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Between the return of Stranger Things for its third season and the titular role in the Hellboy reboot, David Harbour is going to have a huge 2019. For now, we’ll take him where we can get him, whether it’s during the Super Bowl — we’re sure you caught at least one of his four Tide commercials, which he talked to us about — or on social media, where he is a pure delight.
In the midst of the sometimes horrid cesspool that is social media, Harbour has managed to carve out a place for himself in cyberspace that is equal parts joyous, entertaining, and unexpected — and he brings his fans along for the ride. A rundown of his most recent online excursions: He took senior photos with a follower after she got 25,000 retweets of her request. He even held a trombone in the shot.
Harbour is also slated to officiate another follower’s wedding in September, so long as it works with his Stranger Things shooting schedule — and he gets the first slice of wedding cake.
Then Harbour took a page from his followers’ playbook and asked them to retweet his request to go to Antarctica with Greenpeace so he could do the Hopper dance with penguins.
Greenpeace set a goal of over 200,000 retweets. Harbour’s followers got him there in five hours. He’s officially going this month.
“I’d heard they were doing expeditions. I did randomly put it out there that it would be amazing to see penguins,” he tells Yahoo Entertainment of how it came to pass. “I have a thing for emperor penguins from March of the Penguins — the way they parent, how the women go to get the fish … I thought they were so adorable, so, yeah, I wanted to see them.”
When it came time to reach out on social media to see if Greenpeace would let him tag along, Harbour thought, “Why not give it a shot?” And they took him up on it. Harbour thinks it’s fun when brands respond to people on social media “in a human way.” (He also reports that he gets weird tweets from Carl’s Jr. and Little Debbie from time to time.)
But his desire to dance with the penguins is more than just a social media stunt — Harbour is making a concerted effort to educate himself out of his own perceived blind spots.
“I don’t know a lot about global warming,” he admits. “I know it’s bad and that it’s happening, but I don’t know much about it. So while it’s a fun thing about me going there, I’m an idiot about this stuff, and I think these guys can teach me. I love these creatures, but I also want to learn about my own stupidity. Why don’t I know these things? Why don’t I care about them as much as I should? Is there something wrong with me?”
Harbour hopes to educate his followers in the process too. “The internet and its generation opens up those lines of communication,” he says, adding that he loves the aspect of the web that connects people and redefines the terms of what we’re expected to believe about media, society, and groups of people. And as long as the internet is down to have fun with him, he’ll keep playing on social media. “Hopefully it won’t all blow up in my face,” he jokes.
But just don’t call him the internet’s new boyfriend. “I am just not able to give you guys flowers every day,” he says with regret. “I do love you all so much. On social media, there’s all this troll-y stuff, there’s so much negativity, but when I do these things, there’s so much joy. I’m overjoyed with the silliness in a platform where people can take out other people anonymously, but my followers and others are being so positive and kind and taking GIFs of me with penguins. What a wonderful thing, and I’m going to ride this train to the end. But I won’t buy you flowers — I’m not that good of a boyfriend.” (FYI: He really was Julia Stiles’s boyfriend for a while, so she’d know for sure.)
In addition to that upcoming voyage to see the penguins, there’s another journey Harbour is looking forward to — filming that new season of Stranger Things. He admits that the fervor surrounding the first season made him nervous about shooting the second. As he puts it, “I was the most nervous I’d ever been.” Though he’d worked hard on Season 1, he was able to do so freely because of the lack of expectation that surrounded the show. But as they began the second season at the forefront of the zeitgeist, Harbour felt that the pressure was on.
“I didn’t want us to repeat ourselves. I wanted to give a satisfying experience, and I think we navigated the second season really well. It was a successful season,” he says, adding that he appreciates how people have embraced his character, Sheriff Jim Hopper. “In Season 1, it was the classic hero’s journey. But in Season 2, we got to go into his control issues and him learning to let go. I wondered if the arc would be satisfying, but people seem to love the character, which gives me faith that people want to see us exploring those kinds of things more.”
So what can we expect in Season 3 and beyond? “I feel like going into Seasons 3 and 4 will be liberating,” he says. “There’s a tapestry for people to pick up on and all these ways for us to play it. Now that we’ve gotten through Season 2 and it went well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s smooth sailing ahead — and we’ll get to go so many different places for the audience to enjoy.”
And on social media, you get to go many places with him too. So follow him. Now.
David Harbour also spoke with us exclusively about his Tide ads that ran during the Super Bowl last night. Read about how he “did so many humiliating things” for the spots — and bonded with Terry Bradshaw. Though he doesn’t want his Stranger Things co-star Joe Keery to get “jealous” over it. “I only have eyes for Joe.”
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