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SYFY WIRE Castle Rock

Lizzy Caplan explains why Annie Wilkes is more than a 'creepy monster weirdo' on Castle Rock

By Matthew Jackson
Castle Rock Lizzy Caplan as Annie Wilkes

One of the great joys of the Hulu series Castle Rock is its ability to remix and reimagine the characters and locales of Stephen King, as evidenced by the version of the titular Maine town that exists on the show. In its first season, that reimagining gave us everything from a new version of Sheriff Alan Pangborn to a connection to The Shining that we didn't see coming. In Season 2, we're getting new versions of the Merrill family (who pop up in everything from "The Sun Dog" to "The Body") and, of course, a new version of Annie Wilkes, the deadly nurse who emerged from King's 1987 novel Misery

Wilkes was first brought to life on the screen in the 1990 film version of Misery by Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for her performance. In that respect, Castle Rock star Lizzy Caplan has some big shoes to fill, but in many other respects her Annie and Bates' Annie are very different. Yes, they're playing the same disturbed woman, but Caplan's Annie is younger, less isolated, and more tied to civilization. When we meet her in Castle Rock Season 2 she's traveling around the country with her daughter Joy (Elsie Fisher), changing nursing jobs (and license plates) often and smuggling anti-psychotic medication out of hospitals, until circumstance leads her to Castle Rock and its own strange goings-on. 

This version of Annie will no doubt be recognizable to any Misery fan thanks to Caplan's performance, which includes a very distinctive walk and an even more distinctive vocabulary, but Castle Rock is determined to find its own path with the character. One of the keys to this seems to be Annie's motherhood, which at first glance may seem to be a very differerent dynamic than the sadistic love she has for Paul Sheldon. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about her character, Caplan explained why Annie's love for Joy and Annie's love for Paul Sheldon are actually part of the same unifying drive within her. 

"Annie Wilkes needs to love one thing. And it's an all-consuming, obsessive love. Ultimately, the final stop is her love for Paul Sheldon. This is who Annie is. She knows how to love one thing with everything she's got at the expense of all other things," Caplan said. "It helps me see the humanity in Annie, because her driving motivation is actually a pure love for her daughter. It's not some, 'I'm a creepy monster weirdo.' It's she wants to protect her daughter. And she's got very good reason for wanting to protect her daughter. And it's what drives and motivates, literally, every single thing that she does [on Castle Rock]."

Of course, that humanity within Annie Wilkes doesn't change where she's headed. Castle Rock's second season will, among other things, serve as a prequel to Misery, a story that finds Annie a very different beast than the one she is at the beginning of this season. At New York Comic Con, Caplan and Castle Rock showrunner Dustin Thomason explained that part of the arc of the show this time around is showing us how Annie gets to that point, particularly since Misery unfolds entirely through Paul Sheldon's eyes.

“When we first meet Annie [in Misery], we see her from Paul's point of view,” Thomason said. “We wanted to see Annie’s side of the story.”

Castle Rock Season 2 is now streaming on Hulu, so go get Annie's side of the story.