The “Stranger Things” gang in Lenora Hills, Calif., Is in danger – shots are being fired, and an agent is bleeding out. The camera switches abruptly to a view of an unknowing Argyle, played by Eduardo Franco, pulling up to the Byerses’ home as the catchy reggae hit “Pass the Dutchie” blares from his pizza delivery van.
“Byers man, having a party and not inviting me, man?” he says. “That is so not cool.”
As the group’s wheelman who “smokes smelly plants,” as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) puts it, Argyle serves as comic relief in the show’s most horrifying season, his lighthearted energy offsetting the dark forces bedeviling the gang.
“Argyle delivers pizzas and he dwells in the psychedelics sometimes,” Franco said in a recent video interview. “That’s the perfect combination: to always have hot and ready food, and a little tree.”
As one of the most prominent cast additions in Season 4 – the final episodes arrive Friday on Netflix – Franco has carved out a role as the show’s addled but reliably hilarious tension-release valve. But Argyle transcends the stoner-pal stereotype and adds a little heart to the story as well, primarily in the form of his sweet friendship with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) – though admittedly this often involves the duo being stoned out of their minds.
Franco’s most prominent role before Argyle came in Olivia Wilde’s coming-of-age comedy “Booksmart,” as a 20-year-old high school senior named Theo who was recruited to code for Google. That performance led to his current gig – Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in “Stranger Things,” saw Franco in the movie and suggested him for the role.
Franco spoke from Biarritz, France, where he was visiting as part of a “Stranger Things” branding partnership with the surf culture label Quicksilver, which supplied much of Argyle’s wardrobe. In conversation, he was clearly more astute than his character but similarly funny and informal, indulging in f-bombs as freely as Argyle does his smelly plants.
In the interview, Franco discussed his inspirations for the character and “marinating in the awkwardness” that comes with life as the show’s designated burnout. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What was it about Argyle’s character that appealed to you?
I loved that I could hopefully bring a breath of fresh air to the chaos that ensues in the show. It tends to get crazy, and I was hoping I could serve as “let’s laugh it off now, because I’ve been tense for the last 45 minutes.”
Did you take inspiration from any past cinematic potheads?
Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is always in the back of my mind. My initial approach was to just completely be blown out of my mind all the time – as the character, not Eduardo the actor! I wanted Argyle to be completely clueless: When someone says “Oh my god, Argyle, we gotta get out of here!” I’ll be like, “Huh?” But I know that for the sake of the energy and the adrenaline in the scenes, that wouldn’t always work.
How old is the van you drive in the show?
It was touchy, an 80-something. I was taught how to drive that van by this professional stunt driver – I’d never driven a stick shift before and it was the worst thing to learn on, because it was just so old. But he was always in the van with me when I was driving, hiding in the car just in case.
Was there a scene that was particularly fun to film?
The dinner table scene was my personal favorite. Eleven is bummed out. Mike is also concerned. Joyce and Murray [played by Winona Ryder and Brett Gelman] are lying about going to Alaska. And me and Jonathan are blown out of our minds.
It was so fun sitting there, marinating in the awkwardness. When it was time for me and Charlie to do our lines, sometimes we would stall while everyone was waiting for us, and we’d be sitting there just eating slowly. It was hilarious, and it was awesome to be able to get Brett and Winona to laugh. I love going to work and making people laugh – the camera man, the crew, the people hauling things up and down all day. And everything felt so organic, sharing the screen with Charlie, Finn and everyone.
What did Argyle’s relationship with Jonathan bring to the show’s dynamic?
Jonathan is in pain. I think they became instant friends because Jonathan needed a set of ears, and Argyle happened to be right there. Argyle’s character is what we all wish we could be: completely judgment-free. He’s there to have a good time with his bud, and to listen to Jonathan and help him out, no matter what he says.
Do you think Argyle is capable of handling whatever danger is coming his way?
I can’t tell you anything, but geez, he’s out of his mind for sure. Poor guy.
How has joining an enormous global phenomenon like “Stranger Things” changed your life?
At the Season 4 premiere in New York, when we sat down to screen the first episode, I got mad emotional and started crying in my seat. I was glad it was dark and nobody could see anything. To be a part of something this massive was overwhelming, and I hope people can accept my character as a new guy in the show. I hope he does serve his purpose as a breath of fresh air from all the crazy madness.
Have you started getting recognized in public?
Yes! For an example, when I got to France last week, I was riding a bike down the street to grab some stuff from a market. My bike had no brakes, and as I’m pulling up, I put my feet down to try to stop, and there was this guy pointing and laughing. Then he double-takes and he was like, “You’re the guy from ‘Stranger Things’? What are you doing here, man? ” I was like, “I came to get some chocolate croissants and an adapter to plug my phone charger in the wall.” It was so funny, but that’s just how massive this show is.
A series like this generally provides a significant career boost. What kinds of things do you hope to work on in the future?
I got a couple movies under my belt, but to be in a movie where people are going to the theater and I’m rockin ‘people’s socks off is my dream. I don’t know if that era is already out the window, but I just recently watched “Top Gun,” and it was amazing. So I have hope.
And I’d love to be a part of creating the projects, but I don’t know necessarily how to do all that yet. I’m trying to figure all this stuff out. I don’t know a [expletive] thing, but we’re all learning.