What You Never Knew About Stranger Things' David Harbour

David Harbour's first acting role came at an early age, playing the Tin Man in a kindergarten production of "The Wizard of Oz" in what he jokingly described to Westchester Magazine as "a legendary performance." 

That was just the first of many. As Broadway World pointed out, Harbour made his Broadway debut in a 1999 revival of "The Rainmaker," while IMBd noted that he also nabbed his first screen credit that same year, playing a waiter on "Law & Order." From there, Harbour established himself onstage in New York, appearing in such plays as "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," and several Shakespeare productions. At the same time, he was also building up his list of screen credits, with roles in films such as "Brokeback Mountain" and "Quantum of "Solace" and numerous TV series. Then, in 2016, Harbour was cast as Jim Hopper in "Stranger Things," a role that catapulted him to another level of stardom.

While Harbour has been acting professionally for more than two decades, there's still a lot about this wildly popular actor that even his most devoted fans may not realize. Read on to find out what you never knew about "Stranger Things"' David Harbour.

He starred in a bonkers mockumentary about his bogus family history

In 2019, David Harbour debuted a new project that was far stranger than "Stranger Things." Boasting a weird title, an even weirder premise, and a brief 28-minute run time, the Netflix mockumentary — "Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein" — featured Harbour playing both a fictionalized version of himself and his fictional late father, David Harbour Jr., who was seen in long-lost footage from a made-for-television stage play based on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein." In that play, the elder Harbour played the titular Frankenstein, who also pretended to be Frankenstein's monster, with the younger Harbour seeking insight into his enigmatic father through the work he left behind (Harbour's actual father, he once told Playbill, isn't an actor, but worked in real estate). 

Harbour portrayed his fictionalized father as a pompous, washed-up thespian, channeling late-stage Orson Welles by appearing in low-rent wine commercials featured in the TV broadcast. 

"I wanted to poke fun at my own narcissism, my own pretension," Harbour told the Los Angeles Times of the impetus behind the project.

He's married to a British pop star

In September 2020, David Harbour shared an Instagram photo of himself and new bride Lily Allen outside a Las Vegas wedding chapel. Rumors of a romance with the hit "Smile" singer first surfaced in August 2019, when E! News reported they were spotted together attending a London play. A few months later, Allen was on hand when Harbour made his debut as "Saturday Night Live" host, even attending the afterparty as his date (via People). Later that month, the two were photographed kissing at a Knicks game (via Metro). 

After appearing together at a few red carpet events, Allen was Harbour's date for the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2020, People reported. That April, he shared some photos via Instagram of his birthday celebrations at Allen's home in London. Allen then posted a selfie of herself sporting a massive diamond ring, as reported by the Daily Mail, which sparked engagement rumors. The couple ultimately tied the knot a few months later.

A Twitter challenge led him to dance with penguins in Antarctica

David Harbour has demonstrated a mastery of social media in connecting with fans — and, at one point, even penguins.

It all started with a 2018 tweet, which featured Harbour jokingly asking Greenpeace how many retweets it would take to send him to dance with emperor penguins in Antarctica. Greenpeace responded with a tweet, telling Harbour if he could muster 200,000 retweets, he could join an upcoming mission. But, as Vanity Fair reported, Harbour's legions of fans ensured he received those retweets. As a result, he embarked on an epic 16-day excursion to the Antarctic aboard a Greenpeace vessel that, he joked, led to multiple bouts of seasickness. During the trip, Harbour encountered whales, aggressive seals, and, as planned initially, penguins. 

In addition to giving him a deeper connection to the natural world and providing some significant perspective on his infinitesimal place within that world, the whole experience also taught Harbour an essential lesson about himself. "I am not a bad*** explorer dude," he told Vanity Fair. "I am a dude who is meant to be on a couch in New York City thumbing through magazines."

He's not a fan of the ocean

While his character in "Stranger Things" has undergone some truly frightening experiences, David Harbour's real-life fears are grounded in reality. Interviewed by Women's Health, Harbour revealed that he's "terrified of the ocean." 

While he concedes that the ocean is "beautiful and magical," he refuses to jump in for a swim. "That deep, dark water, with no understanding of what goes on behind it — I think that's a metaphor for a lot of things," Harbour explained. "I'm terrified of the unknown, which is a driving force for me. I like this idea that the things that terrify us also draw us in."

Harbour doesn't just dislike swimming in the ocean but is also not particularly fond of floating in it aboard a boat. That was the case when he accompanied Greenpeace on a mission to the Antarctic back in 2018 while the vessel traversed the treacherous Drake Passage. "About two hours into a 72-hour crossing, I threw up, and then I proceeded to throw up many more times, and really be convinced that I was going to die, and then stopped eating food," Harbour told Vanity Fair of the experience. 

His wife Lily Allen had 'mixed feelings' when he dropped 60 pounds

In a 2017 interview with Variety, David Harbour joked about the "donut training" he was doing to regain his "Stranger Things" character's distinctive "dad bod." Harbour subsequently told The New York Times that he gained even more weight to portray gone-to-seed Soviet superhero Red Guardian in Marvel's "Black Widow," ultimately tipping the scales at 280 pounds while growing a long, unkempt beard.

At his heaviest, Harbour fell in love with and married British pop star, Lily Allen. "It's a true testament to my undeniable charisma when I say that my wife met me at 280 pounds," he quipped, pointing out that Allen fell in love with him when he was at his "worst" appearance.

While filming "Black Widow," Harbour also embarked on a weight-loss regime to play his character in his younger days and ultimately dropped 60 pounds. However, he admitted, Allen was not excited about his weight loss but joked that he preferred the optics of beginning the relationship at a physical low point and then improving.

He suffered an ironic injury while performing in a Shakespeare play

Long before landing his breakthrough role on "Stranger Things," David Harbour plied his trade on stage in New York City. In 2016, he was cast as Achilles in a Shakespeare in the Park production of "Troilus and Cressida" (via Playbill). Shortly after the cast announcement was made, another report revealed that the role of Achilles had been recast with Louis Cancelmi after Harbour was reportedly injured during previews for the show (via TheaterMania). As the outlet also reported, Harbour tore his Achilles tendon while playing Achilles, an injury steeped in irony. "I'm so method," Harbour joked on Twitter at the time.

"I snapped my Achilles tendon," Harbour later explained during a Q&A with Build Series (via YouTube), revealing it happened while he "was lunging for some guy, and it just tore in half." According to Harbour, the injury was severe enough to require surgery.

He also referenced the medical walking boot he wore at the time, joking that he just might end up being a trend-setter with the protective footwear.

He had a high school crush on one of his Stranger Things co-stars

Throughout the "Stranger Things" storyline, David Harbour's character, Jim Hopper, begins to have romantic feelings for Joyce Byers (portrayed by Winona Ryder). Harbour admitted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he didn't need to act too much to appear interested in Ryder's character. "She was my high school crush with 'Heathers' and 'Beetlejuice,' and she's such a great person to work with," said Harbour of Ryder, praising her as an acting partner. "She was just so game [to jump in] and our process melded so well," he added. "It was like a dream."

While Hopper and Joyce clearly knew each other at the beginning of the series, any past they might have together in the show has been vague. Harbour, however, has his own idea about the characters' backstories and how they may have interwoven. "I think they dated in high school," said Harbour in a different Los Angeles Times interview. "And I think there's some unfinished business."

Harbour elaborated in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" interview, sharing his theory that Joyce "dumped him for Lonnie," her ex-husband and father of her two sons.

He originally hated the title of Stranger Things

Being cast as Jim Hopper in "Stranger Things" was both career-making and life-changing for David Harbour, who told Build Series (via YouTube) that it was the best pilot script he had ever laid his eyes on. So good, in fact, Harbour was certain he'd never land the role, figuring that Netflix would want a much bigger name. 

Yet there was one thing about "Stranger Things" that Harbour loathed: the title. As Harbour explained during an appearance on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," the title served as the basis of a disagreement between him and the series creators — Duffer brothers Matt and Ross. Initially, Harbour recalled, the series was called "Montauk." 

When the series' location shifted from the Long Island town of Montauk to the midwest, the Duffers told Harbour they'd chosen "Stranger Things" as a new title. "And I was like, 'That's the worst title I've ever heard in my life.' It sounds like some stupid guy going, 'I've heard stranger things!' It sounds like a terrible idea for a television show. And so I hated it," Harbour told Meyers.

He once watched Christopher Walken scare a squirrel

Long before skyrocketing to fame via "Stranger Things," David Harbour was an aspiring young actor living in Westchester, New York, with a love of live theater. In an interview with Vulture, Harbour looked back at the time when, at age 14, he and his girlfriend traveled to New York City and waited in line for tickets to see Raul Julia and Christopher Walken perform in a 1991 Shakespeare in the Park production of "Othello" (via AP News). 

While Harbour has enormous respect for Julia as one of the greatest actors of his time, he conceded that the star of such films as "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "The Addams Family" was rubbish in portraying Othello, but did so in an "amazing way."

As for Walken, Harbour found his portrayal of Iago to be wholly disturbing. However, Harbour admitted that Walken's performance did yield an unexpected yet unforgettable moment when a squirrel hopped onto the stage right in front of the actor, mid-monologue. Walken, recalled Harbour, screamed at the squirrel, prompting the frightened animal to run off stage. 

He credits Law & Order for helping him pay his rent as a struggling actor

The "Law & Order" franchise looms large in David Harbour's television credits, with Harbour having guest-starred in the original "Law & Order" and several other of the popular crime show's spinoffs (via IMDb). 

During a 2019 interview with Esquire, the "Stranger Things" actor jokingly referred to those "L&O" appearances as "the Dick Wolf subsidy for the theater arts," quipping that all those Wolf-created shows provided him with income during a time when he desperately needed it. 

"It paid my rent in New York for months at a time when off-Broadway salaries certainly would not," said Harbour of his various "Law & Order" gigs. 

According to MovieFone, Harbour also starred in an episode of "Law & Order: SVU," in which he portrayed a child kidnapper with deep psychological scars. Harbour, the outlet added, also starred in two episodes of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." 

He once checked himself into a psychiatric hospital

David Harbour said he was in his late 20s when he confronted what he described as alcoholism. As he told Esquire, he realized the behavior that had once made him believe that he was the popular center of attention led him down a road of shame. He opted to voluntarily check himself into a psychiatric hospital for treatment for his alcohol abuse. 

While getting sober, doctors also diagnosed Harbour with bipolar disorder. "It took about a year to adjust the medications to get them to acceptable levels," he recalled. 

In a subsequent interview with NPR's "Fresh Air," Harbour was asked whether he worried medication might affect his acting ability. "I'm still worried about it," he admitted and noted that he has spent years in therapy to help with the diagnosis and subsequent medication. Harbour explained that he'd seen first-hand the benefits of therapy regarding his diagnosis. He added that it is essential for him to rely on psychoanalysis in addition to medication.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

He was ready to leave Hollywood before Stranger Things came along

Before landing the role of Jim Hopper on "Stranger Things," David Harbour was a series regular in the NBC drama "State of Affairs," in which "Grey's Anatomy" alum Katherine Heigl also starred as a CIA officer. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Harbour revealed that he received the "Stranger Things" script at a particularly fraught time in his career. "I got the 'Stranger Things' script like a week before NBC canceled 'State of Affairs,'" he recalled. "I really had this moment where I'm like, 'I'm done ... Hollywood is done with David Harbour. They are finished.'"

At that time, he told NPR's "Fresh Air" that he'd become frustrated to have only that far in Hollywood, and characterizing the kind of roles he was being offered as merely police officers or suspects.

When he was cast in "Stranger Things," Harbour explained, not only did he jump up several rungs on the Hollywood ladder, but it also led him to "really relish the power of the storytelling of television and film."

He became an ordained minister to perform a fan's wedding

A social media challenge led David Harbour to become an ordained minister to perform a fan's dream wedding ceremony. 

In 2018, a fan named Ericka tweeted, "What would it take to get @DavidKHarbour to be the Officiant at my wedding in September?!" Harbour responded and promised her that if her tweet received 125,000 retweets, he would get a certification of ordination and perform her wedding ceremony. He also jokingly called dibs on the first slice of the wedding cake.

True to his word, Harbour later posted a photo on Twitter of himself — wearing Jim Hopper's "Stranger Thing" sheriff's costume, no less — at the nuptials, writing that he and the couple "made good on our promise" to carry out the nuptials together. Several years later, the fan was asked whether Harbour made good on his promise. "He did! Uniform and all," she tweeted, including a photo of Harbour enjoying himself at the ceremony.

He loves writing, but admits he's terrible at it

David Harbour would love to write his own scripts, if not for one big obstacle: He believes he is a terrible writer (via YouTube). Harbor admitted that he likes to write down ideas and concepts, but that hasn't necessarily translated well when he's tried his hand at screenwriting. "When I wind up writing a script, it's just a bunch of ideas and thoughts, and it's terrible. Like there's no story, and it's awful."

That, however, didn't prevent him from accepting an offer to write a book. The project, he explained, is a memoir that details his experience with mental illness and hospitalization. 

During a 2019 visit to "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Harbour joked, "It is hard to talk about this because it means I actually have to write it."

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.