Stranger in a familiar land

Film editor Kevin Ross, BJ ’87, finds an outlet for his college-years nostalgia in the Netflix hit Stranger Things.

Kevin Ross

Last summer, the water-cooler conversations of sci-fi fans revolved around Eggo waffles, demogorgons and “the upside down” as the TV series Stranger Things became a cult hit virtually overnight. Kevin D. Ross, BJ ’87, edits the Netflix show about a group of bike-riding, monster-fighting kids. As editor, Ross selects and artfully assembles the best line readings and camera angles from hours of raw footage shot by the directors and camera crews.

Ross’s TV credits also include Shameless, Californication and Halt and Catch Fire. But Stranger Things holds an element of biography for Ross because it harks back to his Mizzou days. “Stranger Things is set in 1983 — my freshman year,” he says. The show has been called a “love letter” to iconic ’80s movies including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist and film adaptations of Stephen King’s books. Brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, co-writers and directors of Stranger Things, were born in 1984. “So, I thought, ‘Hey, they’re writing about my life,’ ” Ross says.

Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard and Gaten Matarazzo

Stranger Things cast members Caleb McLaughlin, Finn Wolfhard and Gaten Matarazzo became instant stars when the show premiered on Netflix. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Ross, who grew up in Farmington, Missouri, and now lives in Los Angeles, attended Mizzou on a G. Ellsworth Huggins Scholarship. As a freshman he worked the grill at the campus McDonald's (which operated on Lowry Mall until 2011) before becoming a resident assistant in Schurz Hall and the communications director for Residential Life. He saw the band The Waitresses at The Blue Note, attended student ID night at The Poison Apple and might have even enjoyed a New Coke at the original Shack, before it burned in 1988. “We played Dungeons & Dragons a couple times on my floor,” Ross says of the role-playing game that is a staple of the Stranger Things storyline.

Although Ross majored in journalism at MU, his heart was in film. “The day I graduated, I was accepted into the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts for grad school, and I was like, ‘Yeah! Now I don't have to fight to find a job at a small town newspaper in Iowa.' "

As an editor, Ross says Stranger Things is one of his proudest accomplishments: “I think it’s a quality product, and audiences really reacted to it.” As the father of 8-year-old twins, he boasts a different source of satisfaction: “I’m proud that my kids know the M-I-Z, Z-O-U chant.”

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