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

Acorn TV Thanksgiving dramedy SundanceTV Brie Larson mockumentary RT History Oscars Crunchyroll Sci-Fi Sundance Now golden globes Lifetime Christmas movies game of thrones docudrama sitcom independent FX Film science fiction The Witch spain Cannes A24 Rock fast and furious Television Academy Academy Awards franchise CW Seed anime TLC Walt Disney Pictures talk show comedies name the review Nat Geo Martial Arts TIFF crime drama joker FOX anthology Shudder supernatural Podcast dogs BET Awards dragons 2017 Fantasy Trailer police drama AMC Captain marvel scary movies Trophy Talk Marathons HBO Paramount Teen Fall TV Funimation universal monsters movies Opinion Netflix FX on Hulu Chilling Adventures of Sabrina adventure Mystery See It Skip It Watching Series The Arrangement festivals dc hollywood sequels LGBTQ Disney+ Disney Plus Musical Photos Warner Bros. Kids & Family reviews Lucasfilm The Walking Dead miniseries Disney Channel Awards Tour Endgame animated TCM 21st Century Fox FXX Starz Writers Guild of America parents binge facebook Reality Competition CBS batman tv talk thriller cancelled sports directors Best and Worst USA canceled Holidays TV renewals ratings psycho Disney Plus cancelled TV shows harry potter Black Mirror Ovation Elton John romance Awards Women's History Month MTV RT21 Tarantino cooking CNN MCU finale stoner SXSW Film Festival cancelled TV series Music quibi cats Spring TV die hard hispanic Disney streaming service TCA Winter 2020 Sundance TV BBC America ABC 20th Century Fox HBO Go GLAAD comic television a nightmare on elm street Hallmark Christmas movies zero dark thirty Cartoon Network VICE Year in Review DC Universe Lionsgate zombies crime thriller doctor who Masterpiece President DirecTV cults Apple TV Plus Pride Month critics Spike Summer PlayStation Netflix Christmas movies Cosplay Avengers Grammys superhero 2019 Marvel Television streaming latino Mary Tyler Moore richard e. Grant New York Comic Con video on demand politics technology christmas movies PBS Pet Sematary social media zombie Universal dceu Discovery Channel hist Comedy Central romantic comedy boxoffice YA Winter TV reboot discovery strong female leads Britbox CMT political drama Red Carpet obituary kids LGBT Food Network Classic Film TV book Rocky Black History Month Turner Classic Movies stop motion First Reviews SDCC cops OneApp Horror Mindy Kaling jamie lee curtis classics San Diego Comic-Con 4/20 crime ESPN crossover YouTube series The Purge 2016 The CW all-time APB Vudu E! National Geographic CBS All Access asian-american Superheroes GIFs Animation Box Office Ellie Kemper IFC Films El Rey biography Amazon 007 true crime casting indie natural history singing competition Western Pop south america video Logo concert diversity YouTube Red breaking bad Superheroe Spectrum Originals Countdown Emmy Nominations Arrowverse travel dark BET Emmys spanish language Nickelodeon Mudbound war Comics on TV ghosts spy thriller Star Trek indiana jones TCA Awards Country Syfy renewed TV shows unscripted child's play Pirates Biopics X-Men TCA Marvel Mary Poppins Returns Comedy what to watch screenings based on movie robots Fox News Sneak Peek Infographic OWN Sony Pictures documentaries Pixar Hear Us Out VOD WarnerMedia ABC Family justice league Family Action WGN MSNBC foreign chucky Lifetime ITV Rom-Com TruTV American Society of Cinematographers History Calendar sequel green book cancelled television Star Wars cartoon TV Land documentary Trivia Certified Fresh BBC One blaxploitation aliens comics satire Drama Showtime transformers children's TV nature comiccon spinoff DC streaming service rotten movies we love Peacock vampires news Esquire Amazon Prime Amazon Prime Video adaptation Holiday werewolf Quiz USA Network award winner witnail Character Guide Baby Yoda worst Amazon Studios disaster Heroines E3 Tubi Columbia Pictures Pop TV laika game show cinemax Sundance halloween DC Comics Disney A&E TNT mission: impossible 2015 medical drama blockbuster Schedule Ghostbusters Premiere Dates Christmas Anna Paquin Shondaland Tomatazos TCA 2017 Paramount Network toy story Adult Swim movie screen actors guild Winners cars Reality space Apple TV+ BAFTA Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Interview films Epix mutant sag awards Travel Channel criterion Mary poppins Set visit DGA period drama Election rotten psychological thriller nbcuniversal Hallmark IFC GoT First Look Freeform theme song HBO Max Song of Ice and Fire Bravo Toys historical drama VH1 Rocketman Hulu Television Critics Association Dark Horse Comics Musicals 71st Emmy Awards Stephen King BBC Turner serial killer canceled TV shows best Marvel Studios teaser slashers 24 frames Super Bowl 2018 Creative Arts Emmys 45 Comic Book PaleyFest Extras YouTube Premium Binge Guide composers NYCC TBS Apple Crackle emmy awards Polls and Games twilight Valentine's Day Tumblr revenge 72 Emmy Awards free movies stand-up comedy versus Video Games 2020 Nominations elevated horror spider-man NBC Chernobyl