How Stranger Things Star Joe Keery Changed Steve Harrington's Fate

Steve Harrington has become one of the staple characters of Netflix's hit series "Stranger Things," all thanks to the stellar performance of actor Joe Keery. But Keery actually went so above and beyond for the role that the series creators, the Duffer brothers, decided to extend the part and make what was supposed to be a minor antagonist into one of the most lovable key players in the series.

The first season of "Stranger Things" introduces Steve as the obnoxious and self-obsessed boyfriend of Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer). Nancy is the older sister of Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), who runs into trouble when the supernatural monsters like the ones from his Dungeons & Dragons game begin to threaten the real world. Nancy teams up with her younger brother and his friends to solve supernatural mysteries alongside Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton), the older brother of Mike's friend Will (Noah Schnapp). Nancy and Jonathan were already meant to be the older counterparts to the younger cast members, but Keery proved to have more staying power than the Duffers anticipated.

The casting drove the narrative

Keery's character was "supposed to die in the finale" of the show's first season, Ross Duffer said during Netflix Geeked Week — although his brother isn't so sure. Keery himself expected that he would die early on in the series due to the nature of his character. "I played the douchey sort of boyfriend, which is the first guy to die," the actor explained to GQ. Ross is pretty certain of Steve's original fate, but concedes that "it's been a while" since they were writing the first season (via Netflix). Instead, Steve Harrington totally pivots and battles the demogorgon with Jonathan and Nancy, proving himself an unlikely hero. 

This scene was originally supposed to feature Jonathan's dad, Lonnie Byers, Matt Duffer revealed. This last-minute decision to reroute the first season's ending was prompted by Keery's undeniable charisma and depth. The creators "fell in love" with Keery during the making of the first season, prompting them to rewrite his narrative arc into a happy ending.

"Steve was supposed to be this jocky douchebag, and Joe was so much more than that," Ross Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter. Where the Duffers had first written a flat and stereotypical character, they found a brand new character through Keery.

Keery was too charismatic to kill off

The writer-directors wanted to "utilize" Keery in Season 2 of "Stranger Things," but "didn't know quite what to do with him" following his break-up with Nancy. "The storyline of Steve Harrington in the second half of season 2 was completely unanticipated in the outlines for this season," the series executive producer Shawn Levy explained. Levy himself is a huge fan of Steve and was happy to accommodate the changes. "The day Steve Harrington dies is the day I walk off this show," Levy swore to TVLine.

Matt Duffer admits that Steve "shouldn't be a lead in season 4," of "Stranger Things," but Keery led them to do a total overhaul on the character and the entire series, to better incorporate him (via Netflix). The actor is incredibly lovable and provides the increasingly dark series with moments of levity and heartwarming sincerity. A show that explores sci-fi and fantasy needs to be grounded in humanity, and that is precisely what Keery brings.