NYCC 2019: Interview with the Cast of Hulu’s Castle Rock

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Hulu’s Castle Rock premieres October 23rd. Photo from Hulu.

The cast of Hulu’s Castle Rock came to New York Comic Con earlier this month to give us a somewhat mysterious look at what we can expect for season two. Of course, answers were vague but season two of Castle Rock is all about loyalty. Whose side are you on?

Dustin Thomason, the co-creator and executive producer of the series, confirmed that this season will take place during the same timeline of season one. It’s an interesting angle considering Annie Wilkes from Misery (Lizzy Caplan) and the Merrill family will be the main focus of Castle Rock’s season two. Wilkes’ backstory and her obsession with popular writer Paul Sheldon ends far before current events. 

“I think that fans will recognize the Castle Rock of season two,” says Thomason hinting at a potential for more horror this next season. Thomason also says that he considers Castle Rock a “soft anthology”. 

Thomason’s goal is to introduce threads within Castle Rock and have them “circle back together” in unsuspecting ways – similar to Stephen King’s writing methods. Consider this the MCU of Stephen King’s writing universe. There will be interactions between characters that usually don’t have a history of being together but anything is possible in Castle Rock

Annie Wilkes portrayed by Lizzy Caplan in season two of Castle Rock. Photo from Hulu.

Of course, Stephen King fans know all too well the phrase “there are other worlds than these” so there is speculation that these stories of Castle Rock take place across multiple worlds. Thomason is quick to shut that speculation down saying, “we are existing in the same world… for now.” 

Thomason addressed the decision to keep Castle Rock in modern times as opposed to the original settings saying he wanted a darker version of the town. In an interview with SYFY back in 2018, Thomason said he wanted to “ look at a Castle Rock that was boarded up, to look at a Castle Rock where the younger population had basically fled. That was something that was interesting to us, to kind of think about a place that was a little bit stuck in its own past and the underbelly of that nostalgia.” 

Damn you, Thomason and your vagueness. He was also smug enough to mention that he flew out to a Star Wars set to discuss Castle Rock with J.J. Abrams (executive producer of the show). I can only imagine it was a set from The Rise of Skywalker but Thomason left us salivating with that drip of a comment before dropping his mic and disappearing into the night. How is he so cool? 

The big reveal of season two is the introduction of Annie Wilkes. Many remember the Oscar-winning performance Kathy Bates gave portraying Annie Wilkes in the 1990 film adaptation of Misery. Lizzy Caplan (Freaks and Geeks and Cloverfield) says that this version of Annie is different enough from the cinematic Annie we see in Misery. The events of season two is what Caplan considers a second chapter in the background of Annie Wilkes – the third being Misery

“Our Annie, she’s still moving through the world,” says Caplan. “She’s interacting with other people. She has a daughter to look after.” 

Annie Wilkes up to no good in season two of Castle Rock. Photo from Hulu.

Annie’s daughter, Joy Wilkes (Elsie Fisher), is going through the normal phases of being a teenager on top of dealing with a mother like… well, Annie. Fisher says Joy’s relationship with her mom is a typical relationship between mother and daughter but, at some point, Joy will have to address Annie’s darker nature and, oh yeah, the murders. 

“Joy is going through puberty. She’s being a teen. Being a rebel,” says Fisher. “I think that is just amplified in some ways by Annie’s mental state and what she deals with.” Yeah, the murders.

If Castle Rock’s Annie is going to mimic the Annie from Misery, there are going to be mysterious deaths at the hospital she works at. How Joy, if she finds out her mother is responsible, will deal with Annie about these murders can be a major character development tool. 

Both Thomason and Caplan are keeping the mystery alive by not addressing how this Annie is alive and a younger nurse in the present but Misery’s Annie started as a nurse in the 1960’s. 

Thomason says that he is putting an Annie Wilkes prequel in modern day and he believes that the audience might have a challenge with that at first but can eventually wrap their head around the idea of Castle Rock “resetting the timeline” on King’s various characters. 

Basically, the answer we have to swallow for now is that Castle Rock’s Annie Wilkes is the same but different. 

The introduction of Jerusalem’s Lot in season two of Castle Rock. Refugees will find a sanctuary in Castle Rock this season. Photo from Hulu.

Another popular comeback from the Stephen King Written Universe will be Ace Merrill (Paul Sparks) from the novella The Body and it’s popular film adaptation Stand By Me, starring Kiefer Sutherland. Ace is joined by his dad, Reginald “Pop” Merrill (Tim Robbins), and his brother, Chris Merrill (Matthew Alan), in a clash of loyalty and good ol’ family tension. 

“We find Ace in the future, pretty much where you imagined that character would be in the future,” says Sparks about what we can expect from Ace Merrill. “He’s not changed a lot. He’s still a pretty complicated guy.” 

Sparks says  Ace only trusts his brother in Castle Rock but even then there are questions of loyalty. He also points out that this next season will explore the idea of why people behave the way they behave. Many characters in this season are ethically compromised some way or another. 

It’s the same with the first season of Castle Rock. No one was innocent in that town. Everyone had something to hide. Why would this season be any different? 

Ace is slated to take over the family business once ‘Pop’ passes it down. Alan says that Chris might have some tension with his brother about Ace receiving the family business. But the Merrill family only relies on loyalty to maintain good standing. If Chris were to go against Ace being in charge, that could change the family dynamic. There will be outside forces looking to take over the business as well. 

As for Tim Robbins stepping back into the Stephen King universe after playing the INNOCENT Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, he says he was drawn into the show of Castle Rock because of its horror elements. 

Tim Robbins stepping back into the world of Stephen King as Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill in season two of Castle Rock. Photo from Hulu.

Reginald ‘Pop’ Merrill is morally complicated, according to Robbins. “He’s someone that has a past that is full of demons and ghosts (he would not specify if these demons and ghosts were literal or figurative). He’s probably the only one in the town that can recognize a certain element of the town that has a tenuous hold on itself and at any time can burst.” 

Robbins also says that ‘Pop’ was one of three that dealt with the “evil that has presented itself before”. The vagueness in which Robbins describes his character might mean that ‘Pop’ is someone who knows a lot more than he is letting on. Hopefully, there will be more background on Castle Rock and just what this “evil” is. Also, who were the other two that dealt with it? 

It seems we can expect more horror and supernatural elements from Castle Rock this next season. How each character interacts with each other will be interesting to see as well. Robbins leaves a vague question about the character of Ace asking, “was Ace bad from the beginning or did Pop have something to do with that?” Nothing is as it seems in the town of Castle Rock

“With the Stephen King universe, and the supernatural, the fun part is anything is possible,” says Matthew Alan.

Season two of Castle Rock premieres on Hulu Wednesday, October 23rd.