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Justin Long Explains How Playing a Possessed Teacher on ‘Goosebumps’ Took a ‘Toll’ on His Body

Justin Long Explains How Playing a Possessed Teacher on Goosebumps Took a Toll on His Body
Justin Long in ‘Goosebumps.’ Disney/David Astorga

Justin Long has been having a blast on Goosebumps — but his role as English teacher Nathan Bratt has come with some physical challenges.

During an exclusive interview with Us Weekly ahead of the Friday, November 17, season finale, Long, 45, opened up about filming the scenes where his character is possessed by the ghost of teenager Harold Biddle.

“[The show] gave me a lot of freedom to explore the physicality of jumping back and forth between bodies. And it was the first time that I really felt the consequences — the physiological effects of it,” Long explained to Us. “I started seeing a chiropractor in Vancouver [for] pretty regular adjustments. It kind of did finally take a toll on my body.”

The actor clarified that his extensive filmography also contributed to his health issues, adding, “I don’t think it was this job necessarily. It was just all the other jobs before that I hadn’t been properly stretching and maintaining things. I just wasn’t doing that. I had the arrogance of youth.”

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Goosebumps, which premiered in October, follows five teenagers who must work together after accidentally releasing supernatural forces. Halfway through the first season, the main group ended up locked in Harold’s mind, and Mr. Bratt helped them escape.

Mr. Bratt was eventually able to regain control of his body, but not before Long got to play out the character being thrown against lockers and trying to physically fight his way back. After using his experience as inspiration for a book series, Mr. Bratt made a major mistake by bringing back Slappy the Dummy and resurrecting Kanduu so he would have an ending for his story.

Long has tried to justify Mr. Bratt’s controversial decision, which wreaked havoc on the fictional town of Port Lawrence.

“I like the idea that Harold Biddle — having occupied [Mr. Bratt] for a while — may have rubbed off on him a little bit. Just in terms of being a little bit more reactive and in the last episode making a real deal with the devil kind of thing. I wonder if that was influenced by Harold Biddle and Slappy and all that,” Long noted to Us. “I just tried to create [an explanation], because sometimes if you’re making these [narrative] swings [and] jumping in and out of bodies, then you have to try to justify them and keep track of the logic.”

For Long, it was interesting to see Mr. Bratt’s reasoning come down to writer’s block gone awry.

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“Having written a few things, that’s always a relatable struggle to not be able to come up with an ending. That was also important, that the stakes [made it] clear that he really wanted this,” he continued. “Being a well-known writer and having this, it was important to him and to his ego and to his sense of purpose. That was to the point where he would dig up this body and that he would go to those lengths.”

During the season finale, viewers saw Mr. Bratt clearly shaken by how his decisions almost led to Kanduu killing all the people in town. Mr. Bratt’s problems, however, are far from over, because he’s now seemingly possessed by Kanduu.

Long, meanwhile, is excited to take on the challenge of playing Mr. Bratt as he is taken over by a much darker force. “It would be fun to explore a totally different character and wrestle with [being taken over] by a much different character,” the actor said. “In this case, [Kanduu] is kind of a real tyrant and a very self-centered person. Whereas I think Harold was more just like a confused and lost teenager.”

Despite Mr. Bratt’s mistakes, Long is thrilled about where the layered character’s story could go from here.

“I was glad that they took it in that direction. I was also really advocating the exploration of what happens psychologically after you’ve been possessed,” he added. Once you get your body back — I was thinking about this a lot — and there’s a scene in the last episode about somebody struggling with this. How invasive it must feel to not have control of your body and somebody else is in there. I thought it was interesting. It was kind of funny to explore that and I hope it goes in that direction.”

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Although Long didn’t previously read R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, all it took was a glance at the script to make him want to tell Mr. Bratt’s story.

“Horror in general allows a little bit more freedom to explore and to take some bigger swings with the character. Because this was an adult and then he’s possessed by the spirit of Biddle,” Long told Us. “It was interesting to explore that kind of teen alienation and how easy it was at that age to feel alone and unseen and unheard. Sometimes that can manifest in a really unhealthy way.

He concluded: “But really, it was fun playing a teenager. I love youthful characters, but this was different. I got to really explore both the limitations of being a teenager and the freedom of it.”

All episodes of Goosebumps season 1 are now available to stream on Disney+ and Hulu.

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