After an impressive showing at this year's New York Comic Con-Metaverse, CBS All Access' 9-episode adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand is seeing viewers' excitement over the limited series beginning to seriously snowball- and there's still two months to go (Thursday, December 17th, to be exact). Now, executive producer Ben Cavell is opening up to Variety about the project's eerie similarities to current news headlines, changes that needed to be made from King's novel, and more.
"What better moment for a show that imagines that civilization torn down to the studs, forcing our characters to confront questions about the very foundations of government, what society owes the individual and vice versa, what we all as humans owe to one another [and] what we're willing to sacrifice in terms of personal liberty in order to feel safe and protected?" said Cavell about the comparable themes. "When I came aboard this project in early 2018, I told [now head of programming at CBS All Access] Julie McNamara how eerily relevant I found this story even then — not, obviously, because I had any idea we'd be facing our own pandemic, but because I felt we were starting to question so many things we all grew up taking for granted about the structure of human civilization."
Because the series adaptation had nine episodes to work with, it allowed the team to take deep-dives into aspects of the novel that the previous limited series either ignored or changed (changes that King has given thumbs up to). One of those changes included restoring Rita (Heather Graham) and Nadine's (Amber Heard) respective storylines (the characters were combined in the ABC version). In fact, the CBS All Access limited series will be taking a non-linear route to its storytelling approach to offer viewers the pre-plague backstories on a number of our characters. For Cavell, it wasn't about needing to do something just to be different from the novel but about placing the series' narrative focus where it needs to be. "I didn't want to make an audience sit through three episodes of the world dying before we got to the meat of our story," Cavell explained. "For me, 'The Stand' has never been about a pandemic, but about the battle that follows between good and evil for the soul of what remains of humanity."
Another change viewers can expect from the novel involve our beacons of light and darkness, Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgard) and Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg). In King's work, neither is sure of where their powers come from or the full extent of their abilities. In the upcoming adaptation, we still don't get to learn where their powers came from but we do learn that Flagg's power levels rise and fall based on the faith his followers have in him. "We see that it rises and falls based on the strength of his acolytes' faith in him. Flagg is terrifying not only because of the things that make him more than human but also because of his quintessentially human thirst for power and his apparent willingness to do anything to gain and maintain it," Cavell explained.
Here's a Look at CBS All Access' "The Stand"
The limited series's ensemble cast includes 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 a look at our cast of characters, as well as the new preview images that were released with the announcement.
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 superglue. 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 superglue.
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, in Boulder, CO. McNamara's Julie Lawry is a small-town girl with a wild side who is one of Lloyd's 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 superglue. 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.
Written by Josh Boone, Ben Cavell, and more, the limited series also includes a King-penned final episode coda that provides a new aspect and perspective to the ending not found in the book. Boone is directing the first and last episodes, and executive producing alongside showrunner Taylor Elmore, Will Weiske, Jimmy Miller, Roy Lee, and Richard P. Rubinstein, with CBS Televisions Studios serving as studio. Jake Braver, Jill Killington, Owen King, Knate Lee, and Stephen Welke also produce.