News

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

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