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August 09, 2019

A Joyful Stranger

Cary Elwes thoroughly enjoyed his time as the bad mayor on Stranger Things.

Melissa Byers
  • Netflix
  • Netflix
  • Netflix
  • Netflix

In the third season of Netflix's Stranger Things, changes are happening.

The kids are growing up, the town is still in danger from monsters, and there's a new Mayor in town, played by Cary Elwes.

The series, set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, follows the adventures of a group of pre-teens and teens and their families, who find themselves fighting with supernatural monsters and scientists gone wrong. Throughout the three seasons of the show so far, the characters have grown and changed, something Elwes admires.

Although Elwes's best known role is probably the charming Westley in The Princess Bride, his résumé includes roles across the spectrum from good to evil to evil but still charming and fun. He enjoys all of it.

When he is considering a role, the criteria are pretty simple. He says, "It has to be on the page. If it's not there on the page, if the character isn't fully realized and has an interesting arc or if it isn't something that I feel will stretch me or is a challenge for me then I really - I don't feel any draw to it. And of course, the filmmakers are an important factor as well: who I'm working with and how long it'll keep me from my family."

For his role in Stranger Things, the showrunners, Matt and Ross Duffer, were a huge draw. Elwes says, "The Duffers are very joyful people, they're obviously very creative people. They are great storytellers and they love people, they love interesting characters, they love kids, obviously, and are very much in touch with the kid inside themselves.

"And I think that's why they connect with the children, enabling them to write for children, write for everyone, write for both sexes, write for kids. There's nothing these guys can't do. And they're able to write about all kinds of themes.This season, it's extraordinary to me, what they're capable of doing.

"I've gotten to work with some wonderful writers and directors over the years. But these guys are truly phenomenal."

Elwes's Mayor Larry Kline is, shall we say, a flawed leader. Elwes had no trouble finding real-life people on which to base him. He says, "I based him on a couple of politicians. I actually based Larry Kline on a bunch of politicians that I saw on television.

"And I looked at these politicians as folk who really cared more about their constituents' votes than they did about the constituents themselves and their community at large. And they were far more interested in garnering their vote and they would do whatever it took to get that vote. I think we're seeing a lot of that today and so it wasn't hard for me to pick something.

"The Duffers were very helpful and very generous with collaborating with me."

Although the character was based on some real politicians, the show is not political, nor are they trying to make any kind of point. Elwes notes, "We're not trying to make a political statement with the show. We're not. We are making a comment about if there are politicians who are very self centered people, clearly, and don't have their community's wellbeing at heart, yes, we're definitely making a comment on that.

"I think they were trying to create a foil for Hopper [played by David Harbour], because Hopper, as the chief of police as we know, expresses his passion for his community long, far deeper than his role of chief of police. He cares too deeply about the community. And so I think the Duffers, by contrast, created a character who couldn't care less."

Another draw for Elwes to Stranger Things is the way the Duffers approach the series. He says, "They just want to have fun with the show. If anything comes out of it, they do want to show that people can come together out of tragedy.

"That's really what the show is about, these kids have been traumatized and they find through Joyce [Winona Ryder] and through Hopper that people care about them and want to help them.

"This show is also about female empowerment too, which couldn't come at a better time, so I think that, again, the Duffers are very much attuned to what's going on and you can see where they're trying to make their point about certain things.

"That's the joy of working with them, their characters are not one-dimensional, they're very nuanced, and like I said I was very blessed that they were so collaborative with me and involved me in that process."

As for the future of his character in the show, Elwes isn't sure. He says, "I have not heard anything and you know as much as I do. The Duffers are very secretive about what they have planned for future seasons so I don't even think David Harbour or Winona or even the kids are aware yet of where it's going, maybe some of them are, I don't know. You'd have to ask them.

"I certainly hope so, I would love to come back, I would love nothing more than to come back and have fun with them because it was truly a joyful experience for me."

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