Dickinson may be set in the 19th century but Emily Dickinson’s story is perfect for today’s millennial generation. Emily strives to be a great writer but she finds obstacles at every turn. Her father, Edward, is determined to keep the Dickinson reputation pristine, while Emily’s mother is anxious to marry her daughter off as soon as possible. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Jane Krakowski and Toby Huss about the relationships Emily has with both of her parents. “There is the conflict between the parents and the old generation and what Emily is fighting for,” Jane told HollywoodLife at the Dickinson press junket on Oct. 20.
“I think Emily was a very modern woman in a patriarchal society and trying to be that and I think I absolutely represent the conservativeness and the traditionalness of patriarchal society,” Jane continued. “It’s been very interesting for me to play because a lot of the philosophies she believes in I don’t and so it’s very interesting to be the representative of that side. I thought the script was so unique because we’ve seen one singular portrayal of Emily Dickinson in other artistic ventures I feel. I think Alena Smith has brought such a whole new modern take to Emily Dickinson in this show and having modern music be the bridge I guess to bring us from the 1800s to today, by doing that you actually listen to Emily Dickinson’s words that she wrote and they are very modern. They’re very deep and they’re beautiful and they’re artistic and they’re sexual. It’s so much that you sort of would read an Emily Dickinson poem in school and be like, ‘Okay, okay, I learned that. I memorized that.’ But then you see it now and it fully lives as a representation of young people today and what they’re going through.”
Edward fights with Emily when she aspires to become a writer. Toby opened up about Edward’s view of Emily’s dreams. “He was trying to protect her,” Toby said. “That was his job. He didn’t want his daughter to go out into the world and be humiliated because she was a poet and because she was a writer. Ultimately, he was trying to keep the family together and the way to keep his family together was to encourage his daughter to sort of develop what you want to do but not tell anybody about it. He would buy her books and never encourage her to read them.”
He continued: “Every parent has that conflict. I’m a parent and she’s a parent, and we have that conflict where you want to give your kid all this but sometimes it can be too much and you don’t want them running out into the world and being hurt and being embarrassed and being broken down by the world, so you try to protect them as much as you can. I think the attitude then was much different than it is now, but still, I have the same concerns that any parent does about my daughter that Edward did about his daughter.”
Jane noted that Emily and her mother’s “complicated” relationship is “very represented” in the show. She also feels that her character “missed out on the modern opportunities that could happen that Emily could benefit from. It’s the same way that my mother just missed women’s lib and was a homemaker and then again it happened where I got all the opportunities of what modern women can do today, so I think that cycle repeats and that’s what makes it so modern because that cycle, unfortunately, can repeat and is an everlasting tangle of relationships in families.”
Toby added, “And also it’s about people not buying into that given paradigm. Edward and his wife, we buy into that paradigm because that’s what we know. We don’t know any better. Emily tries to break it and I think hat’s what happening in young folk today is that they’re trying to break this paradigm that they’ve been given.” Dickinson will begin streaming Nov. 1 on Apple TV+.