Jamie Campbell Bower sits in a Los Angeles home flanked by massive windows that bathe him in sunlight. He’s dressed in black and looks like a serpentine goth in Eden, apt for someone inclined to steer the conversation towards topics like the devil and spirituality – taking tangents about Dante Hell and the apocalyptic work of Hieronymus Bosch.
“That’s what interests me!” he exclaims on Zoom. “I naturally exist in a fairly light, sky-like world, but… I like the dark.”
Perhaps that’s why Bower was cast as the wonderfully directed new villain in Strange things. In the first volume of Netflix’s hit fourth season, Bower plays Peter Ballard, an oddly kind male nurse who is later revealed to be Vecna, Upside Down’s new Freddy Krueger-esque killer. Bower, who previously played villain in the Harry Potter and Dusk franchises, is excellent on the show, bringing powerful intensity even as he works through layers of prosthetics and special effects makeup. (Yes, that’s really him under all that work. The creepy voice is his too.)
While he can’t say much about the upcoming second volume in the series, Bower offers one word to describe his energy: “Darker.” Naturally.
In an interview with vanity lounge, the actor opened up about his long prep work to play Vecna, his newfound love for black widow spiders, and his long spiritual journey that eventually led him into the world of Strange things.
vanity lounge: Did you watch the whole season, or was it enough to be in it?
Jamie Campbell Bower: I have in private, all alone. I wouldn’t watch it with anyone else out of fear. Even at the premiere in New York, when Vecna arrives at the end of the first episode [at] Eddie’s trailer…I ran away. I dove. But yes, all alone, I saw it.
Were there any scenes, outside of the Vecna scenes, that you were excited to see come to life?
There are a few. Airplane scenes with Nico [Nikolaeff] and Brett [Gelman] and winona [Ryder]. The scene where Jonathan and Argyle are at the table and they are barely holding together. It was really great. So what Sadie [Sink]it is work, especially his dealings with the counsellor. I texted her the other day saying, “You should be so proud of what you’ve done. Your performance is so vulnerable, open and real. It is phenomenal work. It’s beautiful to look at.
When the Duffers told you who you were playing, were you surprised that you were not only a central character, but also the season’s big bad?
I was surprised from the moment I got the audition! I was like, really? Me? But I was in this mode of total surrender. Like, it’s wild. Never mind. I like bad guys. And I love the villain in this show, but I don’t see him as a villain. Obviously, he’s our point of contention, so to speak. But I never saw him as the bad guy because I understood him.