Paul Sparks and Matthew Alan add to the Castle Rock chaos with their roles as Ace and Chris, brothers in the well-known Merrill family that has served as an anchor in the Stephen King Universe. Fans may best remember Ace as the featured hoodlum in Stand By Me and, it would seem, we have much more to delinquency to endure. Fan Fest News had the opportunity to join a roundtable interview with both actors as they discussed Ace’s place in Castle Rock and much more.
Media: What can you tell us about season two? Tell us about your characters.
Matthew: I play Chris Merrill, Ace Merrill’s brother. Chris is not from the Stephen King world originally, so it’s a new character and he is… The Merrill family is kind of at the heart or at the base of Castle Rock. They kind of run the town in a way. And Chris is… I think he’s got good intentions and he’s doing his best to keep the family and the community together while there’s a lot of bad things going on. Yeah, I think he’s grounded. I think he’s there to kind of keep the family and town together. That’s the best way I can put it.
Paul: And I play Ace Merrill who was famously played by Kiefer Sutherland and I just try to mimic exactly what I imagine he would have become. No, I mean I think that it’s a little bit different but I think that the writers were very clever, and they left… like he’s exactly who you think he probably turned into. That’s what happens to that guy, that’s where he’s at, he is angry. I think there’s a struggle…
Matthew: I think he’s misunderstood.
Paul: Yeah definitely misunderstood. Well I know there’s sort of a battle for who’s going to take over from Tim Robbins, who plays Pop Merrill. [Pop Merrill] is their uncle, who kind of helped raise these two boys along with a brother and sister who are these two Somali kids that Barkhad and Yusra play. The four of those kids raised by this guy, they’re the kind of criminal element of the town. The children are all on various sides of that line, of non-ethical and ethical. There are two that are certainly more ethical than the other two. But we’re all kind of testing each other’s loyalties.
Media (Linda): Could you talk about the relationship between the two of you on the show?
Matthew: I think different things anchor both of them and different things drive them and keep them in town. I think their relationship is pretty tumultuous. But I also think there’s a love there that’s pretty deep-rooted, because Pop, he adopted them. We’re actually nephews. So in their world, I think these two brothers probably at times in their life were the only things each other had. I think that really is hooked into them pretty deep, despite all of their differences and disagreements.
Paul: Yeah I think that one of the things they do on this show, even though it’s amidst lots of horror and all this sort of genre specific things are that. You know there is a real emphasis on trying to actually explore the relationships between the people and one of the relationships is ours. I think it is complicated. I think they’re both wrestling with the fact that they’re this team. You know, this brother team. And there’s some disapproval about how each one is behaving in this team, which has to do with loyalty and whose side are you on. I think that there’s a lot of that. You can really see why they’re unhappy or less unhappy I guess. Those are the two choices. Just like unhappiness or less unhappy.
Matthew: Yeah, less happy. And you’ll see that throughout the entire season.
Matthew: It’s kind of a thread throughout.
Media: Are you allowed any creative introspection with your character?
Paul: Well I don’t know how much of it was allowed, but I certainly thought about it. It’s not lost on me how fun it is to be doing this, to be playing these characters in this world. I’m aware as a fan. If I were watching, that’s what I would want to see. I want to see the connections, I want to see the history. Even though it’s played by two different actors in two different films, you know. To me, that is what is interesting to do. And if you can find a way to do that and still be honest with what’s happening with your thing, then I think you’re, in my opinion, obliged to try and do that. So I try to. There are some things in there.
Media (Linda): Are you a fan of the Stephen King universe? You talk about Ace and I think of Stand By Me, which is one of my all-time favorites movies. So are you familiar with a lot of it (Stephen King Universe)?
Paul: Yeah I am a fan. The Stand, that’s my book. That’s my Stephen King totem, you know. But it’s impossible not to be a Stephen King fan, how can… It’s all over whatever you want. I mean there’s Maximum Overdrive and then there’s The Shining, and then there are all the things that are in between. I’ve consumed all of them, either watching them or reading some of them. Yeah, I love it, I love him. I think he’s good.
Matthew: He was the first one who introduced me to the horror genre. And so when that door was opened, I love horror movies, I read Pet Sematary, it was the first book that I read. The ability to write these characters that people can relate to and that are humane in so many different ways, but these bizarre things happen to them in these bizarre worlds. I feel [that] is the reason so many people can relate to these characters. But when I first read Pet Sematary it stuck with me for a long time. I’ve read quite a few of his books through the years, but that was the one that for me… I still remember that kid’s name too. Gage.
Paul: I’ve always been impressed with him. That he manages to write these really unethical people. These really morally compromised people or people that are homicidal maniacs like Annie Wilkes. But there’s a nobility somewhere in there. There’s a thing they’re reaching to try and find that’s positive. And so it’s really confusing as an audience member to root for it. I don’t know how you’ll feel when you see all the things that people are doing. When I watch Misery now, oh yeah, she’s cracked, something’s wrong… but she is really trying to do the best that she can and I think that’s really interesting. He [Stephen King] doesn’t have hatred for humanity, you know, and so, therefore, he cuts them to shreds. He likes people.
Matthew: I think that’s the reason he’s so popular amongst so many readers.
Media (Linda): I agree.
Moderator: Guys I’m going to have to wrap them, thank you so much.
Media: Thank you.
A big thank you to Mr. Sparks and Mr. Alan for taking the time to talk about their new roles in Stephen King’s realm. Catch them in Castle Rock premiering Wednesday, Oct. 23, only on Hulu.