Two years ago, the name Billy was a simple, American name — the moniker of a beloved comedic actor known for Pixar movies and '90s comedies alike (Billy Crystal). But now, the name strikes fear in the hearts of sci-fi fans around the world because we all know one thing: Stranger Things' Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) can be a monster.
He spent most of season 2 terrorising Max (Sadie Sink) and her new friends, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo). After just a few minutes on screen, the rageful 17-year-old was threatening to run over the trio of boys with his muscle car. By season's end, Billy beat Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) to a pulp before his sister had to literally drug him to get him to stop. Now, Billy is staring menacingly out of every Stranger Things 3 trailer and poster, which is proof enough that he's not going to be any easier to deal with in season 3.
That's probably why, as Australian actor Dacre Montgomery sits in a West Hollywood hotel room in a very un-Billy navy jumpsuit, he's feeling a bit nervous about how his performance will come across.
Refinery29: How are you feeling now that people are about to actually see this thing you made so many months ago?
Dacre Montgomery: "Really, really nervous. It's the [Duffer Brothers'] story that we're bringing to life, but you put so much of your own experience and your heart and soul into it. It's like anything personal — you're shitting yourself waiting, like, oh my God, I can't. But I'm excited. The nerves are just about fulfilling my end of the deal."
Since you can't really talk about what happens to Billy, do you have an elevator pitch for season 3? What should we get hyped about?
"Look, it's high stakes. The CGI is huge. The sets are amazing. The mall was like being in a mall from the 1980s, as far as I can guess — I wasn't born in the '80s. I'm excited for people to go on this story journey with Billy that I think is so rewarding for his character at the end, those redemptive qualities."
He's just a human being and I think he's trying to do his best and he gets taken advantage of.
Where would you say he starts the season emotionally?
"He starts pissed off with the kids from last season, but he also starts off this season where we met him to begin with, which is a deeply insecure teenager, which I think is a version of myself and a version of many other people. Some elements I've taken into adulthood, definitely of my insecurities, so I don't think he's too far from myself in that respect. I think he started working in the swimming pool in a role where he can assert himself. I think he's still deeply confused and that's why he's susceptive to the powers that be taking control."
Have you read any assessments of Billy from season 2 that you want to correct?
"What we tried to do in season 2 is humanise the villain because nobody's bad or good. You and I aren't good, bad, whatever. Stuff happens to people that makes them the way they are. And the biggest effort that we did was the scene with Billy and his father [fighting], which makes the struggle so much better in season 3: he's just a human being and I think he's trying to do his best and he gets taken advantage of."
He is still intense. Do you turn the Billy personae off when you're not shooting?
"It's more important to just be nice to the people that you're in the room with than being so goddamn method that everyone just hates you for eight months. I also feel like if you do [go method], you can't walk off set and leave it at the door. I've often got mates or my girlfriend or family [with me], so I can't take that home. I remember joking with my girlfriend's dad, when we left Perth to go shoot season 3, he's like, 'You better not treat my daughter like this. You better not be like Billy.' And I said, 'Don't worry, mate. I'm not gonna take it home.'"
Most of the cast has been with the show since season 1 and often pal around on Snapchat and Instagram, but you don't use social media the same way.
"I like the old Hollywood style. You don't know what someone's doing all the time, so the escape isn't ruined when I'm sitting in a cinema watching you and going, well, "I knew that you were at this restaurant last night down the road, or in New York or wherever." ... I'm very much a fan of [living] in my little bubble. I'm so ready to work and I'm so passionate about it, but I don't want everyone to know when I'm doing all the time."
Much of this season's promotional materials has focused on the moms swooning over your character at the Hawkins pool. How comfortable are you with being indoctrinated as a Netflix "hunks"?
"I feel just fortunate to be working, so that's probably my blanket statement. I think it's so good because you think that it's just Billy, or my body, being objectified and then it takes such a sharp turn so quickly. [Releasing the pool scene] is what we expected — Mrs. Wheeler, and that whole sort of thing. And then the conundrum that it becomes is so [anti] what the promo is, which I think is smart. I am aware that men can be objectified as well, and I think it plays a valuable role in the season."