JONATHAN COULTON: This is NPR's ASK ME ANOTHER. I'm Jonathan Coulton, here with puzzle guru Art Chung. Now here's your host, Ophira Eisenberg.
OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
Thank you, Jonathan. Soon we'll find out which of our contestants, Vanessa or Jere, will be today's big winner. But now it's time to welcome our next special guest. He stars as police chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix series "Stranger Things," which is a sci-fi horror show set in the 1980s that is a huge hit. Please welcome David Harbour.
DAVID HARBOUR: Thanks so much. Thank you, Brooklyn. Yeah.
EISENBERG: Now, the listeners cannot see this, but David has one of those Stormtrooper boots on because it turns out you tore your Achilles playing Achilles...
HARBOUR: There you go.
EISENBERG: ...In Shakespeare in the Park.
HARBOUR: There you go, not a good thing to do. If you're deciding on an injury, I would choose a different one.
HARBOUR: Yeah, I was in Shakespeare in the Park this summer in "Troilus And Cressida," which is a play...
HARBOUR: Oh, wow, some of you may have seen the six performances that I gave.
HARBOUR: I was playing the great Greek general Achilles in the Trojan War. So I was jumping around, and I lunged for Hector to intimidate him. And it just snapped.
EISENBERG: At what point in the show did you...
HARBOUR: Well, it was fantastic because, like, I sort of finished my lines, went off stage and I had a scene coming up, like, in - you know, like, a minute or so. And I went off stage, and I said to the stage managers, I was like, hey, guys, I'm pretty sure I just tore my Achilles' tendon. We're going to have to stop the show. And they were like...
EISENBERG: No, no.
HARBOUR: Let's get him some ice.
HARBOUR: They gave me a bag of ice, and they were like - I heard my entrance cue. And I was like, you're kidding me, right?
HARBOUR: And I just dragged my foot out. I grabbed a chair, and I put it down in the middle of the stage. And I just started icing my foot...
HARBOUR: ...Like, saying my lines. And they wouldn't stop the show.
EISENBERG: But you remembered your lines through severe...
HARBOUR: Yeah, it actually - you know, it's surprisingly not painful because the adrenaline is pumping so much. I mean, you're out in front of 2,000 people in Central Park and you're acting up a storm. And, like, I didn't feel anything until the next day. And then I felt a lot.
EISENBERG: So you play Police Chief Jim Hopper...
EISENBERG: ...In "Stranger Things."
HARBOUR: Yes, yes.
HARBOUR: Yes, I love him so much. I love him so much. He's an amazing man, right?
EISENBERG: He's impossible not to love.
HARBOUR: He's an amazing man. I know - well, in the first couple of episodes...
EISENBERG: That's right.
HARBOUR: ...He's easy not to love. He's easy not to love.
EISENBERG: That's what I loved. The first time we meet you in the series, you know, it is this amazing shot of your apartment that is a complete wreck.
HARBOUR: It's a double-wide trailer, actually. It's not an apartment.
EISENBERG: All right...
HARBOUR: It's a double-wide, yeah.
EISENBERG: Double-wide trailer.
EISENBERG: It's just a mess. There's beer cans...
HARBOUR: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
EISENBERG: There's cigarettes, prescription bottles.
HARBOUR: Oh, yeah.
EISENBERG: Your character looks like he's in really bad shape.
HARBOUR: Goes out and smokes a cigar with his - with his jeans unbuttoned because he can't button them over his belly - love that, love Jim.
EISENBERG: So how much of that character was on the page versus what you decided to bring to it?
HARBOUR: Well, I think he was thinner on the page.
HARBOUR: I decided to eat a lot of cheeseburgers.
EISENBERG: Some people if they got a leading male role in a series might, like, go to the gym. You made a conscious effort...
EISENBERG: ...Not to do that.
HARBOUR: Yeah, it was very conscious.
HARBOUR: No, it really was - no, I'm not kidding.
HARBOUR: I know you think I'm kidding. I mean, I couldn't even if I wanted - but I did make a conscious thing because actually, you know, when I got the script, I saw that - and I got it months before. So I saw the first scene he had his shirt off, and I was like - my narcissism kicked in immediately.
HARBOUR: And I was like I'm going to get a trainer. I'm going to eat organic chicken, and I'm just going to go to the gym constantly. I'm going to look ripped. And then I talked to actually my acting coach, and he was like, look, play this character. Don't play five roles in the future. He's like this guy doesn't go to the gym. And also, like, I think we have too much of a weird obsession with body in our culture nowadays. And I think that I would like to see sexiness sort of embodied in people's real bodies as opposed to those bodies that are, you know, just full of narcissism. And you can smell that - like, you know, sometimes I feel like those superheroes if you threw a cookie at them, they would be more terrified than the villain because they might have to eat a carbohydrate.
EISENBERG: I read that you stay in character between takes...
HARBOUR: (Laughter) Oh, you did?
EISENBERG: ...To scare the kids.
HARBOUR: Oh, God.
EISENBERG: What's wrong with you?
HARBOUR: This is - I know, exactly. It's just because I don't like children.
HARBOUR: I mean, I used to be on sets and I used to really care about being friends with everybody. And I used to care about what people thought of me. And I used to want to be, like, the charming, fun guy. And I spent a lot of energy on that. And then the older I get, the more I care about the audience's experience more than my own. And I'm willing to sacrifice my personal relationships so that the audience has - I really am. I'm willing to sacrifice my personal experience.
And so, you know, I don't mail dead pigs to people and stuff like that. But I do - if there's an energy between certain characters, I do tend to try to preserve that energy or make it as authentic as possible. So with the kids, it was really important for me that he didn't like children, you know, because he has so much pain...
HARBOUR: ...In his life around children. And so I made sure to stay away from them at the table reads. And on the day we shot that first scene, I just moved my chair away from them. And I just, like, wouldn't talk to them.
HARBOUR: And they were all like, hey, man, we're doing a scene. I was like get away from me. I was such a jerk. And - but you can see in their reactions and stuff, like, they really were scared of me.
HARBOUR: But the weird counterintuitive thing is they sort of know that I'm - because I am kind of a softy inside. And so they sort of fell in love with me in a weird way. And so, like, they would love to, like, kind of poke fun at me. And I would try to stay like (groans), and they just kept - they got under my skin. But it sort of works for the arc of a season, you know?
EISENBERG: So the show doesn't just have fans. People are obsessed.
EISENBERG: And they were obsessed about a few things. The portrayal of the '80s, people are obsessed with that...
EISENBERG: ...Pointing out different things about it.
EISENBERG: People are obsessed...
EISENBERG: ...With the story arc of Barb.
EISENBERG: You've played so many roles on television and film. This is a different...
HARBOUR: And no one's cared. It's great.
EISENBERG: No, no, no, but this has got to be a different kind of fan.
HARBOUR: Oh, God, yeah.
HARBOUR: No, that's the thing. Like, I really have done so much work and no one's cared. I don't mean...
HARBOUR: I mean, you know, like, I mean, I do have people who are like, oh, man, you were good in that. And I was like but at the time I've never had anything hit where - you know, it's such a dream to - it's the dream of being an actor is that you move people. I think for me at least it was that I just wanted to make them think about their lives. I wanted to make them - if acting has any meaning, it is so that we can have greater empathy for other people. And I do get people from all over the world, like, tweeting me things about, like, Hopper makes them want to be a better man and, like, things like that. And so I'm enjoying every minute of it. And I hope that we can bring you even, like, more of that in season two.
EISENBERG: David, are you ready for an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge.
HARBOUR: Oh, God, I'm so bad at trivia. Let's do this.
EISENBERG: All right, David Harbour, everybody.
EISENBERG: David, there is a creature in "Stranger Things" called the Demogorgon...
EISENBERG: ...Which is a nod to Dungeons & Dragons.
EISENBERG: There are also plenty of creatures in Shakespeare's plays, which you are very familiar with.
HARBOUR: Let's hope.
EISENBERG: So we've mashed these things together in an amazing trivia adventure called Twenty-sided Quiz.
HARBOUR: (Laughter) Yeah.
EISENBERG: Here's how it works. Jonathan Coulton and I will guide you through a dungeon where you'll encounter a series of Shakespearean creatures.
HARBOUR: Oh, my God.
EISENBERG: Each creature will ask you a multiple choice trivia question. Answer correctly, you will get a weapon...
HARBOUR: Oh, my God.
EISENBERG: ...That will make it easier for you to defeat each creature.
HARBOUR: I'm going to level up.
EISENBERG: You're going to fight each creature by rolling this large 20-sided die.
HARBOUR: (Shouting) Oh.
HARBOUR: Oh, my God.
EISENBERG: You enter the dark dungeon. Suddenly, the weird sisters from "Macbeth" appear.
HARBOUR: Oh, God, I remember.
EISENBERG: They ask you a trivia question.
HARBOUR: Oh, no...
EISENBERG: Which of these is not an ingredient the three witches from "Macbeth" throw into a cauldron?
HARBOUR: Well, eye of newt is one of them.
HARBOUR: Blood of swine feels like one of them. Tongue of dog doesn't feel like one of them, right? Why would you throw a dog's tongue - I'm going to go with tongue of dog. Final answer, Regis.
EISENBERG: That is incorrect.
HARBOUR: Oh, my God. It's blood of swine?
EISENBERG: Blood of swine.
HARBOUR: Oh, I'm terrible.
EISENBERG: That's OK. All right, you've got to roll. Roll a 10 or higher to defeat the witches.
HARBOUR: Oh, my saving throw, my saving throw worked.
EISENBERG: The witches melt into a puddle.
HARBOUR: Yes, even though I'm stupid, they melt.
EISENBERG: Guess what? The dungeon is getting darker and darker.
HARBOUR: Oh, God, it's so dark down here.
EISENBERG: A swarm of harpies appears.
HARBOUR: Of course they do.
EISENBERG: They ask you a trivia question.
HARBOUR: Yeah, I'm sure they do.
EISENBERG: In "The Tempest," what is the name of the witch who imprisoned the spirit Ariel in a tree?
EISENBERG: That was correct.
HARBOUR: Is it correct?
HARBOUR: I am indeed a cleric of the light.
EISENBERG: Roll a 5 or higher to defeat them.
HARBOUR: Come on.
HARBOUR: A two? No. Oh, the rolls.
EISENBERG: No, the harpies rip off your right arm.
EISENBERG: But you manage to escape.
HARBOUR: Oh, thank God. I still have the left hook. We're good.
COULTON: You have reached the treasure room. The Demogorgon appears.
HARBOUR: Oh, no, from the Plain of Hades.
COULTON: Yes. It asks you a trivia question.
HARBOUR: Oh, of course it does.
COULTON: Here's the question.
HARBOUR: Thank God.
COULTON: The ghost of Hamlet's father tells Hamlet of his most unnatural murder.
COULTON: What potion did he say was used as the murder weapon? Was it A, venom, B, hebenon, or C, hemlock?
HARBOUR: Avenge my most foul and unnatural murder.
HARBOUR: He poisons him in the garden.
COULTON: Just do all of "Hamlet" and you'll find it in there.
HARBOUR: I know, I know. Who's there? Nay, stand and answer me, unfold yourself.
HARBOUR: I'm going to go with hemlock.
COULTON: I'm sorry, that is incorrect.
COULTON: You are going to have to face the Demogorgon with no weapons and one arm ripped off.
HARBOUR: Oh, man.
COULTON: The correct answer is hebenon. So you have to roll a 10 or higher.
HARBOUR: Oh, God, come on, the rolls. Come on...
COULTON: Was it a 10 or higher?
HARBOUR: It's a five.
COULTON: Well, the Demogorgon says, whoops, I'm in the wrong dungeon and it runs away. So you win anyway.
EISENBERG: David, you're at the end of the dungeon, three treasure chests from "The Merchant Of Venice" are before you. One is made of gold. One is made of silver.
HARBOUR: I played this part.
EISENBERG: One is made of lead.
HARBOUR: I played it.
EISENBERG: Which do you choose?
HARBOUR: Bassanio chooses the lead one because that's where you win her heart, sure.
EISENBERG: That is right. You chose right. You open your chest, and inside is a prize. And it is an ASK ME ANOTHER Rubik's Cube. I know.
HARBOUR: Better than Portia's heart any day.
EISENBERG: David Harbour plays Police Chief Jim Hopper on the Netflix series "Stranger Things." Give it up for David Harbour.
EISENBERG: Now please welcome back to the stage, Javier Munoz, accompanied by guitarist Robin Macatangay.
JAVIER MUNOZ: So there's a little story behind this song. It was 2005, and I had quit the business and somehow found myself in a room auditioning for the dream team that was creating "In The Heights." And this is the song I sang that allowed me to book "In The Heights" and thus began the whole journey which has now led to "Hamilton." So I'm going to sing it for you now. (Singing) This is the year of the open hand. Oh, you hold on to what you can. And charity is a coat you wear twice a year. This is a year of the guilty man. Your television takes a stand. And you find that what was over there is over here. So you scream from behind your door. You see, what's mine is mine and not yours. I may have too much, but I'll take my chances 'cause God stopped keeping score. And you cling to the things they sold you. Did you cover eyes when they told you that he can't come back 'cause he has no children to come back for? It's hard to love. There's so much to hate. Hanging on to hope when there is no hope to speak of. And the wounded skies above say it's much too late. Well, maybe we should all be praying for time.
EISENBERG: Javier Munoz, Robin Macatangay.
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