Swiftly following its official premier last week, Apple TV+ original comedy Dickinson was the subject of an exclusive cast and creator panel as part of Today at Apple in London’s Regent Street.
Screen Times were in attendance for the panel which followed a brief glimpse of the shows first gorgeous, playful episode. Series creator Alena Smith, star and executive producer Hailee Steinfeld and Tony Award-winning actor Jane Krakowski sat down with Sunday Times Entertainment editor Scarlett Russell for a brief chat about the show, Emily Dickinson and plucking chickens for David Gordon Green.
Q: Congratulations on this amazing programme. Alena, I know this is something of a passion project for you, so tell me how the idea for the show came about.
AS: Well, I actually used to write poetry in high-school and I always liked Emily Dickinsons poems. When I was in my early 20’s I read a biography of hers and was so surprised at how much the story of her coming of age and her early twenties resonated with me and where I was in that point in my life. I guess she was sort of trapped in her circumstances, yearning for something bigger and finding ways to express the infinite in the very very small. That really appealed to me and just stuck with me. About a decade later I had the weird idea to make a half hour TV show about Emily Dickinson.
Q: For anyone who might not be that familiar with Emily Dickinson’s poetry can you explain why its so prominent today and yet so radical at that time as well?
AS: Emily Dickinson wrote almost 2000 poems. It’s one of the greatest bodies of work in the English language – certainly in American literature. The irony is that almost none of that work was ever published or recognised or even seen whilst she was alive. She wrote her poems and sowed them into little books and hid them. They were discovered after she died.
What’s so incredible about her work is that she reinvented the rules of poetry in private. She was sort of an outsider artist I think and she had these poems that on the surface seemed simple – sometimes like nursery rhymes – but have these dark paradox’s embedded in them with these incredible images that we take from in the show and use as jumping off points for storylines and plot as much as we use the facts of her life.
Q: Hailee, If I can come to you. How do you get involved in this project and was it something you instantly knew you wanted to do?
HS: Yes. I read the first two scripts and after the first one I knew. It was so special and so different. I was mainly incredibly intrigued as to how they were going to pull it off. Because its so different and it is this period piece driven by non-other than her incredible poetry and complimented with her modern sense of thinking and this contemporary urban soundtrack. There were so many elements about that I was in love with. Having conversations with Alena shortly after I read the first two scripts any feeling was just completely reinforced. She had such a clear vision for this project and knew exactly what she wanted it to be and we did it.
AS: We were so incredibly lucky to get Hailee who is in almost every scene of this five hour long first season. [Hailee] is the anchor and the engine of the whole show. She just has gifts that go so far beyond what you would imagine someone of her age of possessing. Of course also her whole musical side is so important to this show where we use our contemporary soundtrack to show Emily’s inner-life doesn’t fit in with the confinement’s of her time. When Hailee wrote a song for us we were just blown away by how exciting it was for us all to be responding as artists to the work of Emily Dickinson.