Here’s Why Wiz Khalifa Played Death in ‘Dickinson’ and Loved It

Apple TV+’s Dickinson is truly a show you should watch if you want a smart comedy that’s also about one of the most defining poets, ever. Hailee Steinfeld plays Emily Dickinson, and the whole series is a modern telling of her life, but still set in that time period. It’s very witty, has amazing sets, and also a really great personification of Death itself. Rapper Wiz Khalifa plays Death and was very into it. Turns out, he was wanted for the role since the very beginning. 

Wiz Khalifa at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020.
Wiz Khalifa at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 | Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

The creator of ‘Dickinson’ wanted Wiz Khalifa to play Death from the very beginning

On The Kelly Clarkson Show, Steinfeld shared that the creator and showrunner of the series, Alena Smith, had Wiz Khalifa in mind to play Death since the get-go. And Smith shared that as well to Entertainment Weekly in September. 

“I wanted Death to be the coolest guy in the world because Emily is in love with Death,” Smith said. “Part of the story of the season is about her coming to a more realistic and mature understanding of Death, but where she begins is a kind of goth worship of Death. I just really wanted it to be someone that you would genuinely get excited to see.”

They certainly achieved that. Not only is Wiz Khalifa an enigmatic figure on his own, but seeing him in a top hat, tiny glasses, and in a dark carriage roaming through the night? Over-the-top coolness factor: achieved. 

Wiz Khalifa got really ‘into it,’ according to Steinfeld

Entertainment Weekly also reported that Khalifa got into it, which totally comes across on-screen.

“I’m a huge fan of [Khalifa] in general, so the fact that we were able to get him to do the show was so exciting, and he loved the idea of it,” Steinfeld said. “He read a bunch of it, and he was so into it. He showed up unbelievably prepared. He’s got the greatest sense of humor ever.”

When it comes to Death and Khalifa’s portrayal of him on the show, “it is very different and weird and interesting and exciting,” Steinfeld said. “He is a major element in this show,” she added.

Dickinson was obsessed with death, which the show really hits on

Dickinson’s poems focus a ton on death, which Emily does in the first season, too. It was a great, artistic ploy to actually personify this into a character, so she can interact with him. 

“[Death is] a place that, in [Emily’s] mind, she can go to be creative and free and not have anybody telling her what to do or who to be or what she can or cannot do,” Steinfeld said on The Kelly Clarkson Show, also saying death is a “version of life” for the character. “We wanted somebody that was cool and creative and just interesting and exciting and that was Wiz.”

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in November, Smith also shared that the series’ first season shows how Dickinson’s idea of death evolves. 

“Emily’s coming of age story is in part about a maturing relationship to death,” Smith said. “In the beginning of the season, she sort of glamorizes death, and it’s also part of why she glamorizes Sue, because Sue has had so much loss and death but Emily really hasn’t, and she’s been sort of protected from that.” 

Smith states that it’s not until she loses her dear friend ben that she actually understands what loss is and what Death’s job actually feels like.  

“I think that something about that both shifts her perspective on death and also allows her to come to terms with the maturing relationship with Sue,” Smith said. “At least for the period of time of Sue’s marriage, Emily thinks that perhaps she can accept Sue into her life as a sister.”

Smith also shared that Season 2 will focus on fame, another topic Emily liked to write about. Whatever the focus is, hopefully, Wiz Khalifa can keep popping back up in Dickinson.