NYCC Interview: Elsie Fisher and Lizzy Caplan Discuss ‘Castle Rock’
Our next installment of New York Comic Con coverage is an interview with Lizzy Caplan and Elsie Fisher from the upcoming season of Hulu’s Castle Rock. We were lucky enough to be able to sit down and talk with the duo about the series and their experience working on it. Caplan and Fisher play the mother-daughter duo, Annie and Joy Wilkes, respectively.
Nerds and Beyond: Could you introduce yourself?
Fisher: Hi, I’m Elsie Fisher, and I play Joy Wilkes on season two of Castle Rock.
(Lizzie Caplan joins)
Caplan: Yes! Lizzie Caplan…what else do I say? (laughs)
Nerds and Beyond: How are you enjoying your Comic-Con?
Caplan: We just got here, but so far, so good! It’s very civilized. It’s a lot of people.
Fisher: I was expecting masses! Just in all areas.
Caplan: Oh, I know. I’m kind of nervous about that, but yeah, it’s all good! I think Comic-Con is a very cool thing. I feel like these audiences are the kindest and the most excited and true fans. But neither one of us has seen the show yet, so the idea of watching it for the first time with all these people is crazy.
Fisher: Like people who specifically went to a panel to see our show, and probably watched the first season. That’s terrifying.
Caplan: Terrifying. (laughs)
Nerds and Beyond: [This] question is about stepping into a role that was so iconically played by Kathy Bates. How do you take something like that and make it your own?
Caplan: It was definitely a daunting proposition, because I’m such a fan of that performance, and her in general. I guess the scripts in the show did a lot of the heavy lifting for me because that Annie is really on her own, which just changes a person. This Annie has a daughter. She has to interact with the public. She’s moving the world. She’s working. So just by virtue of that, it will feel different. I don’t remember Annie going through anything in Misery that really terrified her until maybe the very end. There’s plenty of stuff in Castle Rock that really scares her — so taking an iconic role of somebody who really shows no fear and then putting her in situations where she has to show a lot of fear and experience a lot of fear, it kind of helps to put her in different circumstances. And hopefully, that will make her feel like my own and not a terrible, bad rip-off of what Kathy Bates did and is amazing.
Nerds and Beyond: I’m a huge Mean Girls fan, and my teenage daughter is now a huge Mean Girls fan, so it’s generational. Do you think that Castle Rock is bringing Stephen King to a new generation?
Caplan: I mean…ask this [Elsie Fisher] young child. (laughs)
Fisher: I’m a new generation! I don’t know. I mean, I think it is an interesting introduction to Stephen King because it is so much its own thing. But I think it is great for people who are already very avid fans of King. But I think the newer film-obsessed generation is really going to enjoy it. There was so much love for last season by younger people. I think it is bringing King to a new generation, just in an interesting way.
Fisher: But his books are still around.
Caplan: Oh yeah, big time. He just had another one, like two in a week or something!
Nerds and Beyond: Elsie, did you see the original movie Misery?
Fisher: Yes. It’s been a long time, and I actually specifically held off rewatching it, because it’s not like…I was trying to think of my character’s mind. Joy doesn’t know [Misery‘s] Annie.
Nerds and Beyond: What kind of relationship do you two have? I mean, and excuse me, Annie is somewhat of a psycho, but is she a good mother? (laughs)
Caplan: I think so. She really gives it her all.
Fisher: Well, she only has good intentions for Joy. She has very pure, good love.
Caplan: Totally. It’s coming from a really good place.
Fisher: Yeah! And they’ve discussed Annie’s conditions like that’s something they talked about. And I think there’s a lot of understanding between the two.
Caplan: Yeah, for sure. And it’s the two of them against the world. Joy didn’t really have a say in that arrangement, but that’s what it is.
Fisher: She’s just chillin’.
Caplan: (laughs) Yeah.
Fisher: But you take me wherever Mom.
Caplan: I mean until…yeah. Yeah, not going to give it away.
Fisher: That’s where the series starts.
Caplan: Joy is sort of going through what every teenager goes through. So she wants to break away from her super close relationship to her mother, and forge her own path, and become her own young woman. And that would be difficult enough under any circumstances for somebody who isn’t named Annie Wilkes, but it’s particularly hard on her.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you guys identify with your characters really well? Is that something you found easy?
Caplan: No. (laughs)
Fisher: I relate to Joy in a lot of ways, but she’s a different person than me. Even very subtly, it wasn’t intentional at first, but I do a little bit of a different voice when I’m her, you know, and just a different pitch a little bit. It’s a little higher. And different bodily movements and stuff like that.
Caplan: Bodily functions…? (laughs)
Fisher: Movements! Like I’ll sit a different way than I normally do or something like that. But she’s very much her own person.
Caplan: I didn’t really identify. It’s kind of the first time I can remember not having any shared anything with the character because I guess that is usually my way in. For this, it didn’t apply at all.
Fisher: Which made it so crazy to see you in action and be there.
Caplan: I started to talk like her at home and not realize it. It’s weird.
Nerds and Beyond: Talking about interactions, there’s a scene in the trailer where you’re like, “I don’t want to let small towns like these use me.” So how is your interaction going to be with other people that you clash with this season, like Pop or other people?
Caplan: Annie is very suspicious of everybody. Her initial reaction to everybody is one of suspicion, and she keeps her cards really close to her chest, and she just wants to look out for her daughter and keep her head down. She doesn’t want to have lasting moments or real, true, deep moments with other people other than Joy. So when people don’t allow her to do that, things can get a little messy.
Nerds and Beyond: In the new season, did you feel that it’s kind of an origin story, Annie’s origin story. Like for the Joker, there was one bad day that tipped him over. Do you feel there is a one bad day for Annie, or is it just kind of this progression that morphs?
Caplan: There are a few bad days. It was a handful of, particularly bad days. I was thinking she was probably born with some of these mental illnesses, and that plus the trauma she experiences. Those ingredients bake the Annie Wilkes cake.
Fisher: It’s delicious. (laughs)
Caplan: It’s delicious.
Nerds and Beyond: When you are filming something that is, to the audience, ultimately scary, suspenseful, creepy, frightening, I know a lot of that is done in post-production. How is it when you’re on set? Are there moments when you tap into that fear like, “this is kind of scary,” or is it just another acting job for you?
Caplan: It definitely ruins a lot of the scariness of it. There were moments that were strange and eerie, and certainly, some locations that were weird. So there are a few things that are creepy, but for the most part, it sort of ruins the illusion, unfortunately.
Fisher: And I feel like it’s more like the emotional stuff, you know. You really tap into it and be there for that. I have to agree with the creepy and strange. You do a take so many times it’s like, “yeah, we get it. You’re scary.” (laughs)
Nerds and Beyond: Is it easier having an anthology series where you’re moving into a new story or picking up a second season and having to continue an old story as new characters in that?
Fisher: I like it. I like that Castle Rock has this, where it’s like a new story in each season, but it’s set in the same town, and there’s some people that come back maybe. It gives it this sense of being grounded in one place, but you still get to follow these new people and give people different opportunities. I liked it, and I liked that it was a shorter commitment than if you sign on to a recurring show role. We did our seven months. We are done! (laughs)
Caplan: Drop the mic. I think we are out of Shawshank. But also the first season did the work for us in terms of building a fan base. I was definitely part of that fan base. So it’s kind of nice. The second year of an anthology is the only way to go. You know what you’re walking into, you know what people think about the show, and you do your little bit, and you’re out before people get sick of it. (laughs)
Nerds and Beyond: So what do you guys expect the fan reaction is going to be? Do you think the fans are going to be, not apprehensive, I know I’m excited. Are you anxious for the fan reception, because you know they love these characters?
Fisher: The fan reception, I think the fans here especially are the ones who study every detail. I think Castle Rock fans are so detail-oriented, and care so much about these characters and the show and everything, as you should. I mean, that’s great for any fan. But it is terrifying, because it’s like, “uh oh, uh oh. What are they going to point out now?” It’s both good and bad.
Caplan: Yeah. If people like it, it’ll be great. I hate that things have to come out period. Like the fun part of this job for me is just making it…and then the coming out, and you have to deal with what people think about it. The joy for me comes from making it, and that’s it. So I haven’t watched anything that I’ve been in for quite a few years, but I am watching this one, I’ve decided.
Fisher: I think there’s also, aside from [Caplan’s] storyline and ours, there’s so much there, because we had such a big name cast.
Caplan: Yeah. I want to see what everybody else did, for sure.
Castle Rock season two will release exclusively on Hulu on October 23.