Sissy Spacek was in her 20’s when she snagged her breakout role in Stephen King’s Carrie and now, more than four decades later, she’s back in Stephen King’s world – this time on TV – and she couldn’t be happier.
“I was afraid that I might never have the opportunity to do something as twisted as this again. It’s kind of an homage to Stephen King and I certainly owe Stephen King a lot!” Spacek said at New York Comic Con on Sunday.
While Spacek joked that she “hadn’t been able to shake [Carrie] off for 40 years,” she said her role in Castle Rock “is certainly very different from that.” Spacek plays Ruth, a mother with some “twisted” qualities, Spacek said.
Castle Rock, an original horror series from Hulu, takes place in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine created by Stephen King. Castle Rock serves as the setting for several other King novels and stories including “Cujo” and “The Body.”
The series tells “an original story set in that world that brushes up against some of the best loved characters and icons from the books,” said creator and executive producer Dustin Thomason. For instance, Shawshank Prison (of Redemption fame) is right down the road from Castle Rock and figures fairly prominently in the first season.
The producers say they weren’t the first writers to approach Stephen King asking for license to create stories in his universe – but they were the first he said yes to. “We feel very, very lucky that we got to have the keys to the most terrorized city in America,” said producer Sam Shaw.
In addition to Sissy Spacek, the producers brought on another veteran Stephen King actor, Bill Skarsgard of It fame. But having just come off of playing Pennywise the clown, Skarsgard said he was reluctant to take on another Stephen King project – until he read the script.
“I was a little hesitant because I had just done It,” Skarsgard said. “But I read the pilot and the writing just captivated me.” And it helped that Skarsgard isn’t playing an evil clown this time around. “He’s sort of a fringe character; he’s very different from who I am, and I just love to play characters where I really get to transform.”
Skarsgard said it wasn’t difficult to transform, though, on some of the show’s creepier sets. “We shot in the West Virginia Penitentiary which is this gothic prison built during the Civil War and supposedly it’s one of the most haunted places in America and you walk in and you understand why,” Skarsgard said. “We shot in the solitary confinement section…and there’s actual engravings and graffiti from prisoners in these cells and I’m playing a prisoner and it was horrifying for me. I don’t really believe in ghosts but there is something off with that place,” Skarsgard shared.
But despite the horrifying material, Spacek insists it wasn’t an unhappy set. “We have fun,” she said, joking that the cast all visited their therapists before taking on these roles.
The creators said they were thrilled to have attracted talent like Spacek and Skarsgard to their series. “Writing for actors like these, you can let them sort of find the nuances of the character. Working with these guys has profoundly shaped the nuances and direction,” said Thomason.
The producers are hopeful that the caliber of the performances and the writing draws in a wide audience, not just die-hard King fans. “We wanted to reward fans,” said Thomason, “but also be able to bring this story to a new audience.”
Spacek agreed: “Even if you’re not a fan of Stephen King’s books I think it still works on its own.”
Castle Rock comes to Hulu in 2018.