Stephen King's The Stand is one of the most thought-provoking seminal dystopian works of the 20th century and becoming far more relevant within the current era of the pandemic. One of the tallest tasks for production designer Aaron Haye was adapting the author's work, which was originally set in the 1970s to audiences 50 years later in the CBS All Access limited series of the same name. The project afforded him a rare opportunity to work in television with his predominant body of work in film, gaining a wealth of experience since he started on George Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition) in 1997. I spoke to Haye about the extensive planning to bring Josh Boone's adaptation to life.
"We had to do nine hours of material," Haye said. "It's like making 4-5 films back-to-back. That was a different kind of experience with the number of sets. I think we were up to 230 sets on locations." The designer recalled starting around January 2019 and putting in the long hours. "We spent several months researching, planning, conceptualizing, and budgeting," he continued. "Then the show went down about a month, then we got back up and running in May. Once we fully got started in May, we had until September. We had about six months of prep. Once we started, it was non-stop. Design, build, and scout."
How COVID Stalled Production of The Stand
The variety of sets built captured the worlds of Boulder, Colorado, and Las Vegas capturing simpler suburban neighborhoods getting more complex as they ventured into the casino setting. "The casino for Vegas was pretty crazy," he said. "We had to build an extensive set: the interior, exterior and penthouse suite. Some of what you'll see in episodes 7 and 8 was made with giant chasms and missile silos." For the most part, production was smooth sailing until studios suspended filming due to the COVID pandemic. "We were shut down with three days left," Haye recalled. "We shot 120 days in Vancouver and British Columbia. We shot three days additionally in Las Vegas. When we text scouted in March and California issued the order, production shut down. We realized it was much more serious than we realized. We had to come back several months later with COVID protocols to pick up those few days we missed." He said production made the most of the time away from the set. "We went into post-production. We had 98 percent of the show in the can. It was the matter of editing and visual effects to put in."
When it came to inspiration, Haye said he wanted to start fresh and steer away from the 1994 TV miniseries adaptation to offer their own original take. "There was a lot to bring it to contemporary time," he said. "It didn't make a whole lot of sense to make it to a period. It felt more poignant and timely, unfortunately, as a contemporary story. We updated everything. There's still a bit of lingering, a little bit of the 70s in places and in characters and things like that. The writers and showrunners did a good job taking things into the present day. Before smartphones, the world shutting down meant something different then." He also noted King was also actively involved in the production, even writing the finale himself. New episodes of The Stand, which stars James Marsden, Amber Heard, Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Odessa Young, Owen Teague, and Jovan Odepo, stream Thursdays on CBS All Access.