Emily Hampshire’s character in the Epix series Chapelwaite is a Stephen King surrogate, according to her. Hampshire plays aspiring writer Rebecca Morgan in the series, which is based on King’s short novel, Jerusalem’s Lot.
“If Stephen King were a super-smart educated woman in the 1850s, wearing a corset, he would be Rebecca Morgan,” Hampshire told UPI in a phone interview. “I think of Rebecca Morgan as the Stephen King character of this.”
King has made authors characters in his stories such as Misery, The Dark Half and Lisey’s Story, which recently was adapted for Apple TV. Hampshire, 39, said adding the new character of a writer to Chapelwaite followed King’s tradition.
Rebecca has writer’s block, so she takes a job as the governess for widower Charles Boone’s (Adrien Brody) children. As in Jerusalem’s Lot, Boone has returned to Preacher’s Corner, Maine, to claim his family’s Chapelwaite manor.
Preacher’s Corner does not welcome the Boones. They believe the Boone family is cursed, since Charles’ father attempted to murder him. Rebecca takes the job thinking she could write a juicy story about the Boones for The Atlantic.
“It’s really fueled by, I think, an artistic desperation,” Hampshire said. “As a woman, [her article] has to be better than great. It has to be better than every guy who submits his story.”
The townsfolk of Preacher’s Corner remain suspicious of the Boone family after their history of attempted murder, and also shun Charles’ children. His wife was a Polynesian islander, and many in town are prejudiced against his mixed-race kids.
Hampshire said Rebecca does not share the town’s prejudices. However, Hampshire said Rebecca begins to feel guilty about using the Boone family for a story.
“When you take inspiration from somebody, you’re in a sense stealing their soul, taking artistic license, talking about them behind their back,” Hampshire said. “I think she comes to love them as her own in a way that I don’t think she thought she was capable of.”
Shortly after the Boone’s move to Chapelwaite, the home becomes inhospitable. Scratching noises in the walls could either be rats or unexplainable hauntings.
The series reveals more macabre occurrences each week. By the time the full horror of Chapelwaite is unleashed, Rebecca will grow attached to the Boones, Hampshire said.
“Rebecca didn’t grow up with a father,” Hampshire said. “Seeing Charles be this father, especially to the girls, really affects her.”
Rebecca recently returned to Preacher’s Corner from her education at Mount Holyoke College. Hampshire said she researched the women’s college and felt Rebecca represented the women who graduated from Holyoke.
“The way they teach these women to think for themselves and question authority was mind-blowing to me,” Hampshire said. “I want to rise to the occasion of this character.”
Hampshire said she also felt close to the character of a writer because she is developing and writing a series. After wrapping six seasons on the comedy Schitt’s Creek, but before starring on Chapelwaite, Hampshire was writing a remake of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in which she will play the title role.
The role in a Stephen King show also felt serendipitous, Hampshire said, because she was reading King’s nonfiction book On Writing while writing Mary Hartman. Hampshire said one of King’s writing tips she found helpful was a suggestion to put a manuscript away after finishing a draft.
“Come back to it later because you see it so differently,” Hampshire said. “That’s been really good with Mary especially, because it’s such a long process getting the show off the ground.”
Mary Hartman, the original Mary Hartman, starring Louise Lasser as a housewife dealing with soap opera-style subplots ranging from murder to UFO encounters. Hampshire stated that her rendition begins with Mary’s mental breakdown, which occurred in the first season finale of the original series.
“In our show, her nervous breakdown becomes viral on Instagram live,” Hampshire explained. “We took America’s average consumer housewife and transported her to today’s social media world, where she is the product consumed.”
Chapelwaite airs on Epix on Sundays at 10 p.m.