The “Stranger Things” gang in Lenora Hills, California is in danger – shots are fired and a cop bleeds out. The camera abruptly switches to the image of an unwitting Argyle, played by Eduardo Franco, who heads to the Byerses’ house while the infectious reggae hit “Pass the Dutchie” blares from his pizza van.
“Byers man, throw a party and not invite me, man?” he says. “That’s so not cool.”
As the helmsman of the group that “smelling plants,” as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) puts it, Argyle serves as a comic relief in the show’s most horrific season, with his lighthearted energy offsetting the dark forces plaguing the gang. .
“Argyle delivers pizza and he sometimes dwells in psychedelics,” Franco said in a recent video interview. “That’s the perfect combination: always hot and ready-to-eat food and a tree.”
As one of the most prominent cast additions in Season 4 — the final episodes arrive on Netflix Friday — Franco has landed a role as the show’s confused but reliably hilarious relief valve. But Argyle transcends the stereotype of stoner friend and also adds a bit of heart to the story, mainly in the form of his sweet friendship with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) – although this, admittedly, often involves the duo being stoned out of their heads.
Franco’s most prominent role before Argyle came in Olivia Wilde’s coming-of-age comedy “Booksmart,” as a 20-year-old high school student named Theo, who was recruited to code for Google. That performance led to his current appearance – Finn Wolfhard, who plays Mike Wheeler in ‘Stranger Things’, saw Franco in the film and suggested him for the part.
Franco spoke from Biarritz, France, where he was visiting as part of a “Stranger Things” branding partnership with surf culture label Quicksilver, which provided much of Argyle’s wardrobe. In conversation, he was clearly more astute than his character, but equally funny and casual, indulging in f-bombs as freely as Argyle does his stinky 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 hopefully I could bring a breath of fresh air to the chaos that ensues in the show. It often gets crazy, and I was hoping I could serve as “Let’s laugh about it now, because I’ve been tense for the past 45 minutes.”
Have you been inspired by past cinematic potheads?
Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is always in the back of my mind. My first approach was to just be completely blown out of my mind the whole time – as the character, not Eduardo the actor! I wish Argyle had no idea at all: when someone says, “Oh my gosh, Argyle, we’ve got to get out of here!” I’ll be like, “Huh?” But I know that because 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 sensitive, an 80’s. I learned how to drive that van from this professional stunt driver – I had never ridden a gear stick before and it was the worst thing to learn as it was so old. But he was always with me in the van when I was driving, he hid in the car just in case.
Was there a scene that was particularly fun to film?
The dining table scene was my personal favorite. Eleven is devastated. Mike is also concerned. Joyce and Murray [played by Winona Ryder and Brett Gelman] lying about going to Alaska. And me and Jonathan have gone mad.
It was so nice sitting there, marinating in the awkwardness. When it was time for me and Charlie to do our lines, sometimes we would just stand there while everyone else was waiting for us, and just sit there slowly eating. It was hilarious and it was great to be able to make Brett and Winona laugh. I love going to work and making people laugh – the cameraman, the crew, the people who drag things up and down all day. And everything felt so organic, sharing the screen with Charlie, Finn and everyone else.
What did Argyle’s relationship with Jonathan bring to the show’s dynamics?
Jonathan is in pain. I think they became friends right away because Jonathan needed a pair of ears, and Argyle just happened to be there. The character of Argyle is what we would all like: completely free of judgment. He is there to have fun with his friend, and to listen to Jonathan and help him no matter what he says.
Do you think Argyle is able to deal with any danger that comes his way?
I can’t tell you anything, but gosh, he sure is crazy. Poor guy.
How has participating in a huge global phenomenon like ‘Stranger Things’ changed your life?
At the season 4 premiere in New York, when we sat down to show the first episode, I went crazy and emotional and started crying in my seat. I was glad it was dark and no one could see anything. To be a part of something so big was overwhelming, and I hope people can accept my character as a new man on the show. I hope he serves his purpose as a relief from all the crazy madness.
Have you started to be recognized in public?
Yes! For example, when I arrived in France last week, I was cycling down the street to get some stuff from a market. My bike had no brakes, and as I was accelerating I put my feet down to try to stop, and there was a man pointing and laughing. Then he took a double and said, ‘You’re that 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 into the wall.” It was so funny, but that’s how big this show is.
A series like this usually provides a big career boost. What kinds of things do you hope to work on in the future?
I have a few movies under my belt, but to be in a movie where people go to the theater and I shake people’s socks off is my dream. I don’t know if that era is out the window yet, but I saw “Top Gun” recently and it was awesome. So I have hope.
And I’d love to be a part of creating the projects, but I don’t necessarily know how to do all that yet. I’m trying to figure all these things out. don’t know [expletive] thing, but we all learn.