The 2018 GQ TV Actor of the Year reveals his character, the menacing Billy Hargrove, plays a major role in the forthcoming season of cult Netflix series Stranger Things.
Dacre Montgomery has just had the most fulfilling week of his entire career. “There was a 25-page scene we had to shoot in four days, I flew back to Atlanta just for it,” the 24-year-old actor explains. “All of my scenes are pretty much done now. I walked off-set and… to feel that fulfilled – as an actor and
a human being – it was incredible.”
We believe him, too. After all, Montgomery has had some time to reflect – he’s currently back in Perth, where he grew up and where he’s based when he’s not in Atlanta filming the third season of prodigious Netflix series Stranger Things. “I’m keeping healthy in my mind and my body,” he tells GQ.
“Of all things, where I’m sitting right now – here in Perth – allows me to keep healthy like that. It lets me have regular structure because there’s not any film industry here. There are no voices around me going, ‘Do this, do that’. I come back here to take stock. I think you need to do that or you can take it for granted. But in Perth, I don’t.”
As far as ascents to fame go, Montgomery’s has been meteoric in such a way that only a chiselled twenty-something playing a textbook bad boy on Netflix’s hottest show could be. When Montgomery joined the cast of Stranger Things, at the dawn of the groundbreaking show’s second season, stardom was basically a shoo-in for the young actor.
That’s not to undermine his talent. Montgomery’s portrayal of the villainous Billy Hargrove is confronting, visceral and a little uncomfortable to watch – three traits integral to every great villain. But his ability to engross himself in such a powerful character could also double as his biggest challenge.
Besides his role in the 2017 big-screen adaptation of Power Rangers, which received lukewarm reviews but made some $200m at the box office, Stranger Things was our first real introduction to Montgomery. It’s been a strong first impression. And as they say, first impressions count.
“I think about it a lot,” he says, when we bring into question life after Billy. “I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to match this character with other equally interesting characters?’ I think it’ll have to be something completely different. Something that will concrete me in other ways and show a more multi-dimensional act.”
Again, we believe it’s something he’s been brooding over; our conversation has been going for close to 45 minutes and he’s brought it up more than once.
“I’m waiting. It’s a relationship thing. It’s the same thing as trying to find the right person,” he says. “You can’t overcommit. You’re not going to go around and tell every girl ‘I love you’. So you can’t go around treating every job the same, either.”
He’s evidently an all-or-nothing type of guy, which shows both on-screen and in person. He takes himself and his career seriously, something that, despite coming across as a little intense at times, will undoubtedly see he doesn’t fall victim to the certifiably disposable nature of La La Land.
He says that he’s devoted to finding out where ‘art meets commerce’ – the key, he believes, to a long career in the industry. “There are a lot of actors I’ve met that are better actors than me. But they have no interest or desire to marry the business with the artistic side,” he posits.
“I guess I’m trying to figure out where exactly the industry’s going. The market is being flooded with all of these streaming things – which is great,” he pauses, not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth. “But yeah, I’d love to do a biopic, maybe a comedy or action… all that sort of stuff.”
He’s still got a couple of takes to shoot before filming wraps on Stranger Things season three, with a fourth (and final) season of the show recently promised. But despite the guarantee of work and unprecedented celebrity, Montgomery makes it clear that he’s never not searching for his next calling.
You could mistake this for some kind existential crisis, were he anyone else. But Montgomery seems too sure of himself for that. For him, the search is simply fuelled by an insatiable sense of curiosity and a hunger to locate and push the boundaries of what he’s capable of, as an actor and a person.
He’s sporting a freshly shaven head at the time of our conversation. (“I wanted to see if I had a weird-shaped head. I guess I’m lucky I don’t”). He says the style has been a great disguise mechanism. Of course, his Stranger Things fans are used to seeing him with an ’80s Rob Lowe-style mullet.
“My biggest fear has always been the loss of anonymity,” he admits. “Fame is such an interesting concept, in that this blur starts to form between your job on-set and your public persona.” He tells us that he’s got a few different ‘cloaking mechanisms’, which he’ll don when he’s out to avoid being recognised.
“I’m just not that into it,” he says, referring to ‘the fuss’. “I mean, if there is fan interaction then I’m 100 per cent there right away. But when I’m with my friends and family, it’s extremely important for me to fly under the radar. I don’t really want them to have to experience any of that because it can be very… jarring.”
Montgomery has been more than happy to drive the direction of our conversation. He apologises for “going on a tangent” at numerous points during the interview but evidently, he’s so charged with drive and enthusiasm that he can’t help but talk about it. We don’t blame him. It’s been a monumental year for the actor and with anticipation building for the premiere of Stranger Things season three, which Montgomery says his character is “a huge part of,” he’s not exactly about to fall off the radar any time soon.
“I’ve got a few little plans in place. They’ll make themselves known over the next couple of months,” he says, but he’s coy about discussing details directly. “And that’s in every way – that’s business, that’s philanthropic… and then obviously on screen,” adds Montgomery, making it clear he’s got a lot to prove. And, having been in his presence for all of 70 minutes, we’re sure he’ll do exactly that.