By her own admission, Sissy Spacek is inextricably linked to Stephen King, owing to her starring role in 1976’s Carrie, for which she was nominated for the first of her six Academy Award nods; eight nominations and three Golden Globes would eventually also stack up. “Fifteen years ago, this girl who couldn’t have been more than 17 came running up to me, pulled her sleeve down and showed me a tattoo of Carrie holding the flowers, with the crown, but no blood,” the actress told the HFPA in a special conversation at Comic-Con 2018. “It was a beautiful tattoo but I said to her, ‘Does your mother know, and does she blame me?’ And then later I was in Florida in a Whole Foods, and the checkout girl screamed when she saw me, pulled her jeans up to her knee, and showed me a tattoo of Carrie — but this time with the blood. And I thought, ‘How many people in the world have Carrie tattooed on them?’”
The new TV series Castle Rock, then, represents a sort of homecoming for Spacek, lending her professional life a certain full-circle feeling. Created by Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason, and executive-produced by J.J. Abrams, the show takes an original story and drops it in the middle of a multiverse web of intertwined themes and characters taken from some of the seminal works of King, and set the fictional Maine town of its title. Spacek portrays Ruth Deaver, a woman struggling with dementia and the adoptive mother of death row defense attorney Henry Deaver (André Holland), who gets pulled back to his hometown for the first time in decades when a mysterious, almost feral young man (Bill Skarsgård) is discovered in a cage at Shawshank State Penitentiary, with no record of who he is. Naturally, plenty of moody mystery ensues.
“I go where roles are, and as we know there are not so many for us older gals in movies today, so I’m thrilled about this new revolution in television,” says Spacek, who recently concluded a well-received costarring role for three seasons on Bloodline. “It used to be that you were considered either a film actor or a TV actor, but now everything has really changed.”
Castle Rock’s mixture of pedigree, tone, and ambition attracted Spacek. “I only read one episode,” notes the 68-year-old actress. “But what Ruth is experiencing is real horror, and that’s what hooked me in. Stephen King’s work has always combined horror with great characters, and with some humor. Carrie, for example, was really a character piece about a mother and daughter and the struggles they had. This show is a homage to Stephen King,” Spacek adds, “and I thought, ‘I may never have the opportunity to do something so twisted again.’ Plus I got to work with the most wonderful actors.”