These days, a show isn't really a true phenomenon unless there's another show devoted to deconstructing, dissecting and discussing it to death. Modeled after the success of AMC's The Talking Dead, the Netflix after-show Beyond Stranger Things seeks to enlighten viewers on the production of their hit I-Heart-the-'80s thriller with different guests over the course of seven episodes. Hosted by Jim Rash and featuring ST cast members including Gaten Matarazzo, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard and the occasional appearance of show creators like Shawn Levy and The Duffer Brothers, it's a well-made piece of fan service that justifies spending a few hours "chatting" over what you've just watched.
And like the best of these show-about-the-show talkfests, BST is filled with a bunch of behind-the-scenes tidbits that not only help illuminate the series but are the equivalent of diehard-baiting catnip. Seriously, did you know that Goonies alumnus and ex-hobbit Sean Astin, a.k.a. Bob the Brain, almost didn't get cast because he was too famous? And that the Upside Down originally had a different name? Here are 10 of the most interesting tidbits gleaned from our journey into the Beyond.
1. The Kids Came Up with Stranger Things 2's Opening Scene
The remarkably entertaining Gaten Matarazzo – the actor who plays Dustin – asserts that he and co-star Finn Wolfhard suggested that the second season open in an arcade. Hence, the second season kicks off with our core group of characters dropping quarters and taking names with the legendary Eighties video games Dragon's Lair and Dig Dug. On the show, however, the Duffer Brothers seem startled by Matarazzo's suggestion that the arcade opening was the boys' idea, insisting they came up with it. The young scene-stealer stands by his story. This one depends on who you believe.
2. The Snow Ball Was Originally a Reunion Too
The Duffers mention several times that they had always targeted the Snow Ball as the endpoint for the second season – but it once held even more significance for two of our favorite characters. After that near-miss encounter at the school, Mike and Eleven were originally not going to see each other until the final scenes at the dance. But the Duffers realized that was just too long to keep them apart. Hence, they moved their reunion up a few episodes to the Byers house, adding another layer during the most intense action of the season. Everyone seems to agree that was the right call.
3. The Actors Freaked Out About Making Out
The two sets of kisses during the Snow Ball – between Eleven and Mike, and between Lucas and Max – caused all kinds of on-set nerves for the cast. One of the biggest laughs of Beyond Stranger Things comes when Finn reveals he might have muttered "I'm coming in" as he moved to kiss Millie/Eleven (and that said sweet-talking may be in the actual edit of the final cut if you look closely). There was also applause by the background players after the actual liplock, which only makes things that much weirder. Sadie Sink had it even worse because her character, Max, wasn't planning to have a kiss with Lucas that day. It was added at the last minute; she didn't find out about until she got to the set.
4. Shawn Levy Plays Creepy Music on Set
One of the coolest bits of trivia about go-to Stranger Things director Shawn Levy is that he uses on-set music to convey mood in ways that direction can't do, especially when it comes to child performers. He mentions a Season One moment in which Holly Wheeler, Mike's little sister, sees the flickering Christmas lights. The twin actresses playing Holly at the time were three; music, Levy claims, set a tone for them better than any instructions possibly could.
5. The VFX Team Exploded in Season Two
The first season of Stranger Things was so reliant on practical effects – yes, the Demogorgon was indeed just a man in a horrifying suit – that the Duffer brothers only needed one part-time visual effects guy for that first year. On the show, however, they admit they now, have a whole team at their disposal, all of whom will surely be putting the Demodogs and Mind Flayer on their sizzle reels.
6. Sean Astin Totally Changed Bob Newby
Bob Newby, the kind-hearted, puzzle-loving boyfriend to Joyce Byers, was originally a much less significant character. When they were first breaking the season, Bob was a one-episode role – but the presence of Sean Astin changed that entirely. The Lord of the Rings actor had originally auditioned on tape for the part of conspiracy theorist Murray Bauman; he basically developed Bob into one of the most essential of Stranger Things 2 through improvisation and a generally high degree of likability. In fact, the Duffers revealed that they almost didn't hire Astin because they worried his casting would be too distracting. Then everyone agreed that leaning into the chance to have an actual member of the Goonies going on a treasure hunt was just too juicy to pass up, and voila!
7. Bob's Death Changed a Few Times
Clearly, Astin's Bob was the most fluid character of Stranger Things 2. Once the actor helped develop him into more than a one-episode character, they almost didn't kill him. Astin says he knew the likable Radio Shack employee had to go though, and insisted that he do something "heroic" before he did. And apparently at one point, Bob was going to die at the hands of Will Byers when he was under the control of the Mind Flayer. Having a kid kill his mom's boyfriend, however, is too dark even for a show like this one.
8. The Upside Down Had Another Name
Every Stranger Things fan knows about the Upside Down, but have you heard of the Nether? On the aftershow, Millie Bobby Brown reveals that the dark world just beyond our own was actually called the Nether in all the scripts for the first season. The Duffers finally embraced the alternate name – thus saving a lot of snarky references to the Nether regions. Good call, gents.
9. Murray Bauman Comes From a Different Decade
So much of the series' DNA is built around references to 1980s pop culture – but not all of it, apparently. When Season Two cast member Brett Gelman drops by, he reveals that his character, Murray Bauman, was inspired by films like All the President's Men and The Parallax View, conspiracy-thriller touchstones from the 1970s. The reporter often feels like an outsider or a fish out of water, and this revelation that his character was specifically inspired by a different decade of filmmaking helps explain why.
10. The Psychic Tantrum Was Actually Dangerous
One of Season Two's most powerful moments comes in the third episode, when Eleven has finally had enough of Hopper's overprotective ways. She tells him that he's "just like papa" before slamming doors and blowing out the windows of their cabin in the woods. Beyond Stranger Things revealed that not only was a lot of the psychic tantrum conceived that day on the set – its climax wasn't a digital effect. They actually destroyed those windows and the glass you see shattering behind David Harbour is real. The actor even refused a stunt double, making sure he was standing in the exact right place to lessen his chances of getting sliced by window shrapnel. It's the kind of shot for which you can not do a second take.