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What makes a Stephen King story a Stephen King story? For the creators of Castle Rock, Hulu’s new anthology series set in the author’s fictional town, it’s one very specific thing: character.
“He invented character horror,” executive producer Dustin Thomason said on the show’s 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel. “He really [introduced] a new genre.”
Thomason and co-creator Sam Shaw introduced a new take on King’s stories with their show, which screened its pilot episode at Comic-Con. The audience at the panel was the first group of people to watch the series premiere in full. While Shaw and Thomason debuted a creepy four-minute clip at the ATX Television Festival in June, the public hadn’t seen the twist-filled first episode until Friday.
After, the cast — including King veterans Sissy Spacek, Bill Skarsgard and Melanie Lynskey and newcomer Jane Levy — joined the duo to discuss their new series. The actors, who’d already starred in King projects, said Shaw and Thomason had seamlessly been able to integrate their story into King’s oeuvre.
“It felt like Stephen King. It felt like we were in that world,” Carrie star Spacek said.
Skarsgard scoured his scripts for clues much like he did while reading and rereading It. “With It, the book became my bible in trying to figure out the character and everything,” he said. “That book is so strange and weird as well, so you do an investigation work. ‘What do you mean, Stephen King?’… I did the same thing with this.”
Lynskey’s previous King project, the miniseries Rose Red, was written directly for the screen, so she didn’t have the same experience as Skarsgard and Spacek. “You get to create your own character,” she said, “that doesn’t have a lot of expectation. I don’t like a lot of expectation.”
While there wasn’t much time on the panel to get into too deep of a discussion (plus there’s always the danger of spoilers), the stars each revealed their personal favorite King books. Lynskey’s is Pet Sematary, while Levy and Spacek’s is Carrie (of course). And Skarsgard is a fan of Misery, The Body and “obviously It.”
Shaw and Thomason said in Austin that while King did have a hand in the series, he “was more like the crucial figure who loomed large from afar” and wasn’t involved with the day-to-day details.
They also said that they tried to strike a balance between packing the series with Easter eggs for King fans and making it accessible for people who haven’t read the author’s work.
“The impulse was to try to write a show that can be fun and pleasurable for somebody who has no experience reading Stephen King, but also to satiate people who want to nerd out,” said Shaw. “There’s definitely some PhD-level deep-cut [references].”
Castle Rock premieres July 25 on Hulu.
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