Yep, Paul Reiser’s Upcoming Appearance in Stranger Things Is Intended to Remind You of Aliens
With the casting of Goonies star Sean Astin and Aliens star Paul Reiser, it’s pretty clear that Stranger Things‘s second season is capitalizing on our collective memories of iconic ’80s movies. But also, according to Stranger Things co-creators Ross and Matt Duffer, Reiser’s casting was intended as an intentional harkening back to his role as Carter Burke. Specifically, the Duffers wanted to encourage the audience to question whether they could really trust Paul Reiser’s character, since they’ll be mentally associating him with the prior role that he played in Aliens.
Spoilers for Aliens, I guess, but Paul Reiser’s character ends up being mega-untrustworthy. At the time, his betrayal was much more unexpected, and his casting was intended to encourage the audiences to trust him more, according to what Ross Duffer told EW: “Paul [Reiser] was saying the reason James Cameron cast him is because he thought people would inherently trust him and it would be a twist.” Now, Reiser’s appearance will have the opposite effect. Ross Duffer hopes the audience feels uncertain about him: “We want people to have those debates like, ‘Do you trust that guy or is he Burke?'”
Apparently, the Duffer brothers had envisioned Reiser in the role from the get-go, even going so far as to internally refer to his character Dr. Owen as “Paul Reiser.” When Reiser heard that, he said, “Nothing has made me happier. That tickled me.”
As for whether we can trust Dr. Owen or not… that remains to be seen! In Reiser’s words:
They told me who I was playing and they told me what they had in mind. It was sort of nebulous — is he a good guy or a bad guy? To be honest, I’ve only read a few of the scripts so I still don’t know and I’m not sure they know. I think part of what they were tickled by was, to whatever extent people know me from Aliens, they’re automatically going, “Oh this guy is no good.” I don’t know where they’re going with it, but it’s a fun thing to play…
I did a scene a few weeks ago with David Harbour [who plays Jim Hopper], and it was a heated scene where he’s sort of holding me accountable. My lines were to the effect of, “Trust me. Everything is fine.” I said, “I don’t believe me, and I am me!” It just feels like there’s such a well-worn precedent not just of Aliens but in life when a government guy says, “No, you’re fine. There’s nothing to worry about here.” It’s like, “Yeah, I don’t believe you.”
According to Reiser, his character will have “a little more humanity” than Matthew Modine’s character, Dr. Martin Brenner. EW reports that Reiser’s character, Dr. Owen, is “in charge of the lab and a cleanup of the previous incident,” and Reiser elaborates, “My guy is much more hands-on and sort of among his many degrees is that he has a bedside manner that Modine’s character did not have. I know coming into this what this community has gone through and my job is to try and walk them through their mistrust.”
Reiser refuses to reveal any further plot secrets at all, though, and who knows if he’s even being truthful or not when he says that he isn’t sure whether his character is evil? You know how Paul Reiser can be… you just can’t trust that guy, right?
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