[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from Season 2 of “Stranger Things.”]
It’s OK to hate Billy Mayfield, the bully who loudly and violently made a splash in Hawkins, Indiana, for the second season of “Stranger Things.” After all, he follows in the footsteps of some of the classic ‘80s bullies in films such as “Teen Wolf,” “Stand by Me,” “Pretty in Pink,” “The Lost Boys,” “Footloose,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.”
In fact, breakout star Dacre Montgomery had to read Kiefer Sutherland’s scene from “Stand by Me” – the 1986 Stephen King film that’s set in the late ‘50s – to demonstrate that he was threatening enough for the role. Billy’s personality is so aggressive that he’s a danger to others around him. He even beats Steve (Joe Keery) to a bloody pulp during a confrontation at the Byers house.
On an episode of the after-show “Beyond Stranger Things,” co-creator Matt Duffer said, “Stephen King does this really well. This is a character who is not a murderer, but you could see him accidentally taking something too far and you could see this ending up with Steve being permanently brain damaged. You hear those stories. We wanted it scary in that sense. That was the whole idea of the Billy character, to have a human villain that is on the edge.”
Montgomery spoke with IndieWire about having sympathy for Billy. Although the character starts off as an antagonist, later, he’s the one being attacked and abused by his father, Neil Mayfield (Will Chase).
“That’s exactly it. That’s the sandpaper flipping over to the soft side as we get more depth, more insight about his relationship with Billy’s patriarch,” said Montgomery. “Who is this human that molded the way that he is, that’s formulated this hatred inside of him that he lets out on other people?
“I was bullied in high school and it’s interesting coming from the other side of the camera lens, finding out that all of these people that I thought were my antagonists in my life were probably just as insecure as I was at that age,” he continued. “All of these adolescents filled with these chemicals and bodies changing. It’s one, huge arc right until you’re in your early 20s. You’re always changing and always learning, but it’s very much that chapter in your life: fall crazy in love, become extremely angry at little things. It’s a tumultuous time.”
Despite Billy’s constant verbal abuse of his stepsister Max (Sadie Sink) and trying to control who she’s hanging out with, Montgomery insists that Billy loves her.
“Definitely. I think he cares a lot about his sister,” said Montgomery. “I have a sister the same age. There’s 12 years between me and my youngest sister, who is 11. Sometimes with her I can be quite forceful. I think that your relationship is always changing with your siblings. I think she’s also rebelling, she’s like, ‘I want to be out with my friends.’ Billy’s caught in between, it’s a weird crux that he’s trying to make work and he doesn’t know the line between love and a certain aggression. I think it’s hard for him to actually show how he really feels, which I think is an accurate reflection of a lot of young relationships between siblings.”
This season, when he wasn’t being aggressive or being yelled at himself, he was charming the rather impressionable Mrs. Wheeler (Cara Buono), who appears to be in an attention-starved marriage. Although Montgomery doesn’t know what’s in store for Season 3, he did have one wish — perhaps inspired by that interaction.
“Fall in love. I think definitely, a female,” he said. “I would love to see Billy on the football field under the stars with a picnic rug and an actress and actually having a connection that’s outside of his family and the people that he torments. I think that would be really nice to see that side of him.”