The CBS All Access limited series The Stand takes inspiration from the original Stephen King novel set in the 70s and the 1994 TV miniseries while providing a modernized update in the smartphone age. It pits the forces of the grounded survivors of Mother Abigail Freemantle (Whoopi Goldberg) versus the dark and decadent forces of Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård) in a world decimated by a pandemic. I spoke to costume designer Angelina Kekich to contrast both and the path to achieve their distinctive looks. "I worked with [co-creator] Josh Boone, and he had me read the book," Kekich said. "He also gave me Andy Burns' 'The Making of the Stand,' so I took the opportunity to read both of those. I worked with a visual consultant by the name of Alison Klein in Los Angeles. Over a 10 week period, Josh wanted me to know all nine of the episodes. So it was important for me to have an understanding of each of the characters, their journey, and their arc from pre-pandemic to the ending." She detailed the extensive planning involved.
"We created over 500 visual boards where we had the ability to see each of the characters and their journeys emotionally, mentally, and physically pre-pandemic to their travels from landing in Boulder, CO to Vegas," Kekich continued. "It was also important for us that we look at Stephen King's book and because it was written in the 70s, looked at the adaption in the 90s, it was important we studied it and created our own adaption to meet the needs of the viewers in 2020. We spent a lot of time looking at the visual arts of 'Darkman,' Randall Flagg, what was done in the last 30 years. We got into the psychological…into the heads of these characters and what they needed to have for their survival and into the communities that they're creating."
It was important to distinguish the settings of Abigail's and Flagg's worlds. "[Abigial's] the voice of God, and she's created this utopian community where everybody's coming together, so it was important that we created costumes that were realistic, practical, protective, and also utilitarian," Kekich said. "We're building this community. In the very first scene, we're seeing Harold in the body team, dealing with dead bodies during a pandemic. We're seeing a community living in these houses that are not theirs with barbeques and candlelit stuff. It had to feel real, so it wasn't a fashion show with real people going through a pandemic." In the limited series last two episodes in "Fear and Loathing in New Vegas" and "The Vigil," we're thrown into the chaotic world of those who follow Flagg, which looks like some parts George Miller's Mad Max and John Carpenter's Escape from New York.
"We then come to Flagg's world where you have people, when you go to Vegas, it's this fantasy world. No one sleeps. Flagg lives this life in this cathedral of lust and debauchery. We really wanted to show that and compliment Aaron Haye, the production designer's sets and use a lot of textures and colors. I spent a lot of time in Vegas and Los Angeles bringing a lot of vintage pieces up and working with our costume builders in Vancouver. You know, collaborating these pieces together. One of the things Chris Fisher, the director of episode five talked about was that he said, 'Angelina, I want you to realize that these people are real. We're not building a circus. We're not building burning man. These are real people, who are followers of Flagg.'
So it was important that we show people like lawyers, teachers, accountant, the girl next door…people who want something different and wanting that risk whereas in Mother Abigail's world is a much safer place. We really wanted to show the difference between the two and allow the views to compare and be like, 'I wouldn't mind Mother Abigail's world, but also want to spend a weekend at Randall Flagg's.'"
Two of the actors that stood out in the two episodes were the Rat Woman, played by Fiona Dourif, and Trashcan Man, played by Ezra Miller. "The rat woman was interesting because, in the novel, it was a rat-man," Kekich said. "I was super excited when we found out that we're going to have a female and really happy that it was Fiona because she's a chameleon as an actress herself. I really wanted to create something that stood out. We got this amazing set and all these different walks of life that is in Flagg's world. We wanted to represent her as our ring leader. This was our opportunity to flourish, shine, and have some fun with it. I worked with a group of guys in Los Angeles at Glam Squad. My idea was that she has a bit of a militant feel to her running Flagg's place. It was an opportunity for us to be creative and have her stand out. She's wearing rope, human hair, and vintage pieces."
When it came to Miller, Kekich admitted he wanted more of a minimalist approach. "Ezra is very into fashion," she said. "He spent a lot of time into is. One of the first things he told me is that 'I serve fire and not Flagg. I need to have it represented. I don't want to wear anything unless it's needed.' We have this utility vest and this Kevlar underwear, which is heat resistant. We have all these different pockets for his explosives. He did some artwork that includes his prison numbers, which reflects back to the book and his abused background. We wanted to represent in the book and put this out there from in and Ezra's vision."
Working on The Stand offered something different for Kekich, who's used to doing science fiction. "To work on something where you're expected to take one of the top books in the world, which is 1200 pages, and to condense it to nine episodes is a feat in and of itself," she said. "I got to show something more than just the sci-fi in The Stand. It was an opportunity to show the glam and risqué side. Once we got to the Vegas scenes, we had 50 people working on this, shoes and leather goods. It's a great opportunity to work on something else? You can also check out Keckich's work in Resident Alien, which premieres on SyFy. New episodes of The Stand stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.