Castle Rock: Dustin Thomason Talks Season 2 and Stephen King’s Characters

Watch out, citizens of Castle Rock. Annie Wilkies (played by Lizzy Caplan) is coming to town and she’s bringing her own particular brand of crazy with her. Season two of the Hulu series finds the villain of Stephen King’s Misery arriving in Castle Rock, a town where even the most level-headed residents have trouble wrapping their heads around supernatural/disturbing events.

During our interview at the New York Comic Con, series creator Dustin Thomason discussed choosing which Stephen King characters to incorporate in the series and the possibility of season one characters showing up in unexpected ways in the new season.

The second season of the Hulu series will premiere on October 23, 2019.

Can you talk about the idea of integrating family dynamics and the theme of outsiders arriving in town in season two?

Dustin Thomason: “I think that for me and for a lot of Stephen King fans, the reason that Stephen King is Stephen King is because of his character work, not because of his scares. He’s obviously a master of horror and a master of thrills, but at the same time he’s been elevating the genre for 50 years.

I think that’s what all of us who work under the umbrella of King – and I think so many horror writers…great horror writers – now are working under the umbrella is that you lead with character. You try to understand why you should be afraid for the people that you are afraid for first, and then you start putting them in situations that are really scary. I think for me, even thinking about the canon and things as varied as The Body and Shawshank, those are fundamentally emotional stories. They’re not fundamentally scary stories.

I think that’s the magic of Stephen is that he is really a character writer first and I think a horror writer next. And that combination is what has made him Stephen King.

In season one we showed the audience that not everything is normal in Castle Rock. The idea was that I think there could be a season of Castle Rock that had no supernatural element to it, but I haven’t met that season yet. I think that for me, part of what I love about Stephen’s work, too, is that often he’ll start in a story that seems sort of very terrestrial and then it will turn into a very kind of different story. The Stand is kind of that way. It starts as an outbreak novel and then it transitions into something very different.

I think that seems like part of the exciting challenge of Castle Rock is how do you really ground the audience in some really serious human themes at the beginning and hopefully entertain and make them laugh along the way, but then at some point in the season take a turn into a genre element that I hope sort of resonates thematically with the character work we were doing in the beginning.”

Castle Rock Season 2
Lizzy Caplan in ‘Castle Rock’ season 2 (Photo By: Dana Starbard/Hulu)

Were there any Easter eggs you included in season one that viewers didn’t catch? Maybe some that you never saw mentioned online?

Dustin Thomason: “You what’s amazing is during the release of season one people were so exhaustive in their coverage of Easter eggs that often they would discover Easter eggs that I didn’t know about. Because part of what’s been fun about Castle Rock is that the crew… We shoot in Massachusetts. A lot of the crew are New Englanders who have a deep attachment to Stephen King and so they throw little Stephen King references into everything – sometimes to an extent that in the editing room I will see them and I’ll be like, ‘This seems like a lot of Stephen King Easter eggs!’

There’s some amazing videos online where people have outlined even Easter eggs I didn’t anticipate.”

Speaking of fan reactions, did you incorporate or pay attention to the reactions to season one going into season two?

Dustin Thomason: (Laughing) “You know, I suppose that when you are doing a second season that is fundamentally about a super fan who has a lot of opinions about the work, there must be some sort of subconscious connection. And by the way, that’s why Stephen wrote Misery was for exactly that reason. I think part of my experience of season one and season two is that in season one there were things that people liked, things that people didn’t like about the ending and all those things. I’m always kind of okay with that because I sort of take a, ‘Well, we did our best,’ approach to it and we’ll continue to try and do our best approach.

I think as a fan myself I like certain things more than other things, and certain episodes more than other episodes of TV. Living with that is sort of part of the job, I guess.”

Will anyone from season one show up in season two?

Dustin Thomason: “Part of the original intention was always to plant seeds and in the way that Stephen has characters pop back up in unexpected places, for characters to do exactly that in Castle Rock. Now, again, some people saw the very, very end of season one with Jackie and the post-credits tag and go, ‘Oh, they’re going right to the Overlook.’ Obviously, we’re not going right to the Overlook. But the question is when, the question is how, the question is what unexpected way will you see her again?

Obviously, everybody wants to know if we’ll ever see Bill (Skarsgard) again. I think that part of what I will say is that we always had the intention of circling back, just not in the way that people necessarily expect.”

How far out do you have a grand plan for the series?

Dustin Thomason: “To me, there’s sort of two ends of the spectrum of that question. And honestly, I think Stephen would be okay with me saying this. There’s the J.K. Rowling end of the spectrum and then there’s the Stephen end of the spectrum. I would say that Castle Rock falls somewhere in the middle of those two, which is to say it’s not like I know, honestly, what the last shot of season eight of Castle Rock is. I don’t. But I know what the plan is and I know what we are seeing about the universe. I know how some of these characters fit into the tapestry of that universe and at a multi-season level where we’re going next.”

When you’re working with these iconic characters from Stephen King, are there ever any you have to push off to the next season that you can’t incorporate into the current season?

Dustin Thomason: “I mean, absolutely. Also, the truth is that because Stephen’s universe has been so widely adapted, it’s not like I can just take every character I want, either. Sometimes there’s that question too.

I think the biggest thing for us though, because we do have so many of the iconic characters and stories, was how do we narrow down which one we’re going to do when? That really is a big, big question for us that is a constant struggle. Do we introduce this character in a small way in this season or do we wait and build an entire season around them? That is a good question in thinking about how we approach each of them.”

More on Castle Rock Season 2:

A Look Back at Season 1: