Alena Smith Interview: ‘Dickinson’ creator
“This is a celebration of the wild spirit of her poems,” reveals showrunner Alena Smith about her Apple TV+ gothic comedy “Dickinson,” which explores the early life of iconic poet Emily Dickinson. “It’s not that this show will bring anyone any closer to the real Emily Dickinson, and that’s not the point,” Smith adds. “The point is to celebrate the literary legacy that she left behind for us and to inspire other young artists who feel misunderstood.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Smith above about the Golden Globe contender.
“Dickinson” stars multi-hyphenate Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld as the literary icon in a coming-of-age dramedy set in the 1850s but with a contemporary, modern edge. Perhaps what is most striking about the series is it is told in a very modern way. The famed poet was so enamored with death that it even features as an enigmatic character, played by hip hop artist Wiz Khalifa.
Smith was keen to do something different with this show, her first as creator and showrunner, by injecting it with modern touches while setting it in the 1850s. “This show is up to something a little bigger than just a bio of Emily Dickinson,” Smith explains. “It’s using the spirit of Dickinson and her poetry as well as her historical and literary context almost as a metaphor or funhouse mirror for where we are in the world today and looking at the culture of 2019 on the verge of becoming 2020 through the lens of the 1850s and this coming of age story of a radical young female artist who was ahead of her time,” she says.
The pop music featured throughout the series is central to the narrative, according to Smith, who draws parallels to her leading lady’s background as a singer/songwriter. “The fact that Hailee is a musician is so wonderful for us,” she admits. “We’re using contemporary music to draw these connections between what poetry meant in its day and what pop music means to us now and Hailee really perfectly threads that needle between the classical period vibe and the absolutely contemporary and modern vibe.”