Greg Yaitanes was “a rabid Stephen King fan growing up.” So he jumped at a chance to helm an episode of “Castle Rock,” the new Hulu series that mixes characters and themes from many of the author’s stories, placing them in one of the fictional Maine towns that is often the setting of his work. Watch our exclusive video interview with Yaitanes above.
Yaitanes directed the first season’s seventh episode, “The Queen,” in which lifelong Castle Rock resident Ruth Deaver (Sissy Spacek) is haunted by memories from her past as she struggles with dementia. As she grapples with her fading memory, dark secrets are revealed. “This episode was a standalone,” the director explains, “and almost entirely from Ruth’s point of view, which gave me something very visceral to grab onto.”
The episode was written by co-creator Sam Shaw, who lost his mother to Alzheimer’s disease. “He wrote this as a valentine to that process,” Yaitanes reveals. “Instead of showing it as this debilitating, awful, sad experience, he instead looked for the beauty within it.” The narrative shifts back and forth through time, as if Ruth is “living out another constructed story” combining past and present, which is an approach “you’ve never really seen.”
Especially gratifying about the episode was getting to work with Spacek, who became a star thanks in large part to her lead role in another King adaptation, “Carrie” (1976). “I’ve been fortunate to work with these legends,” Yaitanes says, “all of which gave me the tools to work with Sissy, and to really protect her process.” When working with veteran actors “you have to engage them as a collaborator. You can’t just show up and expect to push Sissy Spacek around like she’s a piece of furniture.”
Yaitanes won an Emmy for directing the “House” episode “House’s Head” in 2008. His long list of credits also includes “Alias,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Prison Break,” “Damages,” “Heroes,” “Lost,” “Ray Donovan,” “Underground” and “Genius: Picasso.”
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