Dustin & Steve's 'Stranger Things' Friendship Will Play A Pivotal Role In Season 3, According To Gaten Matarazzo

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Young friendships will be tested in Stranger Things Season 3, but don't worry, nothing's going to tear Dustin and Steve apart: Gaten Matarazzo says Dustin and Steve's friendship will play a crucial role in Season 3. Even better, the two best buds with the best hair are bringing new friends into their fold who will (hopefully) help them save Hawkins, Indiana. Forget about the Demogorgon, this time around it's hormones, a rat infestation, and a mysterious mall that concerns this paranormal small town.

Despite Dustin being M.I.A. in many of the photos promoting Stranger Things Season 3, Matarazzo tells Bustle fans don't need to worry about him. In fact, he's "a big fan of Dustin’s character arc this season," which will include even more screen time with Steve (Joe Keery).

Last season, the unlikely pair bonded over their broken hearts and solidified their BFF-status with a Farrah Fawcett hairspray-assisted glow-up. Now, Matarazzo is channeling his inner Steve offscreen with the #AXEpressYourself challenge in which AXE is encouraging teenage boys to be like Dustin and be more adventurous with their look. When guys share a selfie using that hashtag, AXE will donate a dollar to the anti-bullying organization, Ditch The Label.

While it was fun to see Dustin's adventurous Season 2 lewk, Matarazzo says over the phone that it also gave fans a sneak peek at the new Dustin, who's changing but maybe not as quickly as his friends are.

Gaten Matarazzo visits West Mifflin Area High School for the #AXEpressYourself campaign on May 16, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Courtesy of AXE)

"We're not kids anymore," Mike (Finn Wolfhard) says in the official trailer. This season "touches on this idea that some people are ready to grow up and some people aren't," Matarazzo says. Dustin falls into that latter category, still interested in being a kid for just a little while longer.

In the Stranger Things Season 3 trailer, Dustin's back from camp and putting up a radio tower, which will play a major role in the first couple of episodes, according to the actor. While Dustin may be making contact with those outside Hawkins (and maybe Earth's orbit?), his friends are more interested in talking to girls in town.

Dustin might be losing touch with his OG D&D friends, Mike, Will, and Lukas, but he's making new ones in Maya Hawke's Robin, a new girl in town who works with Steve at Scoops Ahoy!, and Lucas' witty little sister Erica (Priah Ferguson) who's back after her scene-stealing Season 2 debut. "There’s almost an entirely new group that’s formed out of nowhere that people don’t expect," Matarazzo says.

While it's sad to think the Stranger Things gang might be going their separate ways, it's clear that Hawkins could use all the help it can get. A whole lot of rats have popped up in town and play a "pivotal role" in Season 3, according to Matarazzo. "There’s definitely a reason why [Netflix] keeps alluding to the rats," he says of the vermin-focused promotion of the new season.

Of course, Matarazzo isn't going to share that reason before Season 3 starts streaming on July 4 because hello, he wants to keep his job. However, he did offer some insight into how fans can better prepare themselves for the new season. First, he suggests a double feature of 1979's Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing, which are key influences for this gorier new season.

"There’s a little bit more when it comes to body horror," Matarazzo warns of this new season, "but it's not overboard, I don’t want people getting too freaked out. It definitely doesn’t lose its eerie supernatural ‘80s thriller type vibe."

Matarazzo also suggests re-watching Stranger Things Season 2 "very closely, especially the first half" for clues. Oh, and if you're free, you might want to take a trip to Duluth, Georgia. That's where the real Starcourt Mall is located and it contains some Stranger Things Season 3 Easter eggs "hiding in plain sight."

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The Stranger Things crew remodeled a whole section of the Gwinnett Place Mall, which is open to the public and still as '80s as ever. When Stranger Things left the mall, they also left the set as it was during filming, which means it's full of clues to solving this year's mysteries.

"There's pictures of things and stuff in the background that people don’t understand is super important to the plot that only the cast and crew understand," Matarazzo says. Well, that is until now. Duluth, Georgia, here Stranger Things fans come looking for clues to help them with their Season 3 theories.