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Interview: Sadie Sink on the Heart of ‘Stranger Things 4’ and How Volume 2 Sees Max “Braver Than She’s Ever Been”

The actress opens up about how she prepared for Max’s darker scenes, why she was genuinely terrified by Jamie Campbell Bower on set and who she thinks is Vecna’s next victim heading into the final two episodes.

This is Sadie Sink’s Stranger Things season.

The actress, who joined Netflix’s sci-fi coming-of-age series in its second year as Max Mayfield, has become an integral part of the show, especially so in its most recent run, which found her cursed by Jamie Campbell Bower’s Upside Down villain Vecna and only narrowly escaping.

At the beginning of Volume 1, it wasn’t clear what was going on with Max. It was obvious she wasn’t fully herself, but her behavior could have been chalked up to dealing with the grief and guilt of losing her brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Viewers quickly found out, however, there was much more going on beneath the eye’s surface.

In the penultimate season’s fourth episode, “Dear Billy,” directed by Shawn Levy, Max goes toe-to-toe with season four’s big bad, Vecna, who preys on teens’ trauma, exposing the fears and guilt of his victims in order to get inside their minds, torment and kill them. When Max is set to become his latest victim, her friends play Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” finding the musical key to re-open a portal from Venca’s Mind Lair back to the real world, showing her an escape route as they try to revive her in front of Billy’s headstone.

“To be in a position where her life is on the line, but to see her friends showing up for her and choosing to fight was a really powerful moment for her,” Sink tells The Hollywood Reporter about that scene. “The heart of the season and the entire show is based upon the idea that friendship is stronger than fear. That really comes to play in that moment for Max.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Sink opened up about how she prepared for Max’s darker season four journey, why she was genuinely terrified by scene partner Bower on set, how she views Max’s fate and who she thinks is Vecna’s next victim heading into the final two episodes of the season.

How did you prepare for Max’s intense scenes this season?

There’s really no real way to prepare yourself. When I’m on set, that’s usually when it all sets in and intuition kind of kicks in. But, for this year, I thought it was important to really understand Max’s innermost thoughts — because she’s definitely not an open book. So it’s hard for her friends, her family and the audience members to really know what’s going on up there. I thought it was important that, in my own time, I did some daydreaming, journaling, whatever; just some internal thought and reflection on everything that she’s been through, and everything going on up there to bring some colors to the table. Not everyone has to know what [is going through her head], but I did that for my own sense of security and to feel like I’m in touch with the character as much as I can.
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Interview: ‘Stranger Things’ Star Sadie Sink Shares the Vulnerable Way She Tapped Into Max’s Headspace in S4

SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from Season 4, Vol. 1 of “Stranger Things,” currently streaming on Netflix.

Sadie Sink’s Max really goes through it in Season 4 of “Stranger Things.” After losing her brother, Billy (Dacre Montgomery), in the finale of Season 3, the newest season starts with her being torn apart by guilt about what happened.

“She’s just asking herself all of these questions, and putting the blame on herself,” Sink tells Variety. “It’s not necessarily because she’s mourning the loss of their relationship, but more just convincing herself that, somehow, she’s to blame for all the awful things that happen in her life — and the domino effect that Billy’s death had on her family and everyone around her.”

On top of all of that, Max’s best friend, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), has left town; she’s broken up with her boyfriend, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin); and she’s having visions of an actual monster.

Here, Sink — now 20 — talks about how she got into the headspace of the season, shares her thoughts about what’s in those emotional letters Max wrote to her friends, and reveals whether we’ll see more of Max’s mom.

When the season began, Max wasn’t in a good place. How did you tap into the darkness she was going through?

I’ve been with this character for the most formative years of my life. So I really know her very well at this point. But we never get to tap into this kind of vulnerability on the show that often, because it’s so fast-paced that there’s so much happening. So having a storyline that taps into some of her more emotional sides and showcases some vulnerability — which we don’t really get to see in the previous seasons — that was super exciting. In terms of preparation, so much of the season had to do with internal thoughts, and the thoughts that eat away at you. You don’t share with anyone.
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