[Warning: The below contains spoilers for “Stranger Things 4.”]
Jamie Campbell Bower certainly has turned things Upside Down when it comes to the “Stranger Things” narrative. The actor plays Season 4 villain (well, is he?!) Vecna, and Bower dismantled the theories of Vecna being just a terrifying monster out for revenge.
While Bower as Vecna made co-star Millie Bobby Brown cry on set, along with grossing out audiences everywhere thanks to truly horrific Freddy Krueger-esque prosthetics, the actor has a soft spot for the disfigured character out for revenge. Turns out, Vecna was originally unassuming Henry, who is cast to the Upside Down by Eleven (Brown).
Bower told Variety that Henry/Vecna had “more humanity than perhaps any others” prior to his life being (literally) torn apart.
“Am I able to view him as a villain? I’m certainly able to view him as as a point of conflict. But in terms of, like, is he evil or villainous? I mean, I understand him, and I love him. And I relate to him,” Bower said. “I just got a pain in my eyes as I was saying that — maybe I should shut up! Like, I understand him, and so I’m always gonna be on his side.”
Bower pointed to Vecna’s origin story as why he’s a more complicated character.
“He grew up in an environment where his father murdered a civilian and a civilian family on the orders of people he never knew, who were presenting themselves as these upstanding citizens. In whose eyes are they upstanding? I’m still angry about it now!” Bower explained. “So, there was a lot of humanity there, and then when El sends him into the Upside Down, all he’s left with is this rage and resentment. She takes everything away from him — everything that he possibly could have had, is now gone because of her. That is enraging. It’s more than that — it’s hate-fueling. It’s irritating. It’s actually really irritating.”
Bower continued, “I think there’s still a level of humanity to him, even where he is now, but I think the humanity of him being where he is now is a fact that I can relate to. I’m sure we all can. Sometimes if we hold on to things for too long, they become consuming — really, really consuming — and I feel like that’s where he’s gotten to, he’s in this consuming state. Maybe that’s bullshit. But it feels right to me.”
Bower transformed into Vecna through over seven and a half hours worth of prosthetic application daily, with his call time at 3 a.m. to prep for 10 to 12 hours of shooting.
VFX supervisor Michael Maher exclusively told IndieWire that “Stranger Things” creators Matt and Ross Duffer wanted to “push the explosiveness” of effects when it came to Vecna’s appearance.
“The texture matches Vecna, who’s in control of his environment and everything stems from him,” Maher said. “He’s attached to the vines that lift him up. It’s like a spiderweb. Black widows are a big part of the season as a metaphor. Essentially, the vines in the Upside Down are coming and melding with him so he can get in this meditative state.”