Why Stranger Things Season 1 Was So Miserable For David Harbour

Sheriff Hopper David Harbour Stranger Things Netflix

David Harbour had a respectable career in Hollywood prior to joining Stranger Things, although its safe to say the Netflix series elevated his career tremendously. A lot of that is due to Harbour's powerful performance as Sheriff Hopper, which the actor recently admitted made him miserable while filming Season 1. Harbour explained the process he went through in the show's inaugural season to tap into the sad sheriff, which played into his mental state alongside the immense pressure of starring in a Netflix series and potentially changing the course of his career:

The first season was the most miserable time in my life. It was sort of the greatest time in my life, too, but I just wanted to work on it so hard. I was like, 'You got a shot at the pro ball here. Why not sacrifice six months of your life to have something resonate very deeply if possible.' We went down to Atlanta to shoot it, and I had very little interaction with anyone. I just would sit in my house, and be very depressed. I would rarely go out. I would think a lot about the character. I started to learn the ukulele a little bit, so I'd play weird songs on the ukulele and just sit. I read a lot, but I'd just sit in my house. I remember being so sad. I remember when we wrapped, I drove back from Atlanta to New York with my friend. It was the oddest thing. I'm normally a pretty loquacious, kind of fun person. I got in that car with my friend, and I couldn't even talk.

Stranger Things came into David Harbour's life after he hadn't worked in a few months. Prior to that, he had just completed a stint on a series that, in his words, was not really good, and was resigned to the fact that his career as an actor could be over. Harbour was already feeling a bit down prior to getting the role, and then he got the role of Hopper in and had to mentally become a man who has practically lost everything in life. Suffice to say, it wasn't a great headspace for Harbour to be in.

That said, the isolation, pressure, and sadness did wonders for David Harbour's portrayal of Sheriff Hopper, and propelled him to fan favorite status in Season 1. Harbour told actor Kyle MacLachlan (via Variety) that the process has gotten easier, which is tied to the fact that Hopper is a somewhat changed person in Season 2, and will apparently change some more in Season 3. Harbour didn't do a deep dive into what all is changing for the Sheriff in Season 3, but jokingly made mention of that mustache Stranger Things fans have spotted him sporting on social media as a part of those changes.

As far as how David Harbour managed to tap into the mind of Sheriff Hopper at the beginning, the actor stated a lot more work goes into embodying a role than most non-actors may realize. Harbour said he incorporated a form of Strasberg method acting, and used a lot of sense memory to create a "creative garden" of sorts to drive his performance in scenes. Harbour said he had to go deeper in that process with Stranger Things than he ever did in any role prior, but noted he's glad that he did because it paid off.

Stranger Things Season 3 is currently in production and is headed to Netflix sometime in the future. For a look at other upcoming shows headed to Netflix much sooner, visit our Netflix premiere guide. Those looking for a broader outline of shows coming to television can find what they need with our summer premiere guide.

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick Joest is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend with his hand in an eclectic mix of television goodness. Star Trek is his main jam, but he also regularly reports on happenings in the world of Star Trek, WWE, Doctor Who, 90 Day Fiancé, Quantum Leap, and Big Brother. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Radio and Television. He's great at hosting panels and appearing on podcasts if given the chance as well.