Living & Entertainment

Sean Astin in Tacoma: He’ll talk ‘Goonies,’ ‘LOTR.’ But don’t ask him about ‘Stranger Things’

Sean Astin attends "The Strain" panel on Day 4 of Comic-Con International in 2014 in San Diego. Astin will be in Tacoma Aug. 31 for “An Evening with Sean Astin” at Urban Grace Church.
Sean Astin attends "The Strain" panel on Day 4 of Comic-Con International in 2014 in San Diego. Astin will be in Tacoma Aug. 31 for “An Evening with Sean Astin” at Urban Grace Church. Invision

Sean Astin wants you to know one thing: He’s not Barb.

The internet has been buzzing with rumors lately that Astin’s character in the coming season of “Stranger Things” is the show’s answer to Barb.

Barb, a sort of everybody’s best friend, apparently died last season and fans weren’t happy about it.

“Barb is irreplaceable and it’s not true,” Astin said in a recent phone interview when asked about the rumors.

Astin, an actor with a pop culture resume few can match, will be in Tacoma Aug. 31 for a public appearance. He will discuss his career which began as a child in the cult classic, “The Goonies.”

Since then he’s had memorable roles as Samwise in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the title role in “Rudy” and dozens of other films and TV shows.

Now he’s in the Netflix mega-hit “Stranger Things.”

When questioned about “Things” in a recent phone interview Astin briefly pretended the line had gone dead.

He’s not allowed to say much about it, he later explained.

But he did confirm he plays Bob, the love interest of Winona Ryder’s character.

“There’s something instantly good about that,” he said. “Bob brings an energy to the show that’s … he’s happy. That’s my mission.”

One could say that’s frequently his mission.

Whether he’s playing the muscle-bound brother in “50 First Dates” or the scientist who sells New York out to vampires in “The Strain” it’s easy to like Astin’s characters.


“When you come into the second season of a show that’s a galactic smash hit, the whole thing is not to mess anything up,” Astin said of “Things.”

He feels confidant he hasn’t wrecked the show. The new season premiers Oct. 27.

“Things” is set in the 1980s and tells the story of an alternate universe called the “upside down” from the perspective of children.

The kids ride their bikes around their small Indiana town as they deal with the strange world they’ve uncovered.

“In ‘Goonies’ we were riding our bikes to go find the pirate ship,” Astin said.

That 1980s pop culture association, Astin said, made the show runners hesitant to cast him in the role.

“They actually said that was a cause for concern,” Astin said. “You don’t want anything to take you out of the world of the show. But I look so different.”

While on set he was impressed with the child actors.

“They are stone cold professionals who are totally dialed into what they are doing.”


The 1985 film “The Goonies” was filmed partly in Astoria, Ore. The house featured in the film still draws “Goonies” tourists.

“It’s astounding people make pilgrimages to the house,” he said. “It feels like what home is in people’s imagination.”

Astin called making the film an adventure.

“Every day we had pirate ships and all kinds of great stuff.”

Despite the huge sets and Steven Spielberg script, Astin wasn’t aware of its impact while filming.

“It’s a trifecta,” he said of the film’s enduring popularity. “It’s innocence, it’s humor, and it’s reverence.”

Astin has had roles in horror films and Christian films, the action series “24” and other genres.

The role he most identifies with is “Rudy.” He played a focused but small statured Notre Dame football player in the 1993 film.

“The determination and heart at the core of that movie are reflected in me,” he said.

Astin reserves his role as Samwise the hobbit in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films as the highest achievement of his career.

 ‘Lord of the Rings’ is the most important work I’ve ever done and probably will be,” he said.

The seven years, on and off, he spent working on the films were worth it, he said.

“No amount of time would have been inappropriate,” he said.


Astin is the son of actress Patty Duke and the adopted son of actor John Astin. Duke won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in the 1962 film “The Miracle Worker.”

John Astin might be best known for playing Gomez in the 1960s TV series, “The Addams Family.”

There were few reminders of Hollywood in the Astin house as he grew up with three older brothers and one younger brother, Astin said.

“It was a circus,” Astin said of those years. “The dinner table must have looked like something out of a zoo feeding.”

In the summer, John Astin and Duke would collect their boys and travel in a van to summer stock theater performances in New England.

“I could only imagine what people would think when five raucous kids and two television stars would pile out of it,” Astin said.

Astin’s first acting job came at age eight, starring with his mom in a TV show.

“When we were driving to the set on the first day she could see I was really excited and really nervous,” Astin recalled. “I have this distinct memory of her saying, ‘Hit your mark, say your line.’ It was a sense of determined professionalism.”

Duke died in 2016.

John Astin, 87, teaches drama at John Hopkins University.

“He’s vigorous and intellectually crisp,” Astin said. “He doesn’t like it when you brag about his age because he acts like a 60-year-old.”

Astin’s younger brother, Mackenzie, is also an actor.

The acting gene has passed on to the newest generation of Astins.

Astin has three daughters, the eldest of which is interested in pursuing an acting career.

“I was hyper aware of what sort of pressure might be on her,” Astin said. He encouraged her to pursue any career she wanted.

“At 15 it became clear I had not done a good job of that because she was absolutely focused on acting,” he said.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

An Evening with Sean Astin

When: 8-11:30 p.m.

Where: Urban Grace Church, 902 Market Street, Tacoma

Tickets: $15-60 at Eventbrite