Cary Elwes wants to get something straight: His “Stranger Things” character, Larry Kline, is not here to Make Hawkins Great Again.
The actor, who is best known for his role opposite Robin Wright in the 1980s classic “The Princess Bride,” joins Season 3 of “Stranger Things” as the corrupt, egomaniacal, self-interested mayor of the small Indiana town. There, he serves as a pain in the side of Chief Hopper (David Harbour), and someone whose crooked dealings may bring Hawkins residents more trouble than they bargained for. However, if there’s one thing Kline isn’t, Elwes says, it’s a surrogate for the real-life president.
Ahead of the latest season, there were rumblings online about Kline being inspired by Donald Trump, especially because the trailer showed a glimpse of signage similar to the president’s.
The season reveals that the blond mayor also has shady ties to Russia and at one point, after sustaining some unfortunate bruising to his face, he applies makeup that appears to give him a somewhat oranger complexion.
However, Elwes told HuffPost this is a case of drawing connections that aren’t really there.
“He just happened to be a politician who is very self-centered,” he said, adding that it’s “not a comment on the president at all.”
In other interviews ahead of the season premiere, before the Russia storyline was revealed publicly, the actor said he too initially thought the character had some Trumpian inspiration. However, the creators of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer (who are known professionally as the Duffer brothers), dismissed the idea. And at least one apparent connection ― the mayor being obsessed with throwing a Fourth of July Fun Fair ― was written long before the real-life president decided to have a Fourth of July military parade.
Below, Elwes gets into his true inspiration for Kline, what it’s like navigating Twitter and what the mayor’s new campaign slogan might be if he runs for office again one day.
How was Mayor Larry Kline pitched to you?
The Duffers told me that they wanted me to play this character and allowed me to pick and choose between a number of politicians on my own, which I ran by them, and make it a combination of people as I chose fit. They basically wanted to make a comment on how politics play in the story. Because you have a character like Hopper, played wonderfully by David Harbour, who is a man who deeply cares about the community. And in stark contrast, you have a mayor who basically couldn’t care less.
I also read you sent them a questionnaire. What did you want to know?
I don’t really go into detail about my preparation, but, yes, I did send them a questionnaire, and yeah, they were very helpful.
In watching the season, it does seem like there are strong allusions between Kline and our current president, with the ties to Russia, the similar signage and even some slightly orange-looking makeup. How much did that play in?
There’s nothing. There’s nothing. No. I think that somehow got picked up by a reporter and people ran with it, but that has no bearing on our current president whatsoever. I mean, I don’t know where anyone saw orange makeup? But I certainly didn’t see any. No, he just happened to be a politician who is very self-centered, and is very driven by material things, but it’s not a comment on the president at all.
So the character is not trolling President Trump in any way?
No, absolutely not, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get that impression.
If Twitter were around in the ’80s, would Mayor Kline be tweeting?
[Laugh] I don’t know. That’s a good question. Again, I don’t want to give the impression that this is the character in a way based on the president.
Since Twitter is such a big part of the “Stranger Things” fandom, what is it like being a part of that world?
It’s been extraordinary, the response to the show, as you know, and it’s
certainly raised my profile. And it’s been a joy. It’s like a thrill ride, the whole thing.
What about for you personally interacting with fans on Twitter?
You know, I’m still learning. I certainly don’t have a huge following. I’m just
doing my best to share things. And I’m learning. What can I say? There are folks on this show that are far more social-media savvy than I am. I’m observing them a great deal.
You do have one story in your book, “As You Wish,” about the first time you met Andre the Giant. And it’s a great story. Can you talk about that a bit?
Listen, it’s in the book. It’s just that Andre decided to share with all of us how powerful he could blow… he could fart. What can I say? That was our first day on the set.
So obviously that’s a memorable story from first meeting a co-star. What’s a memorable story from when you were first on the set of “Stranger Things”?
It’s very different. This is a show where there’s not a lot of humor with the character I play. We certainly didn’t have a 7-foot giant on set with flatulence problems. It was just all about the work really, and that’s kind of how I roll. I may not take myself seriously, but I do take my work seriously, and that’s pretty much the modus operandi on the set of “Stranger Things.” Everybody works very hard.
What do you think people can expect from Season 3?
Well, in my humble opinion, I think Season 3 for me is more intense, powerful and terrifying than Seasons 1 and 2 together. The stakes are higher, and the thrills are more intense.
If Mayor Kline ends up running for reelection one day, what would his campaign slogan be?
Oh that’s very funny. Let me think. I would say, “A mayor who cares.” Ironic.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.