When Billy Hargrove landed in Hawkins, Indiana, in season two of Netflix’s Stranger Things, it felt like a major moment in the show. But then he didn’t have much to do in season two beyond flirting with Mike’s mum.
Turns out that was all set up for his significant, series-changing role in season three, in which he became a human conduit for the evil Mind Flayer’s plan to destroy the world. Australian actor Dacre Montgomery gives a daring performance as Billy throughout season three, from his possession at the beginning to his sacrificial act at the end, when he saves El at the Starcourt Mall.
Here Montgomery discusses Billy’s two-season run, working with Millie Bobby Brown and how he “kills Wednesday”.
How bittersweet is it to get such a career-changing part but also to have it end so soon?
We constructed it this way from the beginning. I knew it was coming in that this was going to be the outcome. And I don’t think I would have been given the season that Billy had if I wasn’t dying — I think because I was on my way out, I was given an amazing opportunity to do a wide array of things. I’m very grateful.
What was it like to embody this complex character in what he’s going through physically?
For “Flayed Billy” I did a lot of research on bipolar disorder and split personalities, and how one personality controls the other personalities. This season, Billy is like a rubber band that keeps getting tauter, and I tried to convey that in my physicality. But if you look at my eyes, that’s non-Flayed Billy trying to come through. The whole season, I felt like my eyes were bleeding because I was trying to push out this emotion to play as a counter to my physicality. I wanted to treat it more like a real-world experience. I think that’s why the show is so successful — it’s tethered to a science-fiction element, but it’s anchored very strongly in humanity.
As an actor, how do you convey an emotion that runs counter to your physicality?
I don’t want to get too meta, but I think people put on a mask when they leave the house. There’s a “Public Brian” and a “Private Brian”. We all put on masks, even if just to mask our insecurities. When you’re listening to someone and trying to mask feelings like lack of confidence, or if you’re being antagonized or bullied, trying to be strong — in my eyes, it’s still Dacre. He’s so taut. I needed to think of him as a rubber band pulled from the top and bottom.