ATX TV Fest Gives Fans a Glimpse at Castle Rock

Q&A with creators confirms: this show will make you uncomfortable

Do you like scary TV shows? Then you’re in luck. ATX TV Festival-goers got a four-minute sneak peek at Hulu’s new Stephen King-inspired series Castle Rock, on Friday.

Certainly, four minutes might not be long enough to know if a show has what it takes to captivate an audience or to gauge its binge-factor, but then Castle Rock isn’t really made for bingeing anyway.

Hulu will drop the first three episodes, aptly named after and set in the fictional town of Maine where many of King’s stories take place, on July 25. After that – like the days of yore, confirmed co-creator Sam Shaw – viewers will be limited to one episode per week. Shaw said he and his partner-in-crime Dustin Thomason really hope this show “makes people uncomfortable.”

Joined on the Alamo Ritz stage by moderator and IndieWire critic Ben Travers, the creators, who’ve worked together on a number of series including Manhattan and The Evidence, said they once joked over email about creating a show set in an off-brand Castle Rock with the idea being: “who the fuck stays in a town after” numerous serial killers, a possessed dog, and a multitude of the other horrors bestowed upon the small Maine town. Off-brand, of course, because the two “reformed fiction writers” were certain they’d never get the keys to King’s Castle.

That all changed nearly a decade later when Shaw and Thomason shared their pipe dream with Hollywood heavyweight J.J. Abrams, who just happens to be besties with King (we can thank Lost for that connection). The rest is, soon to be, TV history.

Castle Rock will not unfold like a typical TV show. The second season, if there is one, won’t follow the same characters as the debut. But, for now, suspense and horror freaks can look forward to seeing two King alums setting the scene. Sissy Spacek, who may forever be remembered as the titular star of King's first book and film adaptation, will star alongside Bill Skarsgård who most recently played the killer clown Pennywise in last fall’s It.

Both series writers are adamant that they want to attract genre lovers and King fanatics alike. Yet, they’re both clearly mega-fans, who described the writers' room as a “postgraduate seminar” dissecting the author’s dense catalog. Their goal: adopt King as a genre rather than a single work, crediting the novelist’s strong character development and relationships for anchoring each of his stories. Despite being a horror show, Shaw said Castle Rock won’t focus on viscera (like most horror) or plot twists (like most of Abrams’ work), instead, he said they’ve focused on psychological suspense. And, according to Thomason, they’ve achieved that, at least by King’s standards.

Thomason proudly relayed to the crowd that King reportedly screamed at his TV “Don’t go in there!” for the first time in years while watching the pilot. Now if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.


Castle Rock episodes 1-3 debut on Hulu on July 25

ATX Television Festival 2018, June 7-10. Tickets and info at www.atxfestival.com.

Follow all our news, reviews, and interviews at austinchronicle.com/atx-television-festival.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

ATX TV Fest 2018, ATX Television Festival, Hulu, Stephen King, Castle Rock, Sam Shaw, Dustin Thomason, J.J. Abrams

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