Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sarah Gadon on Castle Rock’s intimate, upsetting “Laughing Place”

Lizzy Caplan, Sarah Gadon
Lizzy Caplan, Sarah Gadon
Photo: Dana Starbard, Steve Wilkie (Hulu)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, November 6. All times are Eastern. 


Top pick

Castle Rock (Hulu, 3:01 a.m.): Castle Rock’s continued commitment to including actors with existing ties to Stephen King’s works has a couple of significant upsides. First, it adds to the show’s kaleidoscope-like approach to the King canon, the result of Easter eggs, blended stories and mythology, and recurring motifs that, at the show’s best, makes it both a terrific yarn and a funhouse of sorts. But no less significantly, and far more straightforwardly, lots of terrific actors have been in King adaptations, so it’s a very deep, very appealing bench. Next up: the great Sarah Gadon, a standout in Hulu’s adaptation of 11.22.63.

Gadon turns up in an episode that’s essentially an origin story for Annie (played as an adult by the excellent Lizzy Caplan and as a teen by promising newcomer Ruby Cruz), introducing us to her parents, her home life, and her relationship with one particular teacher, Rita (Gadon). We spoke with Gadon about returning to the King ka-tet, the scariest household implements, and what it’s like to stare down a young Annie Wilkes.

This interview contains some light plot details for this week’s episode, as well as a frank discussion of a major event in the season premiere.

The A.V. Club: How would you characterize Rita’s initial connection with Annie?

Sarah Gadon: Rita’s a teacher. She loves to make connections with people, especially her students. And I think she initially sees Annie—her difficulties reading, and this overbearing environment—as being this girl who just needs someone to show her the right kind of attention, to help her learn.

AVC: One of their most interesting scenes together concerns the nature of goodness and badness, and whether or not there’s any gray area in between. What can that tell us about this story?

SG: Her reaction to it, seeing the world as so black and white and having this really kind of intense, almost fanatical binary view of the world kind of sheds light on the older version of her, and why she’s so intense. You see where that intensity has come from.


AVC: You’re one of several actors on this show with an existing connection to Stephen King’s body of work. It’s kind of like a school reunion, only you all went to different schools. Has that connection made your experience on this show any different than your usual acting experience?

SG: Well, it was one of the reasons why I really wanted to do the show. I had such a positive experience on 11.22.63. I just think as a writer, the kinds of characters that [King] creates are so complex. And of course, they also have this through-line of darkness, which as an actor, is really fun to play. It was one of those things where, arriving on set, I thought, “Oh yeah, this is great, this is such a great character.” And then people spend a week soaked in blood, and you’re like, “Oh yeah, this is a Stephen King story for sure.”


AVC: What was your relationship to his work prior to joining 11.22.63? Were you a fan?

SG: For sure. I love his writing. I also really love a bunch of the movie adaptations of his writing. When I was in my early 20s, I started working with David Cronenberg, who famously directed The Dead Zone. I feel like many people feel this way, that his work has touched them. For me specifically, there are a lot of connections.


AVC: Do you have a favorite?

SG: I mean, I love The Dead Zone. Definitely. And then of course, I’d have to say The Shining, but then also I really love Carrie too. It’s tough to decide.


AVC: What is it like, as an actor, to be on the receiving end when someone else is playing a psychopath, to have that malevolence coming at you?

SG: This episode was so much fun to be a part of because the director, Anne Sewitsky, is truly incredible. She’s a real truth seeker. She’s watching her actors like a hawk, charting all of the emotional beats and really trying to find the honesty in them. Often when you’re playing characters that are so extreme, or characters like who have a serious mental disorder, it’s so easy to play the cliché version of them. Anne really helped Ruby [Cruz], who plays young Annie, who’s also such an incredible actress—and this was one of her first major jobs. I thought that Anne really guided Ruby to find a place that was, yes, very intense and yes, very classical in terms of all of the traits of a psychopath, but also finding real truth and humanity in her. And that’s what makes Annie and Rita’s relationship so compelling. Anne was just right there with us, and really just championed going above and beyond.


AVC: Is there a frightening moment from a movie or a TV show that’s always stuck with you from a young age? People often say the flying monkeys from The Wizard Of Oz. I’ve always been really hung up on those white tunnels in E.T.

SG: It’s definitely when Linda Blair is crawling backwards down the stairs in The Exorcist. It scared the crap out of me when. I saw its rerelease [in theaters] when I was the teenager. That will forever haunt me. Flying monkeys? They have nothing on that.


AVC: The first episode of this season of Castle Rock includes a very violent death by ice cream scooper. If we totally remove knives from the equation, what kitchen utensil would be the worst way to die?

SG: Ooh, vegetable peeler. It would be a slow, painful death. Layer by layer being ripped off your body. Is that gross enough?


Regular coverage

Riverdale (The CW, 8 p.m.)
Modern Family (ABC, 9 p.m.)
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FXX, 10 p.m.)
American Horror Story: 1984 (FX, 10 p.m.)
South Park (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.)


Wild card

Two flipping hours of The Masked Singer (Fox, 8 p.m.): If the only thing holding you back from watching The Masked Singer is that there’s simply not enough of it, you’re in luck.

In all seriousness, there are worse nights to start watching this show, if you’re among the curious. The fact that it’s two hours long means that all the remaining Masked Singers will don their masks and sing, and two of them will be unmasked. This way you can just make all your guesses now and then Google all the speculation immediately afterward, rather than waiting another week to see the second crop of Masked Singers and/or trawling through YouTube on the hunt for clips of the Masked Singers. And since the second hour includes an appearance by guest panelist Anthony Anderson, we’re guessing that means there will be slightly less Jenny McCarthy than usual.


Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!