Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third season of Stranger Things! Stop reading if you don’t want to know what happens.
• Actor Brett Gelman returned for his second Stranger Things season as Murray Bauman.
• Murray is a conspiracy theorist and investigator whom Hopper knows.
• Gelman dished on all things Stranger Things 3 with us.
For television fans, Brett Gelman’s face may have been familiar even before he showed up on Stranger Things. Playing a series of assholes, weirdos, and oddballs, Gelman appeared in one-off and recurring roles on shows like Mad Men and Love, and in regular roles on short-lived sitcoms like Married and Go On. So when he appeared in the second season of Netflix’s hit sci-fi/mystery series as Murray, the conspiracy theorist and resident Russia expert, the fit was natural.
Even with all his experience in television—he also appeared on Fleabag this summer —Gelman still feels a particular closeness to the Stranger Things characters. When Chief Hopper, whom Gelman refers to as “the closest thing we’ve gotten to Han Solo since Han Solo,” appeared to be killed in the season finale, he felt it just as much as the rest of us.
“I was just as saddened by the death of Chief Hopper as everybody else,” he told Men’s Health. “I mean, I bawled for that letter. I knew that that monologue was coming, but I was like…oh, it’s heartbreaking.“
Murray was a fun surprise in the show’s second season, and we were excited to see him return. While he appeared in the same number of episodes as the second season—four—Murray’s role in Stranger Things 3 felt greatly expanded, as he traveled from location to location with Hopper, Joyce, and Alexei. “I was not disappointed by what I was given in the second season,” Gelman said,“but I thought that the Duffers and the rest of the writing team really made my character grow and do more, and be more important to the storyline.“
The relationship that Stranger Things fans have really latched onto was Murray’s with the (late, and doomed) Russian scientist, Alexei. The response to the Slurpee-guzzling, carnival-loving Alexei has been huge, and he and Murray built a fun on-screen rapport. Alexei’s discovery of American culture, embracing not only Slurpees but burgers, Carnival games, and more, gave the normally-grumpy Murray—at least momentarily—a fun-loving, can’t-wait-to-eat-this-corndog disposition.
Gelman noticed the strong reaction to his character, and even posted some Murray/Alexei/Joyce/Hopper fan art to his own Instagram. “I was hoping that this would be the reaction, but you never think that that’s for sure until it happens, and then the way in which it happens is so massive, it almost doesn’t seem real.“
It’s impossible to chat with a Stranger Things cast member without theorizing about what happened at the end of the season. A brief recap: Murray, along with Chief Hopper and Joyce, infiltrated the Russians’ base, and after getting Planck’s Constant correct, were able to shut the Upside Down machine down, seemingly killing Hopper in the process. But a post-credits scene taking place in a Russian prison, and referring to an unnamed “American,” has many wondering who that could be.
“I think it’s JFK,” Gelman said, laughing. “I really don’t know. I really don’t know. I have no idea. It could be a villain, it could be a hero. I have no idea. Maybe they’re setting up a whole new character for season four.”
Another little easter egg that fans have discovered is Murray’s phone number, which was spotted in the show, and also shared by Gelman on Instagram.
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When you call the number, you get a message that sure seems like some kind of hint for Stranger Things 4:
“Hi, you have reached the residence of Murray Bauman. Mom, if this is you, please hang up and call me between the hours of 5 and 6pm as previously discussed, ok?
“If this is Joyce, Joyce, thank you for calling, I have been trying to reach you. I have an update. It’s about, well, it’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad, but it’s something.
“If this is anyone but my mother or Joyce, well, you think you’re real clever, getting my number, don’t ya? Well, here’s some breaking news for you: You’re not clever. You’re not special. You are just simply one of the many, many nimwits to have called here, and the closest you will ever get to me is this prerecorded message so at the beep, do me a favor and hang up and never call here again.”
Expectedly, Gelman played coy about the nature of Murray’s voicemail message. “All I can say is that the Duffers wrote that, and they were like will you do this? And, they didn’t really tell me what it means,” he said.
Gelman wasn’t offering a ton up here, so the only way to navigate to an answer was through coded questions. So, let’s try this again—If that voicemail were referring to, oh, you know, a certain police chief, would he be surprised by that?
“I would be! I would be terribly surprised,” he said, laughing at the Murray-esque attempt to uncover any new piece of Stranger Things information. “Everything about this show is surprising, so regardless of whatever that means, it’s going to be a huge shock to me. I don’t know.”
OK, so maybe he doesn’t know. But what he does know about is one of his character’s last scenes of the season, in which he gets into a verbal sparring match with Erica, Lucas’ little sister. In the scene when Murray is breaking down a plan to get back into the Russian base, Erica cuts him off mid way through—telling him, based on her own recent experience, why his plan won’t work. “I’m sorry, why is this four-year-old speaking to me?” Murray asks. “I’m 10, you bald bastard!” she yells back.
While this seemed like a scene that may have been improvised, Gelman clarified that it was in fact very tightly scripted, and was just as wild and fun as it came across on the screen. “It’s really wild to be yelling at a kid, and then them be yelling at you even more back, and calling you a ‘bald bastard,’” he said. “I was very proud of all the bald jokes. I wore them well.”
It was a great season to be Murray on Stranger Things. Maybe when we see him next, that Russian-speaker will come in handy saving a certain someone from a certain prison. Sure, Gelman might be terribly surprised, but we wouldn’t be.
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