‘Stranger Things’: Meet the Man Who Played the Monster

Mark Steger Stranger Things Creature
Courtesy of michael ezell

The first season of Netflix’s supernatural sensation “Stranger Things” has revealed the show’s monster to be one of its most intriguing and memorable characters.

Created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, the show centers on the disappearance of a boy and the telekinetic girl who helps to find him. The eight-episode season also features other mysteries and sinister forces, most notably a monster played by Mark Steger, a performer who specializes in the creation and movement choreography of otherworldly creatures and things that go bump in the night.

Steger says he felt an instant connection to the show’s creators. When he met the Duffers, they discovered that as kids, they had all loved making Super 8 and animated films. They “geeked out” about the monster they were creating, for which they found antecedents in creatures from “The Thing,” “Alien,” and “Jaws.”

“When the Duffer brothers spoke about [the monster] like a shark, it just made perfect sense,” Steger explains.

While they take their work extremely seriously, he adds, the brothers are kids in a candy shop. “There’s this continuity between childhood and adult life. I feel like they’re being kids doing this thing they love, but on a grand scale. There was a feeling that we were making something magical.”

SCARE TACTICS: Mark Steger delivers scares in as the The Chupacabra in “Indigenous” Courtesy of Alastair Orr

Steger has worked as a choreographer and performer in “I Am Legend,” “World War Z,” and “American Horror Story” —sometimes in extreme environments. “Whatever character I’m doing, whether I’m covered in makeup or not, I’m considering gravity, breath, and the psychological state of this creature.”

For “Stranger Things,” he performed inside an enormous suit built by makeup- and creature-effects studio Spectral Motion. One major challenge: The creature is 7 feet tall.

“I wore elevator shoes and stood on stilts,” Steger explains. “It was the most complex creature suit I’ve ever worked in. Being inside the suit changes your biometrics, how you see, how you hear.” He adds, “You have limbs in places you normally don’t.”

Sensory deprivation has been another big challenge, he explains. “My vision was somewhat compromised, and my hearing was obscured by a motor in the headpiece.”

Although the show has some green-screen work, most of the production was shot on location or on practical sets, elements that made it easier for Steger to slip into the role.

And it’s a part he loves. “I’m crossing over between childhood and adulthood,” he says, “playing a monster as an adult, like I would as a kid.”

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