The third season of Stranger Things ended with the reveal that Jim Hopper, the beloved sheriff from Hawkins, Indiana, was actually alive and being held in a Russian prison. A short teaser about the fourth season was revealed sometime later, confirming that Hopper would be back and showing him with a shaved head out working in the snow in Russia. As it turns out, that look for Hopper was actually a bit of a pivot, a decision made by David Harbour after he played a second character in a Russian prison.
After filming Stranger Things Season 3, Harbour was approached by Marvel Studios to play Red Guardian in Black Widow. That character, who is Russian, starts out his journey in the film in a Russian prison. He also happens to have the same shaggy hair and beard that Hopper was supposed to sport in Stranger Things Season 4. During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday night, Harbour explained that the two characters looked way too similar, and something ultimately had to change.
"We finished [Stranger Things 3] in March of 2019 and I knew that I was gonna be in this Russian prison. And then literally, a month later, I got a call from Marvel that they wanted me to play a guy who starts out in a Russian prison," Harbour told Kimmel.
The actor went on to say that he was secretly taking pictures of the Black Widow set to Ross and Matt Duffer, the creators of Stranger Things, to make sure the Russian prisons looked different. However, by the end of the production, he determined that it was the look of the character that needed to change, not the world around him.
"It was funny, though. I had grown out my hair and then I got cast in this other thing to play a Russian prisoner," Harbour continued. "So I had this long hair and this beard and I was big. I thought, 'I can't be the same guy with long hair and a beard in the same prison.' So I was taking pictures of the set, unbeknownst to anyone, and sending them to the Duffer Brothers, making sure they didn't use any of the same colors of the set. Making sure the looks were different and the outfits were different. So I kept sending them these photos and at the end - I had all this hair and all this beard and we had planned to do it this way - and I was like, 'Guys I can't do this. I'm coming out with this Marvel movie, I can't have the beard and the hair.' So we came up with a whole different look for it. We had him shave his head and this whole thing."
So Hopper got a new, bald look for the start of Stranger Things Season 4. Red Guardian kept his hair and beard for Black Widow. Everything worked out in the end, and fans will be able to love both characters without getting them confused. However, the change in looks for Hopper still probably won't be enough to keep conspiracy theorists from linking the two franchises.
You can check out the full interview with Harbour above.