Making Castle Rock Requires a Ph.D. in Stephen King, Say Cast and Showrunner

Bill Skarsgård, Jane Levy, and series creator Sam Shaw share details with eager fans at San Diego Comic-Con.

by | July 20, 2018 | Comments

For four decades, master of horror Stephen King has been terrifying audiences with his written word and with the countless adaptations of his works that have hit big and small screens. Now, Hulu is putting their own spin on the formula, by bringing a new look at the author’s creepy universe with new original series, Castle Rock (Certified Fresh at 85% on the Tomatometer). Ahead of its premiere, Rotten Tomatoes got the chance to sit down with the show’s cast and creatives at San Diego Comic-Con to get insight into the new King–inspired series.

Castle Rock -- "Severance" -- Episode 101 -- Henry Deaver, a death-row attorney, confronts his dark past when an anonymous call lures him back to his hometown of Castle Rock, Maine. Henry Deaver (Andre Holland), shown. (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Castle Rock follows lawyer Henry Deaver (André Holland) as he returns to his childhood town to investigate a sinister discovery and ends up facing personal demons from his past. The story features a theme we’ve seen time and again in King adaptations, which have become quite commonplace, but it’s easy to forget just how wide his genre reach actually is. And while Castle Rock is immersed in the iconic realm he created, it was a challenge to make the series feel original while also staying true to the characters and stories that have previously taken place in the fictional Maine town.

“We had to have a sort of graduate-level seminar on the works of Stephen King in the writers’ room,” explained show creator Sam Shaw (Manhattan). “For one thing, the library is so huge! There was no possibility that any of us were going to be able to sit down and read all of those books, so we had to sort of divide and conquer.”

Drawing from King’s Castle Rock–specific books not only helped paint a bigger picture of the town for the Hulu series, it also fleshed out an iconic character unseen on-screen since the early ’90s: Sheriff Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn) — previously played by Ed Harris in Needful Things and Michael Rooker in The Dark Half. According to Shaw, there was a valid concern over revisiting this character in 2018.

“We are coming back to Alan Pangborn 30 years later,” the showrunner explained. “It was important for us to know that Stephen King was comfortable with us telling the postscript to the Alan Pangborn stories that had already been written.”

Aside from bringing Pangborn back for another go-round, fans should expect a series filled with King references — from lesser known short stories to the epic novels we all love. According to Shaw, there will be a plethora of “deep cuts” for “Ph.D.-level fans” to seek out. But as it’s been teased throughout multiple show trailers, the first season of Castle Rock will bring audiences back into the cold, haunted walls of Shawshank Prison.

“So it’s a prison story and there’s Shawshank … and that’s obviously going to be gratifying and mean something to somebody who’s a fan of that movie,” Shaw teased.

Bill Skarsgård (It), whose character is found in a cage underground, struggled a bit with the location.

“Initially, going into it, it was really important that he has been in isolation for a really long time,” Skarsgård explained. “So, you know, researching what solitary confinement does to one’s psyche, trying to imagine what it would’ve been like to have been in there for that long and how strange and terrifying it would be to interact with people again after being there.”

Skarsgård’s role in the series is shrouded in secrecy, but his appearance sets off a chain of events that brings Henry — the main character in the story — back to his childhood town.

Castle Rock -- "Severance" -- Episode 101 -- Henry Deaver, a death-row attorney, confronts his dark past when an anonymous call lures him back to his hometown of Castle Rock, Maine. Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) and Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek), shown. (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Another King alumni plays Ruth, Henry’s adoptive mother: the original Carrie, Sissy Spacek. These heavy hitters help to add a grounded feel to the story, which gives a closer look at the unnerving underbelly of small-town America, a place King thrives in.

Referencing his own deep passion for Twin Peaks — another series exploring one town’s quirky dark side — Shaw acknowledged his fascination with the demons that lurk behind picket fences.

“To a certain extent, we’ve always sort of been obsessed with stories on the dysfunction of small towns,” Shaw said. “But Twin Peaks has such a specific landscape that is so steeped in David Lynch’s sense of the Northwest. Part of what I think we always loved as readers of Stephen King was how specific his anthropology of New England and Maine was.”

Castle Rock -- "Severance" -- Episode 101 -- Henry Deaver, a death-row attorney, confronts his dark past when an anonymous call lures him back to his hometown of Castle Rock, Maine. Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) and Jackie (Jane Levy), shown. (Photo by: Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Jane Levy, who plays a character named Jackie Torrance — which she would neither confirm nor deny is connected to King’s The Shining — took Shaw’s sentiments one step further: “When you’re in a small space and there’s generational history, there’s neighbors that know each other’s’ good stuff and bad stuff. That’s really juicy grounds for drama […], and it’s also such a scary idea to think the town itself might be the villain.”

The series also stars Melanie Lynskey, Noel Fisher, and Terry O’Quinn.

Castle Rock premieres Wednesday, July 25, with three episodes on Hulu.

Tag Cloud

Certified Fresh book dark animated christmas movies FX on Hulu BET Awards politics TV DC Comics Disney Channel Super Bowl Emmys Funimation E3 indie El Rey Sundance Now Black History Month Apple TV+ Binge Guide Lifetime spain BET SXSW APB Universal Animation 2020 Comedy Central Film Festival justice league TCA 2017 Action Holiday adventure Rock casting Winter TV Sneak Peek TLC 007 GoT boxoffice Country psycho MTV Television Academy child's play films spinoff directors cancelled Western Turner Classic Movies Reality cooking YouTube Red Calendar USA Heroines New York Comic Con Chernobyl Crackle dramedy Discovery Channel Shudder VH1 TIFF E! Nat Geo Stephen King stand-up comedy composers Music technology The Arrangement The CW award winner hispanic halloween Family Fox News A24 BBC Marvel Television Rom-Com BBC America Freeform blaxploitation true crime parents a nightmare on elm street Women's History Month Hulu RT History Marathons zero dark thirty anime cartoon ITV Writers Guild of America spanish language Pet Sematary series CBS YouTube Turner Captain marvel Amazon Prime independent discovery Extras strong female leads Apple serial killer Comic Book canceled concert video binge Biopics renewed TV shows Podcast Showtime Trivia TV Land American Society of Cinematographers aliens elevated horror mission: impossible Dark Horse Comics TV renewals Tarantino medical drama criterion comiccon reviews Mudbound adaptation LGBT Polls and Games Ghostbusters Epix Crunchyroll video on demand zombie movie sitcom Premiere Dates war twilight TCA Winter 2020 Infographic Ovation LGBTQ Reality Competition National Geographic Pirates Pop indiana jones Classic Film dc FOX HBO Max romance Pride Month sag awards Paramount Countdown Syfy BAFTA Superheroe franchise Avengers spider-man scary movies The Witch Travel Channel Mary Poppins Returns Masterpiece miniseries CW Seed Amazon Elton John Columbia Pictures Walt Disney Pictures screen actors guild versus dceu Box Office CBS All Access X-Men Toys joker History Marvel revenge Netflix Christmas movies what to watch Rocketman quibi Cosplay USA Network finale A&E Emmy Nominations space Apple TV Plus DC streaming service San Diego Comic-Con children's TV Mary Tyler Moore Comics on TV romantic comedy all-time IFC Films jamie lee curtis HBO Go Spring TV Logo name the review Nickelodeon Sony Pictures NYCC Sundance Video Games Creative Arts Emmys WGN GIFs diversity Trailer Year in Review 4/20 south america Anna Paquin Opinion Baby Yoda IFC documentary PBS Valentine's Day teaser Lucasfilm cars documentaries crime thriller Rocky harry potter DirecTV comics critics sports Cartoon Network Lionsgate Hallmark rotten movies we love Quiz Photos docudrama cops FXX Sci-Fi Adult Swim vampires disaster Musicals CMT golden globes PlayStation blockbuster Watching Series Warner Bros. Disney Plus TCA crime drama DGA Nominations The Purge Disney Best and Worst Martial Arts slashers Comedy witnail historical drama foreign Grammys cats thriller sequel Brie Larson GLAAD transformers mockumentary Cannes Sundance TV spy thriller Awards Tour 2016 Trophy Talk Peacock HBO period drama ABC game show Tomatazos Horror dogs festivals Mindy Kaling BBC One Set visit Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic Disney streaming service anthology latino 2018 crossover VOD YouTube Premium TCM biography 71st Emmy Awards Tubi Food Network ghosts Academy Awards Paramount Network Red Carpet Britbox First Look doctor who theme song NBC facebook Netflix travel werewolf Oscars Esquire Black Mirror nature singing competition asian-american President stoner richard e. Grant Endgame die hard free movies Spike Mystery Holidays cancelled TV series The Walking Dead television green book based on movie satire Hallmark Christmas movies streaming First Reviews cancelled TV shows VICE Film 2017 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt YA Awards OneApp SundanceTV toy story DC Universe TruTV unscripted Kids & Family game of thrones Hear Us Out SDCC best universal monsters 45 ABC Family TBS Interview Bravo mutant batman Tumblr Christmas crime Star Wars Summer PaleyFest Drama Teen TNT Acorn TV 21st Century Fox talk show MCU cancelled television breaking bad CNN Spectrum Originals hist FX Fall TV Amazon Prime Video Arrowverse science fiction Disney+ Disney Plus Ellie Kemper Pop TV cinemax ESPN 24 frames MSNBC AMC Star Trek OWN Mary poppins Fantasy ratings kids 2015 psychological thriller 20th Century Fox Character Guide Song of Ice and Fire screenings comedies chucky reboot See It Skip It 2019 WarnerMedia police drama Superheroes Election canceled TV shows movies supernatural tv talk Lifetime Christmas movies Shondaland Vudu natural history Marvel Studios Pixar zombies robots Musical RT21 dragons social media Amazon Studios Winners political drama cults Thanksgiving Starz news Schedule