Season two of Hulu’s original horror series Castle Rock explores the backstory of one of Stephen King’s most iconic villains: Annie Wilkes. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for portraying the obsessed fan in the 1990 film adaptation of King’s Misery. Lizzy Caplan takes on a younger version of the character in season two of Castle Rock, debuting on October 23, 2019.
Caplan and her onscreen daughter Elsie Fisher sat down for interviews at the 2019 New York Comic Con. Caplan and Fisher dived into their characters, Stephen King’s Misery, and what happens when Annie Wilkes makes a stop in Castle Rock.
What can tell us about your characters in general in season two?
Lizzy Caplan: “Annie Wilkes is one of Stephen King’s better-known villains played, of course, by the iconic queen Kathy Bates who nailed it. For me, I was a huge fan of the movie well before this came along. But what I personally love so much about that character is that she isn’t just this evil woman. She’s kind of fun and charming and strange and funny and child-like and warm. She has a good bedside manner. She’s many, many things. I actually think that’s what makes her the scariest of villains.”
Elsie Fisher: “Yeah, and I’m her daughter. I play Joy Wilkes, her daughter. I think Joy grew up with Annie and is loved by her very deeply. Castle Rock does something to people, for sure. But, also, Joy’s going through puberty and she’s a teenager. She’s trying to discover who she is. I don’t think Annie likes letting things go.”
Lizzy Caplan: “Literally and figuratively!”
You don’t view her as evil though, right?
Lizzy Caplan: “No.”
Elsie Fisher: “I don’t either.”
Lizzy Caplan: “I mean, I really don’t think that’s my job to judge her as this kind of person. It’s my job to figure out why she thinks the decisions that she makes are the right decisions and why she is, in her own mind, the hero or the only moral person in the room.”
Elsie Fisher: “I’m in the middle of re-reading Misery right now and I don’t know. Knowing Castle Rock and viewing her through a lens of sympathy, it’s like she’s really not like… She does awful things but she’s not a bad person.”
Lizzy Caplan: (Laughing) “Munchausen or Stockholm.”
Did you rewatch Kathy Bates’ performance?
Lizzy Caplan: “I did. I did. It’s strange. I think I had my first moment of, ‘Oh god, maybe I should have done something different,’ when we were shooting episode 10. It was too late.”
Elsie Fisher: “Slightly.”
Lizzy Caplan: “Yeah. I was a fan of the first season of the show and a massive Misery fan. I feel like, obviously, I’m doing something that’s my own interpretation of a character that is seared into all of our brains by Kathy Bates. I think getting too far away from that I would have been bummed as a viewer. I want this Annie to feel like she could potentially one day become that Annie.”
Can you talk about how sometimes when Annie’s trying to protect the people she loves, she makes bad decisions?
Lizzy Caplan: “Yeah, that’s pretty much Annie’s driving force. Her intentions are on paper kind of good. She wants to protect her daughter. It’s just how she goes about doing it and what she perceives as a threat is not always what others might perceive as a threat.”
And Joy also tries to protect her mom.
Elsie Fisher: “Yeah. I think when you want to protect someone you love, you’re often put into situations that could be very… Like, there is no right answer so you just have to do whatever your instincts tell you to do. But, I mean, hopefully you can walk away from bad situations and learn love and grow from it.”
What do you find in the horror genre that you can’t really do anywhere else?
Lizzy Caplan: “That’s a good question. I feel like horror and period pieces are the two genres that can sneak in really current social commentary and dress it up as something else so you get your message through. Like, Get Out, Us…there’s all of these examples of this. And so, I think it’s really special in that way.
I have to admit until I met my husband I kind of dismissed the genre. He schooled me and now I’m a massive fan. I really get it. I think it’s kind of the most exciting genre right now.”
Elsie Fisher: “I have to agree. The genre is very versatile. You can do so much with it.”
Lizzy Caplan: “It’s like you have your fun sort of slasher ones which aren’t necessarily saying anything, but then movies like Hereditary you walk out and if you really think about it it’s like inherited trauma… The Babadook, like mental illness. It’s the smartest way to say something.”
Elsie Fisher: “And invoke an emotional reaction.”
Lizzy Caplan: “Amen.”
Do you have a favorite moment in season two between the two of you that you’re really proud of as actors?
Elsie Fisher: “I have a lot of favorites.”
Lizzy Caplan: “I do, too.”
Elsie Fisher: “The finale.”
Lizzy Caplan: “Yeah. We were really in it for the finale, big time. That, and also the first day of shooting which was us singing together in the car. That was really fun.”
Elsie Fisher: “I know. That was a great way to start.”
Lizzy Caplan: “It really was. We were strangers and you were only 11.”
Elsie Fisher: (Laughing) “And now I’m 12.”
It doesn’t seem like you bonded at all.
Lizzy Caplan: (Rolling her eyes) “No. Child actors, am I right?”
How did you develop that mother and daughter bond?
Lizzy Caplan: “We just got really lucky. We genuinely really dig each other. You never know. Whether it’s a mother/daughter relationship or you have to have a romantic relationship, you don’t know if you’re going to vibe or not.”
Will we get the backstory about Annie’s husband?
Lizzy Caplan: “Oh, you mean the husband that they talk about in Misery? We don’t talk about that. That happens I guess somewhere between this and then. I don’t know who would marry her.”
Annie is so set in her ways. How does she react to the crazy events in town?
Lizzy Caplan: “I think this is one of the more complicated things. If I were to think of creating a show like this, I would give up after my first brainstorming session because it seems really complicated to try to have an unreliable narrator/protagonist like Annie who’s struggling with what is real and what isn’t on her best day and then you put her in a situation where actually insane stuff happens that a person who’s totally sound of mind would also be questioning their sanity. There’s so many layers to that and that’s what our season’s kind of doing, hopefully well.”
Is that inching her toward the Kathy Bates version of Annie?
Lizzy Caplan: “Well, you see in the trailer that she is medicating herself. I’m speculating but I think it’s safe to say that Kathy Bates’ Annie – the Misery Annie – is no longer doing that.”
Do we find out why she developed this fascination for Paul Sheldon and Misery Chastain?
Lizzy Caplan: (Smiling) “Maybe.”
How much did you know about your characters’ journeys before you took the roles? Did they tell you everything or did you learn it as you were going through the season?
Elsie Fisher: “I had a phone call with Dustin (Thomason) before I took the role. He kind of went over the over-arching story, although there were many surprises along the way for sure. But, like, I don’t know. I never had a clear path in mind for Joy for where she was going to go and what happened to her along the way. It was just figuring it out per episode and taking it scene by scene.”
Lizzy Caplan: “I knew how the first handful of episodes were going to go and kind of the main goal of Annie Wilkes. As far as specifics, it’s a leap of faith to do a television show. It’s really rare to get all of your scripts before the end.”
Would you prefer to know more or do you like being surprised?
Lizzy Caplan: “I do think about having the luxury of having all 10 scripts in front of you and how kind of wonderful that would be.”
Elsie Fisher: “You could do more intentional stuff.”
Lizzy Caplan: “Totally. Because the way it’s usually done, we maybe know the first four or five episodes and then you have no idea what’s coming. I think it’s exciting. It’s more exciting to read those scripts, but I think it’s inevitable to think, ‘Oh, if I could just go back to this scene…’ But, it’s just the nature of TV.
I’ve done a lot of TV shows now and kind of used to it. You get that one moment when you kind of feel like a viewer of the show when you get your first new script and get to see where your character’s going.”
More on Castle Rock Season 2:
- Inside Season 2 with Series Creator Dustin Thomason
- Interview with Season 2 Stars Paul Sparks (“John ‘Ace’ Merrill”) and Matthew Alan (“Chris Merrill”)
- Barkhad Abdi (“Abdi Howlwadaag”) and Yusra Warsama (“Dr. Nadia Howlwadaag”) Talk Season 2
A Look Back at Season 1:
- Bill Skarsgard on Returning to the World of Stephen King
- Jane Levy Interview on Her Character and the Horror Genre