Sissy Spacek returns to Stephen King's world in Castle Rock

Sissy Spacek plays a woman who has dementia.
Sissy Spacek plays a woman who has dementia.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Sissy Spacek was in her 20s when her title role in Carrie (1976) brought her stardom and an Oscar nomination.

Now, over four decades later, she has returned to the world of Stephen King with Castle Rock.

The series, which debuted last Wednesday on Hulu, is an original story set in Castle Rock, Maine, one of the author's favourite fictional towns. It is also set within the larger King multiverse.

Spacek's character, Ruth Deaver, lives with Scott Glenn's Alan Pangborn, whom King fans know as the hero of The Dark Half and Needful Things - two of many stories the author has set in Castle Rock over the decades. Orange, Massachusetts, stands in for the town in the series.

Their relationship is complicated by Ruth's son, played by Andre Holland, and her dementia.

The show's creators, Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, framed Ruth's story as "the horror within the horror", a tantalising premise for an actor who already had warm feelings about King and his works.

Spacek remains best known for her roles in films such as Carrie, Coal Miner's Daughter (1980) and In The Bedroom (2001), but more recently, she has also starred in several prestige television series, including Big Love (2006 to 2011) and Bloodline (2015 to 2017).

In a telephone interview, she discusses - in her native soft Southern lilt - the series and the tribute she would just as soon not receive.

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

Why were you drawn to Castle Rock?

When I met the two creators, Sam and Dustin, they talked to me specifically about this character and the fact that she has dementia.

I was pulled in by that idea: Which is more horrible? What's happening coming from the outside, the Stephen King kind of horror? Or what's happening in your head?

When you were working primarily in movies, did you think you would do television?

Television's changed. Now, in film, it's either low-budget films - which is great for young film-makers - or there's the big, 100-million-dollar ones. There's no in-between.

The thing I don't like about television is the fact that you have to wait for the scripts.

That's difficult, when you don't know where it's going.

Did you know where the story was going with Castle Rock? It seems pretty twisty.

No, I didn't. But I did have an idea of where things were going with Ruth. She lived in her own world, inside of the Castle Rock world. There are many things that Ruth didn't need to know and wasn't privy to.

And so, I felt like any of those things that she wasn't privy to and didn't need to know, I, as the actor, didn't need to know.

I just focused on what was going on in her head and in her world.

Have you seen the show?

The only things I have seen are what I'm doing.

There's a point in the show when you start to bite your nails down to your elbows. You're just a worry. The more I've seen, the more excited I've become.

How was it returning to the Stephen King universe?

I adore Stephen King. I think we're both probably indebted to each other for the experience that we had with Carrie. This show is a homage to him and it was fun.

You've had a long, acclaimed career. Do you think about your older roles like Carrie?

Yeah. She's like an old friend of mine that I knew way back when. And she means a lot to so many people.

Your characters do feel almost like your children - you loved them all, but differently.

Maybe not all of them. I don't know if that was such a good way to describe that. But yeah, I do.

We're a product of the choices we make in our lives and in our careers.

And so I loved the experience of Carrie. It's vivid in my imagination. I remember it fondly.

Do people still want to talk to you about it?

Oh yeah. Once, I had a beautiful young girl who came running up to me and showed me her arm.

And there was the most beautiful tattoo of Carrie, with the crown and the flowers and her prom dress. No blood. It was a beautiful tattoo.

But I was horrified. Because she was a beautiful young girl who should never have got that tattoo. I said to her, "Does your mother know? And does she blame me?"

That happened about 20 years ago. But then, when I was in Florida shooting Bloodline, I was in a Whole Foods (supermarket).

The cashier screamed when she saw me and rolled up her pants and showed me a tattoo that she had of Carrie on her shin. It was Carrie with blood all over her.

I would love to take this opportunity right now to say, "Please, young people across America. Do not get tattoos of your favourite movie character. Buy a painting or drawing of it instead."

There are two beautiful young women out there in the world who are walking around with Carrie tattoos that I'm terribly sorry about. My apology to their parents.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2018, with the headline 'Sissy Spacek returns to Stephen King's world in Castle Rock'. Print Edition | Subscribe