Brett Gelman is no stranger to characters. As in, “he’s a real character.”
After starring in a 2008 New York lottery campaign, his one-man musical extravaganza, “One Thousand Cats,” HBO’s “Funny or Die” series, and as an insufferable brother-in-law in Prime Video’s “Fleabag,” Gelman is now enjoys his most prominent role to date: as ‘Stranger Things” Murray Bauman, a disgraced investigative reporter turned paranoid, lives alone in a bunker, drinks vodka like water and wears socks under his kimono—as he wears something all.
And though he’s been part of the ensemble since Season 2, the fourth season of Netflix’s sci-fi/fantasy blockbuster—which premieres Friday with its final, full-length episodes—changes Murray and Gelman from colorful sidecar to main character. The eccentric private detective plays a key role in transporting the 1980s monster story from the fictional town of Hawkins, Ind., to the USSR, while forming an alliance with the maligned mother Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), which makes for unexpected fits of laughter. “Joyce and Murray complain about each other and doubt what the other is saying,” Gelman said. “They essentially became a comedy action duo.”
Gelman’s unconventional comedic gifts give the series a much-needed levity, while the dangers the teenage characters face are increasingly terrifying. The actor recently spoke to The Times at his Los Angeles home about the “madness” within all the great character actors, why Murray is like “Golden Girl” Bea Arthur and how “Stranger Things” has freed his inner quirky child.