Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3 ahead. When fans first met Billy Hargrove in Stranger Things 2, he was just like the tough and unpredictable 1980s bully of your nightmares. He wasn't the Demogorgon, but he became the gang's non-supernatural source of fear. But in Season 3, Stranger Things continues to humanize Billy (Dacre Montgomery), even as he faces his own encounter with the supernatural.
Montgomery tells Bustle that he personally asked the Stranger Things creators, Duffer Brothers, for a Season 2 scene in which Billy has an angry confrontation with his father about the whereabouts of his stepsister, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink). And for Stranger Things 3, Montgomery wanted the audience to see Billy's relationship with his biological mother.
"That was my effort with the Duffers to show that side that no one is just bad," Montgomery says in his native Australian accent. "There’s always a reason, right? And in this season, the ending is so fantastic in the same way. Billy is humanized and redemption is very evident, and that was a really nice arc for me to go really dark."
Throughout Billy's dark storyline, there's one character who always stands by him: his sister Max. She expresses only a few small moments of doubt, but despite all that happens, Max has full faith in her stepbrother and always sees the good in him when she's hanging out with the Hawkins gang. It's a bond that further humanizes Billy — even though Montgomery and Sink shared very few scenes together in Season 3. "[I saw] it more as a viewer coming back and watching the eight episodes last week, going, 'Oh yeah it is there, she is fighting for me in her eyes,' the whole way through," he says. "I think that's pretty special, especially the half-siblings component, and [through] all that sort of stuff, the bond is never lost."
Stranger Things is no stranger to subverting 1980s movie stereotypes through its characters and storylines, and Billy is no exception. The character's appearance is an homage to Rob Lowe's St. Elmo's Fire character Billy Hicks, Bruce Springsteen, and The Outsiders, while Billy's attitude has reminded fans of Kiefer Sutherland's characters Ace in Stand By Me and David Powers in The Lost Boys. But like all of those '80s icons, Billy Hargrove is human, too, and Montgomery wants Stranger Things viewers to see that.
"I'm really not trying to play an archetypal bad guy. There's no such thing as good or bad. We're all human beings," he says. "The thing that makes Billy interesting is that he's in a gray area, because we meet him and we see an antagonist, [but] we finally get to see a human by the end of the season."
Though Billy's fate in Stranger Things 3 shows that that humanity may have come at quite a cost, Montgomery is thankful to be able to play a character with a strong arc. Perhaps it took the ultimate sacrifice to prove that he's human, after all.