SDCC 2018: Writers of ‘Castle Rock’ Talk Modern Stephen King Adaptation

With the July 25th premiere date of Castle Rock just days away, the writers of Hulu’s Stephen King-inspired horror series joined With An Accent and other outlets at San Diego Comic Con to preview the chills to come. Check out the video and read the responses below.

For those who are still unclear what the show itself is about, writer Sam Shaw explained, “This first season has a kind of mystery story that unfolds over the course of ten episodes. It begins with a kind of spectacular death that leads to a discovery in the bowels of Shawshank Prison of an extra prisoner.” If Shawshank sounds like one of your favorite Stephen King stories, that’s because it is. “His discovery ropes in André Holland’s character, Henry Deaver, who’s a kid who grew up in the town of Castle Rock, the bad luck town that readers of Stephen King know and love,” Shaw continued.

Bill Skarsgård’s mysterious prisoner turns Shawhank and Castle Rock upside down.

Fellow writer Dustin Thomason added that Castle Rock‘s brand of horror will very much follow King’s own style. “Stephen King is a writer who kind of does it all, and part of what we wanted to do on this show was deliver on the psychological suspense, the creepiness, and at times hopefully the grab-you-by-the-throat scares.” Thomason went on to say that the early episodes will focus on building the world of the town, but that everyday human horrors would come into play before presumably branching out in more unusual scares.

In fact, Shaw chipped in to tease the escalation of fear from the simple to the supernatural. “The premise, at least in the first hour or so, is pretty wild and outlandish but not overtly paranormal. And then the story gets progressively weirder and more disturbing as it goes. One thing we love about Stephen King is when you embark on the journey and think that you’re reading one kind of story, and by the time you arrive at the end you’ve lost all your bearings and are off in some completely bizarre alternate place you wouldn’t have anticipated. That was a goal for us in making the season.” If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, nothing will.

As lifelong fans of the acclaimed novelist, both screenwriters confirmed they received approval from the master on character choices and unexpected directions. If anything, the difficulty was not going overboard and sampling too much of the stories available to them. Shaw provided a colorful metaphor when describing the dilemma, saying, “It was sort of like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet dinner on a cruise ship. It’s very easy to wind up puking over the side of the boat. So we had to be selective about where we were drawing characters and where we were drawing on themes and ideas from the books.” While there a lot of Easter eggs from many different stories woven into the first season, Shaw says the main themes are derived from the ones focusing on prison life. “A lot of stories deal with death row and the real-world monster of incarceration.”

Dealing with incarceration is one of the main ways that Castle Rock has been updated from the time period of the classic stories to 2018, Thomason confided. “Part of what we were always intent on doing from the beginning was not telling a white picket fence, old school [storyo] where you find Deary or Castle Rock at the beginning of the novels, but sort of what does a town like that look like now? A town that had basically been thinned out in its population, to closed down storefronts, mills – now basically the main business of the town is incarceration. That’s sort of how you get to Shawshank and understand that there’s this real relationship between the prison and the town.”

Shaw agreed with his partner, adding, “So many of us came to those books when we were teenagers, at a very tender age, they’re sort of shot through with this contact shot of nostalgia. So part of what was fun and interesting about the challenge of making the show was to try to tell a contemporary Stephen King story. To try to imagine what Shawshank would look like in 2018, what it would look like to tell a story about the privatization of a prison and what the sort of economic pressures of a prison are.” Not to mention to reintroduce the world to Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn). a hero of novels from the 80s and 90s, like The Dark Half.

Castle Rock comes to Hulu on July 25th, and Shaw is positive that the wealth of tales to tell could allow for many more seasons. Although, of course he knows that “Our fate is in the hands of our corporate masters.”

What are you most excited about when it comes to the show? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to come back to for more discussions with the cast of Castle Rock and plenty of other shows!