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David Harbour would rather grow up in the time of Stranger Things than be a kid today

As one of the stars of Stranger Things who actually grew up in the 1980s, David Harbour talks about what being a kid back then was really like – and it turns out he’d have made a great member of the Hellfire Club

David Harbour was born in 1975. That means he was about the same age as many of the young characters in Stranger Things. Harbour too grew up in a small town in New York state, which in some ways would have been very like Hawkins. In other ways, it was probably quite different. Fewer multi-dimensional supernatural monsters to fight hopefully.

But if it did have those – and it required a crew like the Hellfire Club to bring them down – Harbour might have been exactly the kind of child required.

“I was nerdy. I was very sensitive,” he told The Big Issue. “I’d like to read books and keep to myself.

Stranger things
(L to R) Eduardo Franco as Argyle, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, and Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler in STRANGER THINGS. Photo: Netflix

“The character that I associate with most in the show is Will Byers. I was a bit more outgoing, I’d say, but I liked a lot of intellectual and creative pursuits, loved video games, Dungeons & Dragons – I loved all the things that Will loves in the show.

“I was never really a sports guy at all – never got to sit at the popular kids’ lunch table in school, as hard as I tried.”

But just as the characters in the show find friends in each other, Harbour too connected to likeminded individuals.

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“I definitely found my own crew,” he said. “I’ve always liked people who are a little, I guess society would call them strange or off-centre in certain ways. I do like people that are very sensitive and in general, in that more popular world, that doesn’t really allow for that sort of sensitivity.”

For today’s young people growing up in a world of social media, showing that sensitivity can be more difficult than ever.

Harbour continued: “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m an old man and I’m cranky like my grandpa used to be about rock ‘n’ roll, but I really do think that this world is extremely hard to grow up in, in a way that mine wasn’t.

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“I mean, I think one of the things that people are nostalgic for in the show is the fact that these kids would just ride bikes to suburban houses. They weren’t connected unless you made a physical action to go connect with your friends.

“It was more face to face interaction. You were figuring out life through each other as opposed to these devices that we carry around. They’re like little ticking bombs in our pockets for our attention.

“If I swipe my phone I can be bowling or I can be looking at an encyclopaedia, I can be dating. Swiping my phone is the only action I take. Whereas when I was a kid, you had to go to the bowling alley if you wanted to do something, you had to go out to the mall to look at girls and try to pick one up.

“It forced me to become more of an active person in lots of different ways. I had to reach out, not just emotionally, but physically to get what I wanted. And I think that was a really important thing to learn growing up.

“Kids nowadays probably struggle with that more than I ever did.”

At the same time, Harbour recognises that its impossible to know how kids growing up today really feel. Or how adept they are at adapting to the fast-changing world.

“So whenever I complain about it,” he said, “I do have healthy scepticism where I’m like, yeah, it’s probably just because I’m a cranky old man. I don’t know what it’s like to be a kid anymore.”

The final episodes of Stranger Things’ season 4 are released on 1 July on Netflix. You can read more from our interview with David Harbour here.

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