SAG Awards nominee profile: ‘Stranger Things’ hopes that epic telekinesis battles will translate into first stunt ensemble win

The cast of “Stranger Things” won the drama ensemble prize at the SAG Awards for its first season, but now the spooky Netflix series is hoping to finally claim a victory for its stunt performers. The show has two previous TV stunt ensemble nominations under its belt and returns to the category for the supersized work in Season 4. Can the show bank on the Netflix-friendly SAG voters to pull off a surprise victory?

At this year’s ceremony, the “Stranger Things” stunt ensemble is nominated alongside the teams from “Andor,” “The Boys,” “House of the Dragon,” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” This is the sole SAG nomination this year for each of these series.

SEE 2023 SAG Awards TV Predictions: Best Stunt Ensemble

“Stranger Things” lost both of its previous stunt bids to HBO’s juggernaut “Game of Thrones.” That fantasy series claimed eight trophies in this category, seven of those wins were consecutive. But Netflix programs have managed to breakthrough for a win when “Game of Thrones” was out of contention: “GLOW” won here when “Thrones” took a gap year, and “Squid Game” prevailed last year.

Even though Gold Derby’s combined odds list “Stranger Things” in last place, it would be foolish to count out the series due to voting precedent that favors Netflix. SAG voters have a clear soft spot for the streamer. “Stranger Things” was the first Netflix series, and first streaming series, to win the drama ensemble prize. The network’s historical drama “The Crown” has won that category for the past two years. “Orange is The New Black” won the group’s eomedy ensemble race for three consecutive years, long after Emmy voters had moved on from the show.

SEE Jamie Campbell Bower (‘Stranger Things’) gives cryptic 4-word answer on whether Vecna will return in final season

Season 4 certainly provides “Stranger Things” with its strongest ever material for the stunt category. This is in large part to the season’s “Big Bad” Vecna, a hideously burned creature who rules over the Upside Down. He possesses telekinetic abilities which surpass those of series hero Elven (Millie Bobby Brown) which results in many brutal psychic battles with bodies tossed around like ragdolls. The pair’s most epic brawl occurs in the season finale, where they rip apart a gymnasium decorated for a school dance. Of course, we also shouldn’t forget the Russia prison sequence where Hopper (David Harbour) and other inmates face down a hungry demogorgon. That gladiator-style arena fight includes plenty of weapons and flames to put the stunt team through their paces.

It’s also worth noting what past stunt ensemble winners “Game of Thrones,” “The Mandalorian,” and “Squid Game” all have in common: they were massive hits that dominated the cultural zeitgeist for weeks. While all of this year’s nominees are incredibly popular, none of them reach the same heights as “Stranger Things.” Season 4 went beyond just watercooler conversations, it launched Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” onto the Billboard charts, the Upside Down took over the Empire State Building, and interactive experiences popped up around the globe. This stunt category is SAG’s opportunity to reward one of the year’s biggest pop culture phenomena.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2023 contenders in film and TV.

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