“There are some pretty intense moments… so I’ll come to set eight hours before call, and I’ll just pace the soundstage for hours, get in the world. No one else is around me. Then when I walk on set, there’s no prep.” – Dacre Montgomery
On Stranger Things, Australian actor Dacre Montgomery portrayed Billy Hargrove — Max’s older, bullying step-brother who is possessed by the Mind Flayer. The character featured prominently in the show’s second and third seasons and was the first television role for the Power Rangers and Better Watch Out star. Speaking about his background as an actor to Netflix Queue, Montgomery details how he nearly got kicked out of drama school several times and explains why he finds theater a “draining experience” compared to his film and television roles.
Montgomery explains that he became interested in attending drama school because his parents had done some work at the school he later attended. He reveals, “In the 90s, my mom did broadcasting at WAAPA [Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts], and my dad had done a bit of lecturing in the sound department there. I was just fascinated by it. My high school was on the same campus, so every day I had to walk through this renowned drama school. I’m not going to lie to you: I think there are a lot of ups and downs about drama school. The first year, I got asked to leave the course three times.”
Regarding why he was asked to leave the school three times in his first semester, Montgomery points to his poor attitude that had hampered his ability to be a good student. He continues:
“I had spent so long manifesting this idea that I wanted to go to drama school, and once I was there, I was maybe a little bit arrogant. I didn’t want to learn Feldenkrais, I didn’t want to learn these multiple vocal techniques. There was a lot of stuff going on in my life: I got fired from my job, my girlfriend and I went on a break — all this stuff happened at the end of first year. The staff said, ‘Look, if you want to come back here after the summer, you’ve got to think long and hard about what you’re capable of.’ So I thought long and hard, and I came back, and we had our first public plays, and it was amazing. We did The Grapes of Wrath, Measure for Measure, a couple of contemporary plays — Punk Rock, The Golden Age. I loved it. I booked my first professional role on my 21st birthday. That was two weeks before I finished WAAPA.”
Montgomery has been working in film and television ever since, but he doesn’t rule out a return to theater at some point. In fact, he speaks about what he gets out of performing on stage that he doesn’t quite get from performing on a set. He says: “In film and television, you rarely have the time to rock up on set and extrapolate on the character, the world, the ideas presented, or the meaning behind the story with the director and the other actors. That’s what I like about theater. I just struggle with nerves; I always have. That’s why I find it hard to audition in person. Theater, for me . . . Even if we’re two weeks into a production and we’ve been performing to live audiences for two weeks, I’ll drill the whole play’s worth of lines about five times before I start every single night. It’s quite a draining experience, but amazing.”
Despite how intensive Montgomery says he gets while acting on stage, when it comes to the “comedown” he says he is able to leave the character behind once the scene is done — even if he had been there hours before call time to prepare. He explains, “Once I’ve left set, I’m gone. There are some pretty intense moments with Billy in Stranger Things, and I can’t leave with the character, so I’ll come to set eight hours before call, and I’ll just pace the soundstage for hours, get in the world. No one else is around me. Then when I walk on set, there’s no prep.”