The Stand begins on CBS All Access Dec. 17. Based on the Stephen King novel, CBS All Access calls the series “King’s apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil.”
The fate of mankind rests on the shoulders of 108-year-old Mother Abagail, played by Whoopi Goldberg, and a handful of survivors. Representing the side of evil is Randall Flagg, aka the Dark Man, played by Alexander Skarsgard.
New episodes drop weekly, culminating with a new “coda,” in the network’s verbiage, written by King.
Benjamin Cavell, showrunner and executive producer, said King’s coda came to be after the author had seen a few screenplays and liked where the show intended to head. “When it was clear he was thinking, I trust these guys, our reaction was, do everything possible to make this happen,” said Cavell.
The novel was published in 1978. Cavell said it has long bothered King that Frannie, who is played by Odessa Young, does not participate in the big face-off that gives the book its title. “Frannie is not one of the protagonists in the climax, in the showdown,” he said.
King’s coda fit nicely with the project. “It really felt of a piece with the rest of it,” said Cavell.
James Marsden plays Stu Redman and Jovan Adepo plays Larry Underwood. There are nine episodes. The limited series begins in Boulder, and the plague has decimated mankind. It then flashes back five months to Maine, as “flu season”, as one news report puts it, begins knocking people out.
As time passes, nerdy teen Harold Lauder, played by Owen Teague, and Frannie, who used to babysit Harold, are the only ones left in their town after the plague, known as Captain Trips, has wiped out the population. They decide to head south to the CDC in Atlanta.
Weighing in at 823 pages, the book is not for everyone. (An “uncut” one later published by King has 1,152 pages.) Cavell said he read it when he was 12. Many people have decided not to read it, based on The Stand’s size. But Cavell said he’d never heard of anyone who started it and did not finish. “For so many people, it’s intimidating and huge,” he said. “But once you start it, how do you put it down? It’s so propulsive.”
The Stand had Owen King, son of Stephen, on the set. He’s an accomplished author and screenwriter in his own right. “It was so freeing and reassuring to have a member of the King family there with us in the writers’ room,” said Cavell.
Owen, he added, “is really smart about story and structure.”
Cavell, Taylor Elmore, Will Weiske, Jimmy Miller, Roy Lee and Richard P. Rubinstein are the executive producers.
Are viewers up for watching a series about a pandemic taking over the nation? There’s lots of coughing and retching and and choking, and victims have fleshy, ginormous necks. The effects of the plague in The Stand are so dire that some might note that our current pandemic, dreadful as it is, isn’t as bad as the one in the series.
Cavell has been at work on The Stand for years, dating back to a time when COVID was on no one’s mind. “One thing people can’t say about the series is that it’s not thought through,” he said. “We know what the book means to people. We know what it means to us.”
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