CBS All Access' 10-episode limited series adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand is dealing with one of those moments when fiction and reality start to overlap a little too much. With production currently underway in Vancouver, British Columbia, the cast and crew find themselves adapting a novel about "Captain Trips", a virus that kills a significant percentage of the world's living population – while the coronavirus outbreak spreads throughout the the globe.
So you understand how that could make things a little… "awkward".
So does series star James Marsden (Sonic the Hedgehog, Mrs. America).
Sitting in as a guest on Variety and iHeart's The Big Ticket podcast (see below), Marsden admitted that the filming in the current environment makes for as many fears on set as there are in front of the camera:
"There are scenes in the beginning of 'The Stand' where as soon as you see someone who looks normal sneeze or cough into their arm, everyone's eyes in the room darts towards them. I see that in public now, and everyone kind of takes a few steps away from the person. It's crazy. We're in full panic mode right now."
Though production began in September 2019, Marsden says viewers shouldn't expect the limited series any time soon – especially considering the current world health crisis:
"Obviously, no one would ever want to capitalize on something as horrible as this, but it certainly makes it relevant. I just don't think about it and just keep chugging away."
King wrote a coda for the series – providing a new aspect to the ending not found in the book. The new adaptation stems from director Josh Boone (The Fault In Our Stars), SEAL Team creator-executive producer Ben Cavell, and CBS Televisions Studios. Boone and Cavell are writing the adaptation, with Boone directing the project.
CBS All Access' The Stand stars Alexander Skarsgard, Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden, Amber Heard, Heather Graham, Greg Kinnear, Odessa Young, Henry Zaga, Jovan Adepo, Owen Teague, Brad William Henke, Daniel Sunjata, Nat Wolff, Eion Bailey, Katherine McNamara, Hamish Linklater, and Fiona Dourif.
Here's an updated look at the character list for CBS All Access' adaptation of The Stand:
● Marsden's Stu Redman is an ordinary working-class factory man in an extraordinary situation with a damaged quality to him that belies his exterior.
● Heard's Nadine Cross is a deeply conflicted woman who feels the consequences of her actions, but is still compelled by her allegiance to Randall Flagg, the Dark Man.
● Young's Frannie Goldsmith is a pregnant young woman navigating a strange new world, who also has the foresight to recognize that there is evil lurking beyond Flagg.
● Zaga's Nick Andros is a young deaf and mute man who finds himself in a position of authority when the unthinkable happens. He has a habit of risking his own well-being for the safety of others.
● Goldberg's Mother Abagail is a prophet who receives visions from God and guides survivors of the superflu.
● Adepo's Larry Underwood is a young musician with a taste for fame, as well as illegal substances. When the plague hits, he is forced to confront his demons as he makes his way to the new world.
● Teague's Harold Lauder goes in search of others with fellow survivor Frannie Goldsmith. While his intentions are good, jealousy and his infatuation with Frannie threaten to lead him down a dark path.
● Henke's Tom Cullen is Nick Andros' traveling companion who is developmentally disabled due to a terrible fall as a child. A sweet soul, he will be instrumental in their fight for survival.
● Sunjata's Cobb is a member of the military tasked with supervising Stu Redman as the government searches for a cure during the outbreak of the superflu.
● Skarsgard's Randall Flagg is the living, breathing personification of all things dark and evil.
● Wolff's Lloyd Henreid is a petty criminal who becomes fiercely loyal to Flagg.
● Bailey's Teddy Weizak is a superflu survivor and member of the body crew, alongside Harold (Teague), in Boulder, CO.
● McNamara's Julie Lawry is a small-town girl with a wild side who is one of Lloyd's (Wolff) conquests in Las Vegas.
● Linklater's Dr. Ellis is a military colonel and infectious-disease specialist who dreams of being the hero who stops the superflu.
● Graham's Rita Blakemoor is a wealthy woman who is ill prepared for the end of the world and attempts to escape superflu-infested New York City.
● Kinnear's Glen Bateman is a widowed professor when the superflu hits – one accustomed to a solitary life. When he encounters other survivors, Glen's curiosity is piqued by Mother Abagail's visions.
● Dourif's "Rat Woman" is one of Randall Flagg's evil lackeys.
Speaking with filmmaker/author Mick Garris on Garris' Post Mortem podcast (which you can listen to here) in honor of the 25th anniversary of ABC's mini-series adaptation, King discussed the advantages they have today to ensure the adaptation remains as faithful to the novel as possible – from larger budgets to freedom of language and action:
"I like Josh Boone's work. I actually worked with him on his first feature (2012's Stuck in Love). I couldn't act in it, which is what he wanted me to do, so I had to be an audio thing. And then he did The Fault in Our Stars, which I thought showed his grasp of the medium. I like him a lot. I like his reach, his ambition for it.
But, really, the thing I'm mostly excited about is, first of all, we've got two more hours to tell the story and, second, we're free of all those things that held us back with The Stand — that is to say, not only is the budget bigger, even if you equalize the two eras, we're [more free] in terms of language and in terms of violence in a way that we weren't with the original Stand. CBS All Access would really like this to work, I think, and they put a lot of muscle behind it, so I'm hopeful, but it's early days yet."
A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world's population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man," who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
The novel was previously adapted for television as a March 1994 four-part miniseries for ABC, with King writing the teleplay and making a guest appearance and Garris directing. The adaptation would go on to earn six Emmy nominations, winning two: sound mixing and makeup. ABC's miniseries adaptation starred Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Jamey Sheridan, and the late Miguel Ferrer.
"I'm excited and so very pleased that The Stand is going to have a new life on this exciting new platform. The people involved are men and women who know exactly what they're doing; the scripts are dynamite. The result bids to be something memorable and thrilling. I believe it will take viewers away to a world they hope will never happen."
– Stephen King
Boone, Cavell, Roy Lee, Jimmy Miller, and Richard P. Rubinstein will serve as executive producers. Will Weiske and Miri Yoon will serve as co-executive producers, with Owen King producing and CBS TV Studios as the studio.