Though Max (Sadie Sink) survived her ghastly encounter with Vecna, the last we see her is in a coma, with no hint that she will live to see the fifth and final season of Stranger Things. Here, the wunderkind actress who plays Max talks about her character’s fate and how this has been her best season yet (with a little help from Kate Bush). “It’s been fun,” Sink tells Deadline about all the attention she’s received in the last few months. “I like talking about Max and I like talking about this show, so I have no problems with it.”
DEADLINE: Did the Duffers tell you at the start of this season that it would be a pivotal year for Max?
SADIE SINK: They kind of alluded to some of the plot lines that Max would be involved with and what she was going through in season four, but I didn’t really know until I read the scripts.
DEADLINE: So you didn’t begin the season knowing that you could die?
SINK: We got the first four episodes and we started filming and then got shut down for COVID. Then we received the last episodes while we were in lockdown. So I did know where it was going. But it was only because we had that break that we got the scripts a little bit sooner than we would’ve in the filming process. Once I found out where it was going, I was very shocked.
DEADLINE: Those final two hours plays like a blockbuster movie. What was it like for you?
SINK: Oh my God. I watched it for the first time two nights ago. You really have to settle in for it. It feels like almost by the end of it, the show has entered a new realm. It’s so cinematic. It’s the beginning of the end, which is the tagline of season four, but you really don’t feel that until episode nine. It was a journey to watch and I even knew what was going to happen!
DEADLINE: What was it like playing opposite Vecna in that gory suit? Did that help you find the fear?
SINK: Oh, totally. It’s kind of impossible not to be a little bit scared. I was really thankful that we had an amazing visual effects team that was able to create that prosthetic suit situation for Vecna, because it really has a major effect on each actor’s performance. It leaves less to the imagination and therefore creates a more genuine and impactful performance I think, and makes it all the more believable.
DEADLINE: Let’s back up. How would you describe Max’s evolution from the previous seasons until now? What was her role was in the group?
SINK: When she first entered the scene in season two, [the gang] was something that she so desperately wanted to be a part of, because she felt a little lost in this new town and this new school. She just wanted to find people of her own. She found that she had a lot of trouble getting in and had to prove her place. Season two was kind of like this fight to get in there. We kind of saw her relax in season three, and saw an even more confident side of her. It was a little bit more lighthearted in season three for her until the very end with Billy’s death, which is why she spiraled into the place that we find her in season four. And then obviously in season four, there’s a lot of character development. All the pieces really came together in episode nine, for me, just with that monologue that she has [with Lucas]. I was glad got that script in advance. It says so much about Max’s mindset throughout season four. Having that and knowing that bit of information while we were filming the previous episodes was very helpful.
DEADLINE: You’re talking about the speech where she basically admits that she feels guilty for wanting her brother, Billy, to die.
SINK: Yeah. Yeah. She’s at such a loss. When she opens up about that, it explains everything. When you first find her [at the beginning of the season], it’s interesting that she’s grieving so much when Billy was so horrible to her. How could his death impact her to this extent? But when you dive into it, I think she was just wracked with guilt and somehow felt responsible for what happened and was taking all of her anger and unresolved issues that she had toward her brother out on herself.
DEADLINE: The kids are older this season. Did the Duffers treat you any differently?
SINK: What all the kids have loved about the Duffers is that they never once treated us any differently than they would an adult cast member. Like, they really respected and valued our opinions and created a really fun environment. They never undermined us in any way and really just listened to us and collaborated with us. So even though we’ve gotten older, nothing has really changed because it wasn’t different in the first place.
DEADLINE: You levitated a few times this season. Did you ever come crashing to the floor?
SINK: I didn’t, really. All of the falls to ground were done by my stunt double Michelle, who was amazing throughout the whole season. It was definitely me in the air, but the most I had to drop was like a few feet. I never hit the ground.
DEADLINE: When you shot your first Kate Bush moment, was that the first time you ever actually heard her music?
SINK: The song was always in the script, like from the first episode when she’s walking down the hallway. The script said that Kate Bush Running Up That Hill is playing. So I knew that song came into play in a much bigger way in the later episodes. I definitely listened to the song a lot in preparation. I instantly loved it and think it just fit the vibe of the show. The orchestrations in the back just kind of mirror the Stranger Things score.
DEADLINE: Did you shoot everything in sequence? Were your final days on set with you in the coma?
SINK: Everything was out of sequence. My final day on this set was stuff at the Creel house for episodes five and six or something like that. We definitely jumped around a lot. There would be times, too, where we were filming stuff from episode five and six before I’d even filmed anything from the fourth episode. So it was important that we all kept track of where our characters were emotionally, what they had endured so far.
DEADLINE: I have to think that you all knew going into this that, given what you’re up against, at least one or more of young people would have to die.
SINK: Definitely. With season five being the last season, I don’t know what they have planned. But there are so many characters. Some of the deaths on the show are so impactful to audience members and the other characters in general. But they really moved the story. I know the Duffers are always very careful and calculated with who they’re killing off. They’re never gonna kill a character for the sake of just killing someone off. It always has to move the plot along and be right in that moment and in the story. I have full faith in them.
DEADLINE: You saw that moment in the final episode where the big black spidery looking thing is in the sky, hovering over Hawkins. What do you think that means for the final season?
SINK: I can tell you with full honesty that I do not know what is going to happen in season five. I think after watching nine, I’m even more eager to find out. Looking back on previous seasons, there’s always something that’s left up in the air as to what evil is still out there. I think that this season, it’s more prominent than ever. Will mentions that Vecna is definitely still out there. So, there are so many uncertainties.
DEADLINE: Do you sometimes get a little confused about the Russians and the origin of the creatures?
SINK: I definitely get a little bit confused. This season was a lot to wrap our heads around. Vecna and Henry have always been one, it’s always been him. It gets a little complicated at times in terms of the timeline and everything. But it really is one of those jaw dropping moments where you’re just like, ‘oh my God, it’s been him the entire time’ and it makes you wanna go back and watch everything again to understand it a bit more.
DEADLINE: When do you expect to go back to work for the fifth season?
SINK: I have no clue. It takes a while to get everything ready to go for a new season, because once we start filming, we do not stop. This last season took two years in total, so who knows how long season five will take. The Duffers definitely know the fans will be eagerly awaiting a fifth season, but I don’t think they’re gonna rush it. They wanna make the best final season that they could possibly make. Hopefully we can get out there soon, but then also I’m like, no, drag it out as long as you can. I don’t wanna have to leave.
DEADLINE: Did you ask the Duffers if Max was going to live or die?
SINK: They’ve been very secretive about season five in general. We did have a conversation. They called me before I read the ninth episode because in the script it literally says that Max dies. So they called me beforehand and were like, ‘just warning you, this is in there, so you’re not like truly shocked.’ I have no idea what’s coming in five and what that looks like. Max’s storyline is very up in the air, ’cause obviously she’s in a coma and Eleven can’t find her in the void. So who knows where she is and what state she’s in.
In an interview on theHappy Sad Confused podcast released today, the Duffer brothers said that Max is alive, but “brain dead, blind, and all of her bones are broken.”
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