Who plays Vecna in Stranger Things season 4 and how is he linked to Eleven?

You might recognise this well-known British actor who plays Vecna in Stranger Things season 4...

a close up of Stranger Things monster Vecna against a red background
(Image credit: Netflix/Future)

Fans are keen to know who plays Vecna in Stranger Things as the show returns for its two final episodes.  

Viewers have been waiting for the arrival of Stranger Things Season 4 Part 2 - giving us the final 2 episodes to conclude this season's saga. After 4 exciting seasons, the science fiction horror drama is approaching its finale, bringing closure on telekinetic teenager Eleven, and the rest of the Hawkins gang.  

In what is set to be a finale to draw global audiences, it is expected that Eleven will have a showdown with the series’ villain, Vecna. With her newly restored powers, Eleven not only needs to save Max and Nancy, who are in the grip of Vecna’s curse, but the entire world. Stranger Things season 4 is one of three superhero series gripping audiences this summer, alongside The Umbrella Academy season 3 on Netflix and The Boys on Amazon Prime.

Who plays Vecna in Stranger Things? 

Vecna is played by Jamie Campbell Bower. The 33-year-old British actor and singer is well known to audiences for playing young Gellert Grindelwald in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part 1. He reprised this role within the Fantastic Beasts franchise, appearing in the film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. 

Speaking to Vanity Fair about landing the role of Vecna, Campbell Bower expressed shock at finding out he was to be the villain of the series. He said: “I was surprised from the moment I got the audition! I was like, really? Me? But I was in this total mode of surrender. Like, this is wild. Let it happen. I love villains. And I love the villain in this show, but I don’t see him as a villain. Obviously, he’s our point of contention, as it were. But I never saw him as the villain because I understood him.”

a close up of actor Jamie Bower Campbell at the premiere of Stranger Things season 4

(Image credit: Getty)

The actor also required the heavy use of prosthetics for the role, and shared a post to Twitter describing the effort going into his transformation into Vecna. 

Alongside a behind-the-scenes picture of Vecna, the caption read: “To really get Vecna's look perfect, the Stranger Things team created a full-body lifecast of Jamie Campbell Bower based on a 3D scan of his body, and used that to make18 prosthetics for his skin – the neck and shoulder pieces ALONE weighed about almost 9lbs”.

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Who is Vecna from Stranger Things?

In season 4, episode 7 we learn that in human form, Vecna is Henry Creel (otherwise known as One or Peter Ballard at the Hawkins Lab). Henry moved to Hawkins as a young boy in 1959, and discovered that he possessed psychokinetic abilities. 

He used these to psychologically terrify his family, who were unaware that he had these extraordinary abilities. He eventually killed his mother and sister, framing his father Victor for his crimes. Victor was committed to life imprisonment in an asylum when the trauma of the murders induced madness. 

After faking his own death, Henry was kidnapped by Dr Brenner, who took him to have his powers analysed and tested in Hawkins Lab, along with Eleven and the other telekinetic children. Here he becomes known as One, whom the children are later told no longer exists. 

Feeling that he was too dangerous to keep his abilities, Dr Brenner subdued them by placing a chip in his neck and uses his blood to increase the powers of the other children. A powerless Henry ends up working as an assistant to the children at the lab, using the name Peter Ballard.

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In his monster form, Vecna is a vanquished lich, or an undead wizard who becomes immortal by using forbidden magic. He chooses his victims by selecting those who have suffered trauma, or who are emotionally fragile. Their weak mental state makes it easy for him to gain access to their minds and form a connection. This gives him the ability to invoke powerful hallucinations for his victims, and he can kill them from within the Upside Down without needing physical proximity.

Vecna and the Dungeons and Dragons connection

Vecna was not created solely as a Stranger Things character. He exists outside of the Stranger Things universe in the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). He is often depicted as missing his left hand and eye, and does not claim a single domain, instead roaming the entire D&D multiverse.

Vecna’s powers in the game include the ability to induce paralysis with his touch, and the ability to alter the reality of his victims. These traits have crossed over into the Stranger Things portrayal of Vecna, who always begins his psychological assault on his victims by placing horrifying images and scenarios in their minds that they believe are their reality. Vecna isn’t the first D&D character to appear in Stranger Things, as they based each previous season’s villain on a character from the game. 

How is Vecna linked to Eleven in Stranger Things? 

Eleven is responsible for restoring Henry Creel’s powers, and banishing him to the Upside Down where he becomes Vecna. While working as Peter Ballad at Hawkins Lab, Henry befriends Eleven, believing that she is special like him. Paying her particular attention and consoling her when she is bullied by the other children, he builds her faith in him as a friend and guardian. 

He eventually turns Eleven against Dr Brenner, and convinces her to use her powers to remove the chip from his neck, which she does. With his full powers unleashed, Peter/Henry goes on the 1979 rampage that we have seen in flashbacks throughout this season, killing the staff and subjects at the lab. Realising what she has done, Eleven opens the door to the Upside Down and ejects him from this world.

Vecna in human form as Henry Creel or Peter Ballard looking at Eleven who looks frightened

(Image credit: Netflix/Future)

Fan reaction to Vecna 

Fans have reacted positively to Vecna, despite his gruesome misgivings. One fan tweeted: “Vecna’s whole storyline is hands down the best thing Stranger Things ever did. Top-tier way of how to flesh out a villain’s backstory”.

These sentiments were echoed by another fan, who also praised Campbell Bower’s performance to help bring Vecna to life.

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As well as praise for the character and its portrayal, fans have shown they are genuinely frightened by Vecna too. One fan tweeted: “Robin saying ‘it might not work out for us this time’ and then Vecna saying ‘your friends have lost’ … I'm actually terrified”.

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Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.