New ‘Stranger Things’ Prequel Will Be “Mega Episode,” Matt Duffer Reveals

in Movies & TV

(L to R) Argyle, Jonathan, Eleven, Will, and Mike in 'Stranger Things' Season 4

Credit: Netflix

The world of Stranger Things is getting bigger. While Season 5 is a few years away from release on Netflix, with recent delays caused by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes (understandably), the franchise continues to go from strength to strength.

For starters, there are multiple Stranger Things spinoffs in development, including an anime series and a Saturday morning cartoon-inspired series. We also have the four seasons on Netflix, which many fans will undoubtedly revisit before Season 5 eventually arrives.

Max and Dustin looking into the Upside Down in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

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Season 5 will be the final season, but it won’t mark the end of Stranger Things altogether. But while many of the spinoffs are yet to get release dates, there’s still a great deal of additional material out there for fans to enjoy while they wait.

The flagship Netflix series is just the tip of the iceberg. There are novels, comic books, and so much more. More recently, the franchise crossed over with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the one-off comic book special TMNT x Stranger Things (2023).

'TMNT x Stranger Things' cover
Credit: IDW Publishing / Dark Horse Comics

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There’s also an Eddie Munson-focused novel releasing on Halloween, which is sure to offer some comfort to fans still grieving over the character’s death in Season 4. However, the most epic Stranger Things installment isn’t a novel, comic book, or television show.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow (2023) is a stage play that will turn the Phoenix Theater in London’s West End upside down later this year. It’s the first stage adaptation of the Netflix series; however, as it’s set in 1959, new actors will play all returning characters.

The D&D club huddling in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

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Some of those returning characters are Joyce Maldonado (Isabella Pappas), James Hopper, Jr. (Oscar Lloyd), Louis McCartney (Henry Creel), and Bob Newby (Christopher Buckley).

The entire cast for The First Shadow was revealed last month by Deadline. It includes Shane Attwooll (Chief Hopper), Chase Brown (Lonnie Byers), Christopher Buckley (Bob Newby), Ammar Duffus (Charles Sinclair), Gilles Geary (Ted Wheeler), Florence Guy (Karen Childress), Max Harwood (Allen Munson), Michael Jibson (Victor Creel), Oscar Lloyd (James Hopper, Jr.), Louis McCartney (Henry Creel), Isabella Pappas (Joyce Maldonado), Matthew Pidgeon (Father Newby), Calum Ross (Walter Henderson), Maisie Norma Seaton (Claudia Henderson), Patrick Vaill (Dr. Brenner), Lauren Ward (Virginia Creel), Ella Karuna Williams (Patty Newby), and Kemi Awoderu (Sue Anderson).

Check out the tweet below shared by the official Netflix X/Twitter account in September, which reveals first-look promotional images of the new cast:

Step into Hawkins 1959 with the cast of #StrangerThingsOnStage. Before they were a chief, a mother, and a superhero…they were classmates. Oscar Lloyd is James Hopper, Jr., Isabella Pappas is Joyce Maldonado Christopher Buckley is Bob Newby

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Now, in an interview with the LA Times, the creative team behind The First Shadow (which includes producer Sonia Friedman, writer Kate Trefry, director Stephen Daldry, co-director Justin Martin, and creative producers Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer) reveals a ton of information about the stage play, including how epic it’s going to be.

“We’ve been making sure it can stand alone without the special effects, because it’s all about story,” Sonia Friedman says. “We are going to blow people’s minds. We are going to terrify with some of the most startling, extraordinary things with the physical production.”

Dustin and the gang ready to play D&D in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

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“One of the conversations Stephen [Daldry] and I had been having was, ‘What theater have we ever seen where you get genuinely scared?'” Justin Martin says. “It was an interesting challenge and provocation. We talked about other [Netflix] titles, but this one felt like the most imaginative and the most challenging to try and find a stage language for.”

Stranger Things co-creator Matt Duffer describes the upcoming origin story a “mega episode,” which is sure to excite fans who can’t wait until Season 5 arrives, which the Duffer brothers have already compared to The Lord of the Rings in terms of scale and scope.

“The goal was to figure out, what does a mega episode of Stranger Things look like on stage?” he says. “It was a very long, multi-year process to figure that out. But where they’ve landed is incredibly exciting.”

Hopper in the Russian prison in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

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Talking about the story for the stage play, Matt’s brother, Ross Duffer, says that the “idea was to explore Henry Creel [who becomes the Upside Down-dwelling creature known as Vecna] and his backstory and fill in a gap that we don’t explore in Season 4.”

He also talks about the consistency between the play — which is already confirmed to be canon — and Season 4, saying, “The play was being developed simultaneously with us writing Season 4 so we were adjusting as we went. It was an interesting way to develop a story, but to do it concurrently like that made sure everything locks in mythology-wise.”

Max floating in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: Upcoming ‘Stranger Things’ Spin-Off Shares First Look

The team also revealed that Stephen Daldry approached Sonia Friedman after seeing her company’s production of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (2016) in the West End’s Palace Theater, the stage play that follows the seven Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling.

Like the Harry Potter production, The First Shadow will also be told over two chapters. However, whether or not this will involve splitting it into two separate performances is unclear. The website’s FAQ page states that “the running show time is still to be confirmed.”

Nancy Wheeler in in 'Stranger Things' Season 3 poster
Credit: Netflix

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“The climactic events that happen within these two stage episodes had to be something that could be written off as not magical or science fiction,” Friedman says. “It had to be spectacular and make sense, but we had to go forward in honesty with our characters.”

For the full article with LA Times, click here.

Henry Creel in the 'Stranger Things: The First Shadow' trailer
Credit: Stranger Things — The First Shadow

Related: First Look for Upcoming ‘Stranger Things’ Spin-off Revealed

As per the official website for the new prequel, here’s the synopsis for The First Shadow:

BEFORE THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN…

Hawkins, 1959: a regular town with regular worries. Young Jim Hopper’s car won’t start, Bob Newby’s sister won’t take his radio show seriously and Joyce Maldonado just wants to graduate and get the hell out of town. When new student Henry Creel arrives, his family finds that a fresh start isn’t so easy… and the shadows of the past have a very long reach.

Brought to life by a multi-award-winning creative team, who take theatrical storytelling and stagecraft to a whole new dimension, this gripping new adventure will take you right back to the beginning of the Stranger Things story — and may hold the key to the end.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow official artwork
Credit: Netflix (via Stranger Things: The First Shadow website)

Check out the trailer below:

Related: Beloved ‘Stranger Things’ Actor Speaks out Ahead of Exit From the Show

As per Netflix, here’s the official synopsis for Stranger Things Season 4:

It’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time – and navigating the complexities of high school hasn’t made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.

Stranger Things artwork poster
Credit: Netflix

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Season 4 stars Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers), David Harbour (Jim Hopper), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven/Jane Hopper), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson), Paul Reiser (Dr. Sam Owens), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Matthew Modine (Papa/Martin Brenner), Maya Hawke (Robin Buckley), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Sadie Sink (Max Mayfield), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), and Jamie Campbell Bower (Vecna/One/Henry Creel).

Stranger Things seasons 1 — 4 are streaming on Netflix.

The First Shadow is set to premiere in London’s Phoenix Theater on December 14, 2023.

Are you excited for The First Shadow? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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