On a scale of one to Eddie Munson's hairdo—which, by the way, I'm convinced is an amalgamation of both Axl Rose and Slash's flows—how metal is it that the Stranger Things finale weaponized Metallica's "Master of Puppets" against the Upside Down? (The answer is Nikki Sixx's mane circa 1981.) You know the scene: Munson, the show's brand-new deviant, hops on his trailer and unabashedly shreds his way to redemption, minutes before his death.
"It was kind of mad," says Joseph Quinn, who plays Munson in the series. "I was away from home and I read the script at about 3:00 a.m. when it came in and I couldn't sleep. I was like, 'Who the fuck do they think they are coming up with something this good?!'"
Now, it's the understatement of the streaming era to say that a truly colossal amount of story went down in the four-hour-long Season Four, Volume Two, of Stranger Things, out now. But Eddie Munson's hero moment certainly induced the most goosebumps. And tears. So many tears. The 29-year-old Quinn, who hails from London, managed to stand out from the rest of the Stranger Things crew by infusing Munson with a swirl of heart, sensitivity, and pure chaos. It absolutely worked. And in the finale, Munson finally stands his ground instead of running away, even though it leads to his death by literal bats out of hell.
But while Munson is seemingly gone forever, we're calling on Quinn for one more song. This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
ESQUIRE: How are you spending Stranger Things Eve?
Joseph Quinn: Well, I've come to stay at my dad's house. We're going to watch [the finale] with my little sister and my dad's wife tonight, I think. I'm feeling ready for it all to be out there. It's been a very, very long process, and I've been very grateful for the fans' patience with the running times of the first seven episodes and their willingness to accept Eddie into this world. And I haven't seen Episode Nine yet. I'm just curious to see how they've put it all together, because it's a pretty ambitious endeavor.
Approximately how many times have you listened to “Master of Puppets?”
I don't know, mate. Just loads. I think for like two years in a row, it was my most listened to song on Spotify. So yeah. I've been going crazy.
It's got to be in the hundreds.
Oh yeah. Beyond, yeah. Just a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. It's a big banger.
Did you always know that Eddie would die in this season?
I had no idea, really. I knew that I wasn't optioned. I had a feeling that we would finish his arc this season. I couldn't have imagined the manner in which he would leave, but yeah, I think it's a weird thing. It's kind of bittersweet. I would love to go back to that set and to see those people again. But sometimes there's a beautiful arc that they've written and he's such an empathetically written role and they're very rare, these kind of roles. It feels a little bit like a lottery ticket and I feel incredibly grateful, but it's a shame not to be able to come back. Onwards.
In Volume Two, you really have these extreme moments of sensitivity and heart, especially in the scenes with Gaten Matarazzo. Could you talk about what you brought to the final chapter of Eddie's growth this season?
I think you have this kind of performative, precocious young man that we meet at the beginning of Episode One, and he encounters this horrific thing and is blamed for it. And we as an audience have to care. If you don't care about him, you're not going to invest. By the end of it, after he's ingratiated into the gang, there is this fraternal bond between [them], which was so beautifully written. I mean, Gaten and I both really enjoyed seeing how much you can show.
As men, it's not always easy to show the complexities of different kinds of love, especially in your adolescence. There were always guys that were a bit older than me that I really kind of was enamored by. And I also felt that with guys who are a bit younger than me, there's this kind of patronage there. And we just wanted to kind of make it as visceral as possible.
I’ll tell you—I profiled Gaten for Volume One, and it was the first time I felt old in this job. I’m the same age as you.
You're telling me! I know, I know. Well, I guess because we were at quite a weird stage pre-pandemic weren't we? We were kind of in our mid 20s making loads of mistakes, to kind of knocking on 30. Very different states of mind.
Were any of the final scenes between you and Gaten improvised?
I think we wanted to play with the wrestling aspect in that first thing that you mentioned and just how men express themselves physically a lot. For the death scene, that whole sequence was mental. We shot that death scene in like 15 minutes or like 20 minutes at the end of a really, really long night shoot. But we only managed to get my coverage that night. I think it was like maybe three weeks later we shot Gaten's stuff in the studio. It was very weird doing that bit and then going back to it later. But it was yeah, remarkable to be that near, I don't know, someone so young be so brilliant.
The line that got me was, “You're going to have to look after those little sheep for me.”
It's pretty horrible, isn't it?
Let’s lighten this up and talk about the guitar solo. How did you prep for that?
I went to the guitar shop and I bought a guitar, and I started practicing manically. I just remember being completely kind of dumbstruck with the kind of… there is a very specific world in which something like that could exist. And [series creators Matt and Ross Duffer] have created that world in which it doesn't feel forced.
I think it was the first scene that I shot coming back from Christmas break. When we got up there, me and Gaten just had the best time. It was quite a large crew that day. Also, there was a feeling that the first time that people had seen live music in a long time. No one would want to hear [me play it live], but I practiced, and I learned the song. We had a backing track playing and the whole crew were just fucking jamming out and we were having a blast. I still feel tremendously lucky.
When you say you learned the song, do you mean you learned how to play the entire thing?
Yeah. Well, I've been playing guitars since I was a kid, fortunately, but by no means have I kept it up the whole time. But it meant that I had the foundations there, but yeah, I went away and learned it. I'm an actor. I'm not a heavy metal guitarist. So I let this brilliant guitarist, Aiden, take care of the more complex fingering. And then yes, I did the rest of it. I had a bash. Who doesn't want to feel like a rock star for an afternoon?
What do you think makes Eddie a hero by the end of the series?
Well, I think it is a beautiful exploration of redemption. I think what makes him a hero is self-sacrifice and being in service of something other than yourself. It’s an incredibly brave thing. I think we're so driven by personal goals, ambition, acclaim, and status. I think paying the ultimate price for something other than yourself, for other people, that's always been considered, going back to the Bible, an incredibly brave thing. There's a parable to Eddie's story, really, that is poetic, powerful, and beautiful.
It’s funny, Eddie initially presents as this character who has no ambition, and then we find that he really is looking for meaning, maybe love. Then it turns to that moment of abandoning it all for that self-sacrifice.
Well, everything's so performative at that age—nihilism, a heavy metal movement at that time. It was all very nonconformist, and anti-establishment. But within that, there is a unity. You have to conform to something to rebel against something else. And I think for someone that young, like I didn't have a fucking clue what I was talking about when I was 18. I think I miss the version of myself that was far more assured in nothing, than the 29-year-old guy who knows a bit more, but feels significantly less. So I think there's this nonsense to kind of who you are at that age.
I think you hit on why people really love Stranger Things. It does remind you of what it’s like to feel everything so sharply.
It's so tribal, isn't it? You're looking for your people, and when you find your people, the currency of friendship buys you so much in that period in your life. And then as you get older, there are some culls, some distance, and everything gets far more contained. I invest a lot more in a lot fewer relationships. But I guess Eddie does the opposite of that. He's so militant in how much he wants to be separate from the crowd. But I don't know if I buy that completely from him—which we ultimately see, you know?
I have to ask: the finale basically tells us that Eleven has godlike powers of human resurrection. Is there any chance we see Eddie in Season Five?
Feels a little convenient, doesn't it at the moment? I've got no idea. I mean, I'm as clueless as the rest of us.
Would you be open to it?
Yeah, of course. He's great fun to play and they're great people to play with. So yeah, I would be up for coming back, but it feels like his story's been told, slightly, to me.
Man, the only other thing I have is that the Michael Myers mask during the van heist was a nice touch.
Yeah, it's pretty funny, right? My friend Bec watched it recently. She has a kind of irrational fear—I'm not going to say irrational. Mike Myers is a scary guy. She finds him absolutely terrifying. But it was a nice touch.
This interview originally appeared on Esquire.com.