care about each other and respect each other, and so when the camera stops rolling we’re definitely goofing off and sometimes there’s laughter ruining a take. But usually when it gets down to it we’re all focused on the work, and it’s just such a gift to be in this world with these talented people.”
The Duffers are heavily involved in every aspect of the show, but they’re also collaborative with their actors.
“They’re very open to talking about things with us—this year Matt texted me over the summer being like, ‘What do you think Nancy would wear as a Halloween costume?’ They do take that stuff into consideration, because they respect actors’ work as the people who live these characters, but they also know these characters so well that there’s always a lot to explore.”
David Harbour’s stirring SAG speech was just as powerful for everybody on stage.
“David actually ran the speech by Joe [Keery], Charlie [Heaton], and I the night before the ceremony, and we didn’t know what our chances were but were like, ‘Man, if you got the chance to deliver that, it would be so amazing.’ So when we did get the chance to go up there we were just so galvanized, and so excited, and I think you can tell with David’s delivery how exciting it was for all of us to be up there, and be up there together. For David to be the one to deliver this message resonated with all of us—it was a really magical night.”