Here's everything you wanted to know about the new web-series The Stand, an adaptation of Stephen King's post-apocalyptic dark fantasy
Stephen King’s 1978 novel The Stand gets a small screen adaptation; key actors James Marsden, Amber Heard and Greg Kinnear tells us more
Celebrated author Stephen King’s path-breaking novel The Stand continues to be a bestseller across the globe. Stephen’s post-apocalyptic dark fantasy remains timeless because of the intriguing narrative. In the pandemic-hit world, it’s all the more relevant and has an eerie similarity. Now, the American production house CBS All Access has adapted it to the screen as a nine-episode web series of the same name. The show premieres today on Voot Select. The story begins when half the world is destroyed by a novel plague, and the struggle between good and evil emerges. The fate of those who are alive rests on the shoulders of a handful of survivors who are led by Mother Abagail. As they attempt to find a way through this nightmare, they have to confront the antagonist, Randall Flagg. The multi-starrer, which is one of the most-anticipated shows of the year, features renowned names such as James Marsden, Amber Heard, Greg Kinnear, Odessa Young, Henry Zaga, Whoopi Goldberg, and Alexander Skarsgård. Indulge caught up with James, Amber, and Greg ahead of the premiere:
What was your experience working on the show, which is based on a book written 42 years ago? JAMES MARSDEN: It’s an old book written by Stephen King... It’s as if he had a crystal ball (when he was writing). He’s always been curious about the choices that humans make, what gets under their skin, and the psychology of good versus evil. I think he always saw there was potential for something like this to happen. I don’t think he anticipated that we would make a series in the middle of what we are going through. It’s unfortunate timing. We were shooting for the show in Vancouver, last September… and we started hearing about COVID-19 in December-January. It wasn’t until the end of February that we started seeing masks popping up on sets. It was an eerie feeling. But the core of The Stand is about the pandemic which is the catalyst for the bigger story to be told — what do we do when the reset button is hit? Now that we have a blank page, where do we start? How do we build, how do we restore society? Then this age-old battle between good and evil starts to emerge.
GREG KINNEAR: The timing of it is unimaginable. I remember I had finished my shoot in Canada and I was flying back to LA, and then I was supposed to head to NYC to shoot for To Kill A Mockingbird. I came back and I had a five-day break in-between but within two days, my kids’ school shut and then the NBA shut down. The year 2020 has been a bit of a dumpster fire, and I think we can all agree. I don’t know how people will reckon their own lives with this show. There are ways in which we have re-adapted our lives. In that sense, I feel there are some touchpoints to compare. Other than that, it’s a fantasy story.
James, can you tell us about your character Stu Redman?
JM: Stu is a reluctant hero. He has strong moral codes and values. He believes in loyalty and respects authority. But I don’t think he chooses to be the leader here. He is simply trying to do the right thing. He wants structure and craves order. So, when Randall Flagg comes along and represents anarchy and chaos, it terrifies Stu. I sometimes like the boring and good guys who remain optimistic. I never want to get cynical in my life. We all have our dragons that we wrestle with. I like to celebrate people who choose to do the right thing when nobody’s looking, and Stu embodies this. With Stu, he was this archetypal cowboy hero in the book. With our interpretation, we have made it less about the small-town cowboy who saves the damsels in distress. We have dropped those tropes. He is less of a ‘hero riding in to save the day’, and more ‘working in the shadows trying to bring people together.’
What was the most challenging aspect of playing Stu.
JM: I wanted to crack the surface of this good man and find out what regrets he has and the mistakes he has made. You can’t be completely flawless… we all have our flaws and that’s what makes us humans interesting. While he is a good leader and is a positive presence for everyone, we needed to get his back story. Beyond this, I wanted to explore his nightmare and what stresses him out. When you are playing a good guy, it’s important to find humanity in him outside of just helping people.
Amber, your character Nadine Cross comes with so many layers. There have been many debates online about which side she’s on… what’s your take on this?
AMBER HEARD: For me that’s exactly why I wanted to play Nadine – the fact that people don’t know what to make of her. This element made her infinitely more interesting for me, it was a compelling character to play. I think I didn’t want to play someone who fits into a category easily. I wanted to focus on that grey area between good and evil, understanding and repulsive, dynamic and relatable.
How do you interpret the theological aspect of this story?
AH: This is the interesting and real part about what Stephen King has so brilliantly been able to do in creating the story and characters that live within. They don’t represent good and evil as blanket ideas of black and white. They occupy more grey areas. The characters fight with one another for attention and ultimate action – these aspects make them dynamic. For my character, it’s about the struggle between the impulse to do good for yourself and the impulse to do what’s good for everybody.
Stephen King has changed the ending of the story for this show. How do you think fans will react to this change?
GK: I hope people react favourably to it. If we had changed it, I think people would rightly be upset. It is Stephen King who changed it. I think there’s something very interesting about it. Of all his books, Stephen has spoken quite a bit about The Stand. I do find it amazing that the book still gets new legions of fans every year. I had read it long ago in high school, and it really stuck with me and I do think there’s a longevity to the story, and that is kind of extraordinary. I hope people will like the idea that he has added something at the end that has stuck with him for 40 years.
What about your character, Glen Bateman, do you like the most, Greg?
GK: I like the guy a lot, he is the kind of friend I would like to have in my life. He is like a shaman who can enlighten you and has an opinion on everything. I am someone who likes philosophy and I do like the idea of breaking things down and Glenn is very good at that. I am a bit of a cynic myself, that part of him wears well with me.
The series premiered on Voot Select on December 18 in India