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‘Stranger Things’ star on KC visit: ‘You can’t have barbecue for breakfast can you?’

Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ star David Harbour in KC, talks about season 3

David Harbour, who plays Chief Jim Hopper in “Stranger Things,” stopped at Union Station to talk about what he loves about the show. The hit Netflix show's third season will be released July 4.
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David Harbour, who plays Chief Jim Hopper in “Stranger Things,” stopped at Union Station to talk about what he loves about the show. The hit Netflix show's third season will be released July 4.

David Harbour had just landed in Kansas City for his first visit and he already delayed his flight out.

The actor from Netflix’s “Stranger Things” wanted more time to see the city and try some iconic barbecue spots after getting multiple recommendations from Kansas Citians on where to eat.

“I only have one lunch and one dinner,” Harbour said. “You can’t have barbecue for breakfast can you?”

Harbour is on a cross-country tour to promote the third season of “Stranger Things.” The show’s eight episodes will be released July 4.

He plays Jim Hopper in the show, a police chief who — on top of managing his normal duties — has to keep the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, safe from monsters of another dimension. Harbour stars alongside Winona Ryder, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown and Caleb McLaughlin.

Harbour will be at the Royals’ “Stranger Things” theme night Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. The game against the Minnesota Twins will start at 7:15 p.m. Before that, Harbour sat down at Union Station to talk about the upcoming season and what it’s like to work with the young cast.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Q: How did you come into this role? What interested you the most in playing Jim Hopper?

When I read the pilot — and I hear other actors talk about their shows this way — I thought it was the best thing I’d read in maybe ever.

In general, the one specific thing I think the show does extremely well, which is very difficult to do and subtle, there’s a lot of scripts I view as advancing the story and then at a certain page they’ll advance character.

It’s very rare to get a script that does the exact same thing on each page, where you’re constantly seeing what’s going to happen and how that person is going to react to that. That in of itself storytelling-wise is so sophisticated and amazing.

The fact the hero of it, or at least my guy, was a throwback to these ’80s heroes I’d grown up with ... to pay homage to that was kind of great. I really wanted to do that.

That being said, I didn’t think it’d be very popular. I thought it was one of those shows that’d be kind of niche. Some people would get it; other people wouldn’t. The fact that it’s been so embraced was strangely wonderful.

Q: What is it like being surrounded by all this ’80s nostalgia?

It’s funny. It doesn’t feel that way when I’m shooting. Occasionally, like in the first season, there were kitchen moments when I’d see the kitchen phone that gets all kind of jangly, and remember things like that. I mean the kitchen felt very much like the kitchen I grew up in in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

In general, it’s almost like you’re an ingredient in a cake. So when you’re focused on one ingredient, you’re not really getting the full experience. When you guys watch it, you’re seeing this chocolate cake, but I’m just kind of an egg. When I watch it later, I have that same experience. I’m like, “Woah, the ’80s!”

The ’80s are less important to me than all the psychological dynamics. There are certain things about men from the ’80s I need to capture, but it’s less about my experience with nostalgia and more about my creation of this character.

Q: What’s the most distinct thing about this show to you?

A lot of people ask that question because they think it’s kind of a conundrum on (the show’s) popularity. I honestly think it could be anything. I think it’s just good storytelling. I think it’s the same thing why the “Game of Thrones” was kind of popular. Like, who cares about dragons and the swords and stuff? It’s just that they tell their stories so well. It’s the same reason why people are so invested in this.

One of the funny things is we had a review come out of season two. My friends always like to send me bad reviews; it’s like their favorite thing to do to kind of torment me. Season two is generally very well-liked, but you know, people get snarky in every department. There was one bad review.

I remember the reviewer said, “I watched it back to back for eight hours.” To get you to watch something back to back for eight hours is such an achievement. I have shows that are good for me, shows that I’m supposed to love, and that are good, good shows, and I can’t watch them for eight hours. The fact that it’s so watchable is so unique. I cannot underplay how brilliant that is to me about the (Matt and Ross) Duffer Brothers.

Q: What is it like interacting with the kids? Over the past few years, you’ve watched them grow up.

The relationship is strange. I knew them when they were like little babies. You go back and look at season one and see little Finn’s (Wolfhard) pudgy face and three-feet tall stature. Now, he’s like a rock-and-roll star with his floppy hair, chiseled features and YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) campaigns.

I was very reluctant to get involved with them in any way during the first season. I would sit in the back and move my chair away from them. I would not be nice to them because I wanted to establish this distance.

As the show progresses you just become a family. I do have love for them, and in a weird, stupid way I feel like their dad. And I feel a judgment of them that I don’t have of other children.

That all just serves the work. It’s opened me up as a human being these past three seasons. Hopper’s opening up in a whole new way, and that relationship, it continues to feed the work and the work feeds that relationship.

Q: What can audiences expect from season three?

They can expect me with a mustache and a larger waistline. It’s a summer season that centers around Independence Day, which is a very fun concept in Midwestern America in the ’80s. There’s scares, and there’s also love in the air and human genetic developments. Kids are growing up, going through changes. There’s also a lot of fun.

I will say episode eight is the most moving thing we’ve shot yet. I think it’s the most beautiful episode of the whole series.

Royals ‘Stranger Things’ night

Thursday, 7:15 p.m. Fans can dress as characters from the show; ’80s music will play during the game. Tickets start at $19. Kauffman Stadium. www.mlb.com/royals.

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