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‘Remote Controlled’ Podcast: David Harbour on the ‘Stranger Things’ Phenomenon (Listen)

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum and editor-at-large Michael Schneider chat with “Stranger Things” star David Harbour about why the series has become so wildly popular, how its success has changed his life, and the inspirations behind his character.

Harbour, who plays Chief Jim Hooper, head of the Hawkins police department, candidly admits that none of his previous projects, which include “The Equalizer,” “Black Mass” and “The Newsroom,” have affected his life as profoundly as “Stranger Things.”

“My telephone has about 100 contacts in it with about 10 or 15 friends I text with all the time, or my parents,” he says. “When a movie comes out I’ll get the occasional text from friends, but when ‘Stranger Things’ came out, every single number on my phone, I had a text from. Like the guy who drove me like six years ago to a thing and still had my number. We’ve really touched people in a different way.”

David Harbour Photographed for the Remote Controlled Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

“Stranger Things” is set in the small town of Hawkins in 1983, and begins with the mysterious disappearance of 12-year-old Will Byers. Along with Will’s mother (Winona Ryder) and brother, Hopper searches for the missing boy. Meanwhile, a courageous trio of Will’s friends, played by Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Finn Wolfhard, discover a strange girl (Millie Bobby Brown) who claims to know Will’s location.

Harbour admits he was doubtful the show would be a success after he saw no advertising for it in New York City.

“I thought, wow, Netflix is burying this,” he says. “But then it became this word of mouth phenomenon, which is so much better because there was no hype and no one forcing it down people’s throats to watch it. People discovered it and it has a personal feel.”

Harbour believes the show captures a “feeling of the magic of the movies from the 80s,” through its “clunkiness,” and imperfect characters.

For the role of Hopper, Harbour says he used stars from the ’80s to mold a character he describes as “not your classic leading man.”

“I modeled him (Hopper) a bit on Jack Nicholson from “Five Easy Pieces.” He really has that 80s man quality that Harrison Ford and Gene Hackman and Jack Nicholson all had at that time,” Harbour said. “They’re not as popular nowadays, but those are the guys who taught me what it was to be a man.”

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday.

Listen to the full episode with Harbour below:

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