Dickinson Cast and Creator Preview Season 2

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After over a year of waiting, Dickinson Season 2 returns Thursday, Jan. 8.

The first three episodes drop on that date, followed by weekly episodes through the end of February.

TV Fanatic had the chance to speak with some of the cast and creator Alena Smith about what lies in store for our favorite historical figures.

Emily, Lavinia, et al - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 1

While Dickinson Season 1 Episode 10 culminated with Austin and Sue's marriage, the newlyweds have moved beyond the honeymoon stage this season, finding themselves at odds on some big issues and growing further apart.

"I think I can speak for both of us when I say that it was so much fun playing the dysfunctionality marriage that is, like falling apart," said Ella Hunt, who plays Sue.

"And the fact to grapple with all the 19th century is that in an unhappy and loveless marriage, divorce doesn't exist. It's like we have to find ways of making this work."

Hunt continued that Sue and Austin have to find ways of confronting their issues, which for her as an actress is part of the fun.

Austin receive - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 2

Adrian Enscoe, who plays Austin, chimed in that Sue comes into her own as this emerging socialite and taking a leadership position culturally in Amherst during the second season.

"Austin is kind of a witness to that, but it's also like, he sees her becoming a bigger person."

"He, in some ways, wants to step into a more adult role as well but finds himself grappling with the emptiness of their relationship and, wondering whether the trappings of having a house and a wife are really what he wants," he said.

Enscoe added that Austin is also looking for ways to make his mark outside of their marriage.

Sue talk - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 2

As for how Austin and Sue's marriage affects their individual relationships with Emily, Hunt and Enscoe concurred that their marriage does change things.

For one, the couple has moved out of the Dickinson household and into their own house just next door.

Enscoe said the physical distance plays a role, for while the two houses are so close, they're still worlds away.

"I think that the physical distance is a really interesting part of their dynamic that changes in season two because they are kind of in their own world. You see Emily looking out of her window and seeing these parties going on just next door, and it feels so far away," he said.

Sue hostess - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 1

Besides the physical distance, Sue's marriage to Austin comes with this huge change in social status, with Hunt saying Sue has gone from being this destitute woman, completely reliant on the Dickinsons, to a married woman with nearly limitless means.

And Hunt said this gives Sue a huge degree of freedom compared to what she had experienced previously, thus allowing her to reinvent herself and escape the loss and pain from her former life.

"That really alters her relationship with Emily as well, because she does not want to go to the deep places that Emily's poetry encourages her to go towards.

"It's too painful it, it brings things to the surface that Sue is not able to confront," Hunt said.

Emily write - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 3

Therefore, Sue, at the top of the season, introduces Emily to Samuel Bowles, the publisher of the Springfield Republican, with Hunt adding her character pushes Emily toward Sam, played by Finn Jones, which leads to a whole lot of trouble.

As for what that trouble is, Hunt and Enscoe were quiet.

However, Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Emily, said Sam is introduced to her by Sue as a man who could possibly put the then-unknown literary port into the spotlight.

"Emily is instantly there for it and into it and excited by it, but also fearful of him and unsure of his intentions, whether the interest he's taking in her is strictly professional or not," said Steinfeld.

Emily talks - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 3

She continued that Emily's relationship with Sam results in a lot of where Emily goes this season, and she loses herself entirely, part of which is Sam's fault.

"He represents fame to her and this idea of fame, and that is what sort of consuming her as a writer, as an artist and a person. It's just completely overtaken her. She's hit all of these sort of roadblocks, and writer's block, literally," she said.

Despite this, Emily's quest for fame is one of this season's main themes, which Steinfeld said brings up some big questions.

"What is fame? What does it even mean? Once I have it? Am I able to determine how much of it I want, you know, and once I have it, can I give it back? Like do I have to keep it if I don't like it, and it's a weird thing to sort of be in in the middle of again, I have never thought much of it," she said.

Lavinia smile - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 1

Anna Baryshnikov, who plays Lavinia, also commented on how Emily's quest for fame has impacted her character, which is that Emily's search has inspired Lavinia to start asking some questions of her own and affects Lavinia's burgeoning romance with Henry 'Ship' Shipley.

Baryshnikov said Ship, played by Pico Alexander, was a real person in Austin's class at Amherst College and had an affair with famous burlesque dancer Lola Montez.

In the series, Ship rents a room at the Dickinsons, and Baryshnikov said through this relationship may offer an explanation for why the real Lavinia Dickinson never married.

"It's really fun because a question that I've had about Lavinia since we started the series. Emily was this genius poet, so we understand why she didn't get married. She lived in her parents' house and didn't have children. She was incredibly dedicated to her work."

Ship - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 2

"But Lavinia, it's kind of a question mark, why she ended up becoming her sister's caretaker and not having a family of her own when that was what was expected of her and the time period."

"And I love that, in her relationship with Henry 'Ship' Shipley, we start to see how that might have been a choice. And she might have been, also like her sister, unable to fit into the parameters of womanhood during this time," she said.

Creator Alena Smith added that this season sees Lavinia evolving from a boy-crazed girl to a more culturally progressive and feminist woman, saying Lavinia definitely has been influenced by her sister. 

Though Emily and Lavinia's relationship has been strained a bit in the past, what with Lavinia taking a dislike of Emily's oddness, both actresses agree the sisters grow closer this season.

Emily and Lavinia - Dickinson Season 2 Episode 3

"They start as such completely different women and Lavinia is definitely a little resentful of how othered Emily is and how strange she makes their family scene. And then I think we have the joy of playing the slow burn of them getting a much much much closer,"  Baryshnikov said.

"I love the dynamic between the two of them. And I know that I'd love to see it grow even more," said Steinfeld.

"I think there's a real love between the two of them, and it grows. It goes from one thing to another to the next."

"And I think much like sibling dynamics, you know that they shift that they're always going to love each other. They're always going to be sisters, but I'm excited to see where they go together," she said.

Edward sad - Dickinson Season 1 Episode 6

Lastly, Smith said this season also delves a little more into Emily's relationship with her father Edward, who was adamant about his daughter not publishing her poems during the first season.

"We definitely get a different insight into Emily and her father's relationship in season two.

"And I really was excited to show a more tender and compassionate relationship between the two of them because as I say, again, families are complicated and the person that you have the worst fights with, you can wake up the next morning and be laughing with you know, and so on.

"I wanted to reveal that, you know, they actually have a lot in common. And that's, I mean, that was even there in season one and the fact that you know, Edward, so strongly disapproved of Emily's writing, but he obviously also knew that she was really gifted, which is a dynamic that I think can happen in families," she said.

So what do you think, TV Fanatics?

What are you most excited about this season?

Who is the character you're most looking forward to seeing?

What else do you want to know?

Hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts.

Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.

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Dickinson Quotes

Sue: You’re right.
Emily: Right about what?
Sue: The only time I feel things is when I’m with you.
Emily: She dealt her pretty words like Blades. How glittering they shone.
Sue: I pushed you toward him because I wanted to escape what I was feeling, and I slept with him ‘cause I didn’t wanna feel it. There is so much that I don’t want to feel, Emily. And the biggest thing that I don’t want to feel…
Emily: Is what? Hmm, is what? What is it, Sue? Just say it.
Sue: Is that I’m in love with you.
Emily: I don’t believe you.
Sue: It’s true.
Emily: It’s not true. Nothing you say to me is true. You’re not even Sue anymore. You’re a new person, a fake person. I don’t even recognize you, and everything you say to me is a lie.
Sue: Emily, I love.
Emily: Stop lying to me.
Sue: I love you, and I felt you in the library because you’re always with me. I can’t escape from you because the only true thing I will ever feel is my love for you.

Nobody: You know who I am, and you know how I’m going to die.
Emily: Yes, in the war.
Nobody: In the war, seeking glory, seeking fame. I’ll leave my home and my family and go into battle.
Emily: Yes, and then the bullet will hit you like a bird.
Nobody: So Frazar Stearns will die to be remembered. Might have been better to be Nobody.
Emily: I understand, and I will not make the same mistake.
Nobody: You have wars to fight, Emily Dickinson, but you must fight them in secret, alone, unseen. You must give all the glory to yourself and ask for nothing from the world. You must be a nobody. The bravest, most brilliant nobody who ever existed.