Bob Newby, superhero! Sean Astin may have played the love interest of Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers on Stranger Things, but he never thought they were endgame. Instead, he’s been pulling for Joyce and Jim Hopper (David Harbour).
“I’ve shipped them since the beginning,” the 49-year-old exclusively tells Us Weekly.
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Astin joined the cast of the Netflix smash in season 2. The manager of the local RadioShack — and former Hawkins Middle School A.V. Club founder — instantly became an audience favorite for his nerdy but sweet outlook and his relationship with Joyce, who had just gone through a traumatic event with son Will Byers (Noah Schnapp).
“Winona is a revelation,” Astin says. “I loved every second working with her. Her body of work is magical. I just can’t say enough how much I admire her.”
The cast had a tough time saying goodbye to Astin when his character was killed off in episode 8 when he was attacked by Demodogs while trying to escape the Hawkins Lab.
“Bob was always intended to die, but we fell in love with Sean and what he was doing with this character,” show co-creator Ross Duffer told Entertainment Weekly in May 2019. “He was supposed to die in like episode 4 and we just kept keeping him alive because he was so great and what he added to the show.”
Astin was a huge fan of the series before joining, even sending in an audition tape despite his impressive career. In addition to working on he 80s-inspired drama, he’s best known for the ‘80s cult classic The Goonies, the Lord of the Rings franchise and 1993’s Rudy.
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Astin doesn’t think he’ll be shooting any future Stranger Things flashbacks, but he would return if asked. “No. But, you never say no,” he tells Us. “Here’s hoping.”
Since Bob’s exit, Joyce and Hopper’s chemistry has fully surfaced, with Joyce even asking the police chief on a date in the season 3 series finale. Although Hopper appeared to die in the heartbreaking final moments, the season 4 teaser officially confirmed that he’s very much alive. In March, the show was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’d like to see Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) running a program of young people with extraordinary abilities, proving that Papa’s behavior was evil and her way is enlightened,” Astin shares with Us on how he’d like the series to end. “Matthew Modine is my friend and I’m sure he doesn’t see Papa as evil. But it wasn’t right.”
Astin has been staying busy since saying goodbye to The Upside Down. He’s worked on No Good Nick, appeared on Supergirl and has narrated The Epic Tales of Captain Underpants in Space. He’s also continued to fight for mental health advocacy. In July, he spoke about his mission during WETA’s Well Beings Virtual National Town Hall at NAMICon 2020.
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“We should all be focused on our health and wellness. This life is precious and we should take measures to insure our happiness and our ability to thrive with others. I see our mental health journey as a key part of this value system. People must understand that to a legal and medical standard, they are their own bosses,” Astin shares with Us. “It’s with this confidence that one can explore what the mental health medial world has to offer. There are extraordinary resources available. I would say that there is no shame in being in pain. There is only a desire and willingness to find a path that works for each individual. On the other side of fear is triumph. No one is truly alone. It’s smart to seek aid.”
Astin’s late mother, actress Patty Duke, was diagnosed with manic depression in 1982. “My mother’s life was extraordinary. Her impact on so many people was filled with joy and love and healing,” he adds. “I would say that for my part, being engaged in this discussion is a gift from her and an opportunity to be helpful to others. It is a blessing that I can turn the tough parts of my childhood into value for others.”
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