Potential spoilers ahead for Stranger Things Season 4
Stranger Things Season 4 is aging like a fine wine. The show recently passed an incredible amount of hours viewed, and we are already hearing small whispers of what the show’s fifth and final season may bring. Among the show’s terror, humor, and adventure, the heart of the series is very much a coming-of-age tale. Much like many movies and television shows before it, Stranger Things uses this to deepen its characters and their actions, and by extension, reactions to certain scenarios.
Since Season 1, the hit Netflix show has strongly hinted about one of its characters, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), and the possibility of his being gay. Will’s character hasn’t always been at the forefront of the show, but he has always been incredibly important. The Duffer brothers, in a recent interview, have even gone on record and said that those are the questions that should be asked. In a recent sit-down with Variety, the Stranger Things actor did come out, as it were, about his character, and elaborated fully on the character’s sexuality.
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Variety: What did you understand about what that personal journey would look like, what Will was going to be contending with?
I mean, it’s pretty clear this season that Will has feelings for Mike. They’ve been intentionally pulling that out over the past few seasons. Even in Season 1, they hinted at that and slowly, slowly grew that storyline. I think for Season 4, it was just me playing this character who loves his best friend but struggles with knowing if he’ll be accepted or not, and feeling like a mistake and like he doesn’t belong. Will has always felt like that. All his friends, they all have girlfriends and they all fit into their different clubs. Will has never really found anywhere to fit in. I think that’s why so many people come up to me and tell me that they love Will and they resonate with him so much, because it’s such a real character.
Variety: The conversation that Will and Mike have in the van, where Will is essentially telling Mike how he feels about him, but through the prism of Eleven — that was so heartbreaking. What do you remember about shooting it?
I remember it was just all day. We started in the morning and went straight through, past lunch, for hours and hours. I remember when I was doing the scene, I was bawling, like, going all out the whole day. And when I saw it on screen, it was actually more subtle. I liked how they edited it together. The day was a lot of fun. I love just playing with Will. This scene was really important for him, because it really solidified that truth, that he loves his best friend and he doesn’t know how to tell him.
Variety: A lot of fans feel like Mike has been a pretty terrible friend to Will over the last couple of seasons. How do you feel about that relationship?
Yeah, I’ve seen that a lot too, actually. I think it’s kind of Mike dealing with his own stuff. In Season 2, they were best friends and they were so close, and then obviously Mike has all his eyes on Eleven. Will is dealing with a little bit of jealousy there. He just wants his best friend back and wants it to be like what it was in Season 1, when they were playing D&D in his basement. But Mike’s growing out of that and only cares about Eleven right now. I’m interested just to see where the Duffers go with that in Season 5, and how they close out that storyline.
Variety: Then there’s the follow-up scene between Will and his older brother Jonathan, when Jonathan communicates to Will, basically, I know you’re gay and I’m always here for you — without ever using those words. What did the Duffers say to you about that scene when you shot it?
So this scene was actually not originally written in the script. It was only until after I did the scene of me in the van, where they saw me crying and the protectiveness that you see with Jonathan looking in the rearview mirror. They were like, we need a scene with that. So they wrote it as we were filming. It’s also very important for people to see that Will is not alone — because all we ever see of him is struggling and feeling depressed and that he can’t be himself. Jonathan is talking to him in code — it’s just the perfect way to tell someone like Will that he cares about him and he accepts him no matter what. I think it was really wholesome.
Variety: As you alluded to earlier, the implication that people perceive Will as gay is baked into the very first episode of the show. But in past interviews, including one that you did with me for Volume 1 of Season 4, you’ve talked instead about how you saw Will as still figuring out that aspect of his identity. Did it feel like it was a spoiler to say outright, “Yes, Will is wrestling with being gay and coming out”?
Yeah, I think it is. Obviously, it was hinted at in Season 1: It was always kind of there, but you never really knew, is it just him growing up slower than his friends? Now that he’s gotten older, they made it a very real, obvious thing. Now it’s 100% clear that he is gay and he does love Mike. But before, it was a slow arc. I think it is done so beautifully, because it’s so easy to make a character just like all of a sudden be gay. People have come up to me — I was just in Paris and this, like, 40-year-old man came up to me and he was like, “Wow, this Will character made me feel so good. And I related to it so much. That is exactly who I was when I was a kid.” That just made me so happy to hear. They are writing this real character and this real journey and real struggle and they’re doing it so well.
The article provides more great material on everything from memes of Will crying in the van to the actor’s recent DM faux pas with Doja Cat. The heart of the interview though, focuses, rightfully so, on an issue many teenagers find themselves struggling with and many with a deep affinity for friendship. That realization they may have that they have a “Mike” in their life. Many people draw inspiration from shows and movies, and the connection one may feel with a character and their similarities to their own. Perhaps, many members of the LGBTQ+ community that need inspiration can find that small piece of themselves in Will Byers.