Just days after its premiere at San Diego Comic-Con, the Stephen King-inspired anthology series Castle Rock arrived on Hulu Wednesday, giving viewers everywhere the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new world full of familiar King characters, themes, and locales. If you're not a longtime King fan, you're just going to get a spooky new story to enjoy, but if you know the man's work well you're also going to see a lot of familiar things, and that's because the show's creators are lifelong King fans themselves.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter about how the series took shape, creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason (Manhattan) explained that they'd been developing the idea for what would eventually become Castle Rock for "about a decade ago," driven by the question of "who stays in a town" like the titular fictional Maine city that's home to King classics like Cujo and Needful Things. When it came to actually present their concept to the man himself, the pair made sure they were right, and they brought years of knowledge and admiration to the table.
"We definitely over-prepared before we made an overture to Stephen King," Shaw said. "We came to the material as fans and with a great sense of reverence for the Stephen King library and a point of view about what makes the greatest Stephen King adaptations great. By the time we reached out to Steve, we had a pretty comprehensive picture of what the show might look like and what a first season might look and how we wanted to engage with some of the beloved characters and landmarks and stories from the Stephen King library."
Viewers who are familiar with King's novels will no doubt recognize some landmarks and key figures right away, including the title town. Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), the town's former sheriff, plays a key role just as he did in stories like Needful Things and The Dark Half, and a big chunk of the story takes place in Shawshank State Penitentiary, home to King's most famous novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which was in turn adapted into The Shawshank Redemption. Then, of course, there are plenty of little Easter eggs scattered throughout (a close look at newspaper clippings strewn around through the show will reveal some Needful Things details, for example).
Perhaps most important, though, there's the sense that Castle Rock lives in King's fictional world, and therefore any number of different characters can show up and cross paths. Shaw and Thomason plan for each season of the series to tell its own complete story, and that includes both characters from past seasons intermingling and new characters joining the show. When asked if they had a particular character from the massive cast King has assembled over the decades that they'd like to bring in, Thomason said it would be hard to name just one. Shaw, on the other hand, had an interesting and specific idea.
"The only other Holy Grail that I guess I would say is, as you probably know, Stephen King himself gets roped into the actions of the Dark Tower series," he said. "If we could rope Stephen King in ... maybe if he gets the final approval over who plays him in the series, or maybe he'd like to play himself. [Laughs.] That's probably the Holy Grail."
King did famously insert himself as a fictional character into his Dark Tower series, beginning with the sixth volume, Song of Susannah. He plays a key role in that story as a writer gifted with the power to visualize and write details into the gunslinger Roland's world, including Roland himself. King even used the opportunity to incorporate the real-life car accident that almost killed him in 1999 into the story, as a ploy by the villain known as the Crimson King to have King killed so he would stop writing Dark Tower stories. To get the writer to appear in Castle Rock, as a citizen of his own iconic fictional town, would be the ultimate meta move, not unlike Tom Baker's appearance as The Curator in the Doctor Who special "Day of the Doctor." Whether or not it will come to pass is, at this point, anyone's guess.
The first three episodes of Castle Rock are available now on Hulu, but if you don't have Hulu and want to try it out, Apple TV is also offering the premiere episode to stream for free for the next two weeks. So, what are you waiting for?