One of the many simple joys in this life, at least for cinephiles like me, is discovering that one of your favorite actors secretly appeared in one of your favorite shows. Today, I have Bustle to thank for a lovely bit 'o joy. The publication realized that Chris Sullivan, who plays Toby in This Is Us, showed up last summer's Stranger Things. Sullivan plays Benny, the diner owner who takes in Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) in the first episode of the Netflix series. Spoilers ahead, so watch yourself — Benny dies shortly after meeting the mysterious Eleven, much to my disappointment. Because Chris Sullivan, as you'll know if you watch This Is Us, is really fucking charming, and, for that matter, talented. There's a reason people have fallen in love with Toby despite his love for fedoras. As Benny in Stranger Things, the 36-year-old sports a decent chunk of beard and a kindly smile. Arguably, the character is one of the best parts of the series (The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum scolded the Duffer brothers for killing off "the best character" so early). Before Mike and his friends took care of Eleven, there was Benny. The cook feeds our heroine, gives her a T-shirt, and lets her be. Alas, the big bad guys catch wind of Benny's good deeds, and swiftly do away with him.
Given that Sullivan's appearance in Stranger Things is so short-lived, it's no wonder we didn't make the connection earlier. (Also, there's the beard, no-beard thing.) Currently, in the NBC show, Sullivan's character is facing a dire situation. Before the mid-season premiere, Toby's fate seemed uncertain, although cunning television journalists such as myself were fairly certain he would survive. I won't give any more spoilers, but I will say this: Benny was dispensable. Toby is not. And Chris Sullivan is perfect.