Emily Dickinson has long been lauded as one of the deities of American literature, but now thanks to the Hailee Steinfeld-starring Apple TV+ series based on her life, the 19th century poet is a Peabody Award winner too. In the True Grit actor’s inaugural small-screening offering, the widely varied Dickinson created by Alena Smith and executive produced by David Gordon Green was among an elite batch accorded the prestigious prize earlier this month.
“You know, weirdly enough, it all felt very seamless,” Steinfeld confessed during Deadline’s virtual Contenders Television event about the series’ varied elements mixed together in the already renewed series. “I don’t know that I felt that I was making a certain type of show as far as genre when we were making it.”
“What’s so incredible about this artist is that she spoke about absolutely everything on her mind and in her soul, and those were things that were dark and scary and confusing and frustrating and funny and witty,” Steinfeld said about the creative process that went into Dickinson the series from Dickinson the author and individual.
“This show was her and her imagination and Alena’s interpretation of her work,” Steinfeld said.
Based on the life of the New England born and raised Dickinson, the 10-episode first season mixes drama, comedy, modern music, horror, the supernatural and patriarchal critique in a mid-1800s coming-of-age tale of the poet of paradox herself. Additionally, each episode draws from a particular poem, and unlike almost all other shows on the tech giant’s streaming service all episodes dropped at once on Apple TV+’s launch day of November 1 last year.
“I think that’s something that’s pretty fascinating about Emily Dickinson is that her life is defined by this kind of central irony that she wrote almost 2,000 poems, some of the greatest work ever written in the English language …but almost none of it was really seen or appreciate while she lived,” executive producer/showrunner Smith said of the prolific poet, who lived from 1830-1886. “She really is a woman who was ahead of her time and was really radical in what she was bringing to the page even if on the outside that rebelliousness wasn’t always visible.”
“She invites us to ask ourselves if she couldn’t be understood in her own time, can we understand her better in ours?” Smith said.
Dickinson is executive produced by Smith and Steinfeld, with Michael Sugar and Ashley Zalta executive producing for Sugar23 Productions along with Alex Goldstone for Anonymous Content, and Paul Lee for wiip.
Check out the panel video above.