Creator of Apple TV+’s “Dickinson” talks fusing history with modernity

“Dickinson,” the period web TV series starring Hailee Seinfeld, tells the coming of age story of America’s most prolific poets. It explores the life of Emily Dickinson as a young aspiring writer while she breaks out of conventional gender norms.

The show’s storyline is aptly set in the 1800s but it interprets Dickinson’s life with a modern and refreshing twist. Creator Alena Smith offered insight on their unusual approach to the period comedy at its Tribeca TV Festival world premiere last Saturday.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter Smith said that the world she created was drawn from Dickinson’s poetic works and detailed accounts of her real life. With extensive historical research, her team was able to shed light on socio-political issues from 1850s America. Smith soon realized that many of the issues being tackled back in that time period are still applicable to the modern world. Something that she admits is unsettling to think of saying:

“…it’s a little scary how much, to look at America in that combustible period, right on the eve of the Civil War, it can remind you of today.”

“We approached this with a tremendous amount of research but then we used the research in really unexpected ways and we are always trying to use the facts of Emily Dickinson’s life and her cultural context of the 1850s to reflect where we are today,” Smith adds before the show’s pilot screened.

Back in her time, Dickinson was widely misunderstood for challenging traditional gender roles and identity as a woman. Experts speculate that some of the accounts of her life written by biased scholars might have even censored certain aspects of her life to portray her as the ideal “proper lady.” Now, Smith hopes that the show will allow viewers to give Dickinson the understanding that she never had in her own time.

Ben Hornery
Ben Hornery
Ben is is a senior journalist and sport columnist for Best in Australia. He previously worked for the BC and other radio stations.
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