Professional bodybuilder Kai Greene recently appeared as a guest star in two episodes of the second season of Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. The Brooklyn native began his career competing in teen bodybuilding competitions while he was still in middle school. Greene would later turn pro, becoming the world’s youngest natural bodybuilder just before his 19th birthday and placing first in the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness New York Pro Championships in both 2008 and 2011. His most recent triumph was the 2016 IFBB Arnold Classic, which he also won in 2009 and 2010.
In Stranger Things 2, Greene joined the cast as Funshine, a spiritual yet strong member of the gang led by former Hawkins Lab test subject Eight, a.k.a. Kali, played by Linnea Berthelsen. His character was just one member of the cast that served to open up and expand the world established in the series outside of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. Greene recently spoke to Heroic Hollywood about his experience on the series, opening up about his spiritual and strong character, and whether or not he’d like to return for the inevitable third season of Stranger Things.
You’ve made quite the transition, stepping over from bodybuilding into Hollywood. How does it feel to be part of such an iconic show?
“It’s really something that I could not have prepared for and even now, I think every day, even more, we discover just how impactful this show is and just how many people are actually watching.”
While you were featured in the opening scene of Stranger Things 2, most of your work was in the seventh episode “The Lost Sister”. What was it like working under the direction of Rebecca Thomas versus the opening scene with The Duffer Brothers?
“It was really interesting… every day she [Rebecca Thomas] was conscious, she was patient, she was no-nonsense… and still very loving and very friendly at the same time. For me, the experience was amazing because everywhere I looked on set there was all this new opportunity to learn to become better… everyone on the set is focused on doing great work. I mean everyone, not just the actors.”
The Duffer Brothers are known to give their actors a list of ‘80s films to watch in preparation for their roles. The Empire Strikes Back was a clear influence for Eleven and Eight in The Lost Sister but were you given any films or specific characters to study for inspiration for your character Funshine?
“Honestly, I wasn’t. However, I had an idea that has still yet to be confirmed. It’s just an idea and I could be wrong… I don’t want to kill myself by saying it but I really felt like I needed to look at ’80s television — B.A. Baracus A-Team, personally. I could be wrong but in the original script that I was handed — the character — he did some things that I thought were reminiscent of B.A. Baracus’ character in that television show. I really thought there was a lot of things that the two characters had in common, even down to the episode when we all enter the store. One of the things that I noticed when we went into the store — the set for the first time — it was an actual gas station that had its own convenience store and they gutted the convenience store and set it up and refaced it with things that would have been present in the ’80s on the shelves. One of the things that I thought was particularly interesting was that there were probably 80 boxes of Mr. T cereal on the shelf and I just thought ‘A-ha! I knew it! I knew it!’.”
Through your performance, Funshine is able to bring the heart, spirituality, and muscle as the warrior in Kali’s crew in Chicago. How did you manage to balance the heart and warmth Funshine shows to Eleven while also remaining an intimidating presence when this group of outcasts goes after the bad men who’ve wronged them?
“I think that was probably one of the things that felt the most natural to me. Behind the scenes, there was nothing but warmth, and fun, and really good-natured intent that I think it wasn’t work to allow a little bit of that to shine through.”
How was it working with Millie Bobby Brown?
“She’s amazing. Just an incredible presence to watch. She’s everywhere and she’s working at a pace that’s ten to fifteen years where you would imagine where she should be, even as a first-class professional child actress, she is just very, very brilliant, so sharp, and she’s working all the time.
Just being on the set with her, and being in that camera shot with her, doing a moment where we do interact. There’s a scene where the cameras aren’t rolling and the rest of the cast is amongst ourselves and sitting around and getting ready for the next scene where there’s a lot of magic that’s actually allowed to happen. I discovered that she’s a talented singer, writer — everybody’s dancing. She could be her own littler choreographer. She’s just really brilliant, like a child Julie Andrews.”
I know you can’t say anything about Season three, but if you were to return for it, is there any chance Kali and her crew could return to Hawkins as a set of antagonists next year? Would you like to see Funshine go up against Eleven? Or maybe even Chief Hopper? He throws quite the punch.
“[Laughs] I’m definitely going to leave that up to the writers… The Duffer Brothers have been able to hit gold with what their approach to sorting out the development of this universe so I’m willing to trust in their judgment going forward with what happens in season three. I know myself and everyone that’s witnessing the magic of the misfit’s opportunity would like to see something happen, more with the misfits but I don’t want to be selfish. This phenomenon is about something larger than just me and my opportunity so if it were that it didn’t come to pass, that we were part of season three, I would definitely be okay with that. But man this has been an amazing ride and I would really like to see something happen with the misfits in season three but we have to wait and see.”
Stranger Things 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
‘Stranger Things’: Top 11 Moments Of Season 1
Netflix’s smash hit Stranger Things became an instant pop culture phenomenon after its debut last July. The Netflix Original not only pays homage to ’80s pop culture, Stranger Things actually lives up to its predecessors and deserves a place next to them on the shelf. Chances are you, or someone you know is completely obsessed with the show.
Now that we’ve seen the teaser, the wait is going to be even more arduous. To help fill the void as we begin the long wait for Stranger Things season 2, I’ve put together a list of the top 11 moments from the show.
Click Next to start the list! (FULL SPOILERS, OF COURSE)