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Everything We Know About Stephen King's New The Stand Miniseries

Get the latest details on the CBS All Access miniseries, including who's been cast and Stephen King's big change to the story.

by | August 31, 2020 | Comments

The new limited event series based on Stephen King’s novel The Stand will premiere on CBS All Access on December 17, the streamer announced on Tuesday. The nine-episode series will be released weekly on Thursdays.

The series, which tells King’s story of a world decimated by plague and a fight between good and evil, stars Whoopi Goldberg, Alexander Skarsgård, James Marsden, Odessa Young, Jovan Adepo, Amber Heard, Owen Teague, Henry Zaga, Brad William Henke, Greg Kinnear, Irene Bedard, and Nat Wolff.

“During the two years we spent making The Stand, we all felt the responsibility of adapting what may be the most beloved work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, but none of us could have imagined that Stephen King’s 40-year-old masterpiece about a global pandemic would come to be so eerily relevant,” Benjamin Cavell, co-showrunner and executive producer, said in a statement. “We’re honored to tell this sprawling, epic story, including a new coda that Stephen King has wanted to add for decades. We’re so proud of this show and its attempt to find meaning and hope in the most uncertain of times. We can’t wait to share it with the world.”

The series description reads: “The fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Goldberg) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg (Skarsgård), the Dark Man.”


This Is Not the First Stand

Gary Sinise (center) in 1994 miniseries THE STAND,

(Photo by ABC/Courtesy: Everett Collection)

In the novel, the accidental release of a world-ending plague decimates the majority of America’s population, leading to a post-apocalyptic tale of survival amid an otherworldly clash of good vs. evil. Released in 1978, the weighty book – the original version is 823 pages long, while the 1990 uncut edition is over 1,000 pages – explores this wasteland as a group of survivors struggle to find meaning in a new reality and end up choosing sides in a war of supernatural proportions.

Despite being only the fourth of King’s full-length books, The Stand has cemented itself over the past four decades as one of the author’s best. The expansive novel blends fantasy and horror in a twist-filled, quintessentially Stephen King way that has defined the works by the Master of Horror.


ABC’s four-episode 1994 The Stand miniseries was directed by Mick Garris and featured an all-star ’90s cast, with Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, Rob Lowe, and even NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabar appearing in the project. It was well-received by viewers, bringing in an average of 19 million viewers per episode, and received two Primetime Emmy Awards, but after 26 years (and as with many early screen adaptations of King’s works), the series hasn’t really aged well.

For those who have been itching for a more detailed take on the novel, an updated version of The Stand is in the works. With a new ensemble cast, the addition of an up-and-coming director, and a new chapter to the story added by King himself, the author’s epic journey into his American apocalypse is about to get a much-needed makeover. Here’s everything we know about the 2020 remake of King’s The Stand.


The Stand Remake Has Been in Development for Years – and was First Intended for the Big Screen

Stephen King

(Photo by © ABC/Courtesy: Everett Collection.)

Back in 2011 it was reported that Warner Bros. was developing a movie adaptation of the novel The Stand by King (pictured above in a cameo in the ABC miniseries).  Names connected at various times with the project included director David Yates (Harry Potter franchise), Scott Cooper (Black Mass), and Justice League star Ben Affleck.

The Fault in Our Stars director Josh Boone was added to the mix three years later. Warner’s adaptation plans for the project evolved over time. First, there was the idea of doing one epic movie. Boone even described it as a “three-hour, R-rated version with an amazing A-list cast across the board” to Vulture in 2014.

“Every single one of those characters will be somebody you recognize and somebody you relate to,” Boone said. “And it’s gonna be awesome. I’m really excited. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever got to do in my entire life.”

The project expanded to a four-film series and then, a year later, slimmed back down to being just one movie. Showtime was even attached at one point, with an eight-episode limited series set to hit the cable network after the big-screen installment premiered in theaters.

CBS Films then gained control of the project, and the small screen became the 100-percent focus for the adaptation. CBS officially announced in January 2019 that a new The Stand miniseries will air on streaming platform CBS All Access.


Writer-Director Josh Boone Is a Stephen King Superfan

Director Josh Boone in February 2018

(Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Boone is probably best known for directing The Fault in Our Stars, and while the adaptation of John Green’s YA romance novel is nowhere near the horror genre’s ballpark, the writer-director has been connected with multiple high-profile genre projects over the years. From an updated adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire to the long-delayed X-Men: New Mutants movie to the since-scrapped big-screen take on King’s novel Revival, Boone’s eclectic interests have come into focus, and the director is a self-proclaimed Stephen King superfan.

“I read The Stand under my bed when I was 12, and my Baptist parents burned it in our fireplace upon discovery,” Boone revealed during the CBS panel at the 2019 Television Critics Association winter press tour. “Incensed, I stole my Dad’s FedEx account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work. Several weeks later, I came home to find a box had arrived from Maine, and inside were several books, each inscribed with a beautiful note from god himself, who encouraged me in my writing and thanked me for being a fan. My parents, genuinely moved by King’s kindness and generosity, lifted the ban on his books that very day.”


The Stand Has an Impressive Ensemble Cast

Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg in THE STAND

(Photo by Robert Falconer/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Much like the original series that hit the air two-and-a-half decades ago, this new miniseries will be sporting one heck of a cast.

Skarsgård (pictured) plays the demonic leader of the evil survivors Randall Flagg – also known as the Dark Man – who was portrayed by Jamey Sheridan in the 1994 miniseries and by Matthew McConaughey in the 2017 big-screen adaptation of The Dark Tower.

The actor’s representation of the iconic character, Elmore told Vanity Fair, is softer than you’d expect which results in a fascinating performance: “Alex just plays it where you feel not only sympathy for this character, but you hopefully understand why it’s so easy for people to gravitate toward him. He’s just magnetic, he’s just absolutely fascinating to watch. He’s galvanizing as a leader.”

Showing up as Flagg’s right-hand-man, Lloyd Henreid is Wolff (Paper Towns). He survived the virus but has been withering away in prison after committing a murderous robbery. Without Flagg’s intervention, he would’ve surely died in captivity.

Amber Heard in series THE STAN

(Photo by CBS All Access/Matt Winkelmeyer/Flavien Prioreau)

CBS All Access dropped some big names as part of the show’s casting announcement during the 2019 Television Critics Association summer tour.

Marsden will play Stu Redman, a good-natured Texas hero who was there at the very beginning of the outbreak; Heard is Nadine Cross, a conflicted, selfish woman drawn toward the darkness; Zaga is Nick Andros, a deaf man who’s tuned-in to the ways of human nature, but is not often understood in return; and Young (pictured below) takes on the role of Frannie Goldsmith, a young pregnant woman who is immune to the virus, but is fearful her unborn child won’t have the same fate.

Odessa Young in THE STAND

(Photo by James Minchin/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

“We do focus very much on that story of Fran and the baby,” showrunner Taylor Elmore revealed to Vanity Fair. “What are a modern woman’s motivations in this position, a 20-year-old kid who is pregnant when the world ends? She’s a formidable force in this story.”

Teague plays Frannie’s odd neighbor, Harold Lauder. Some conflict will surely come from their relationship dynamic as Harold has held a long-standing crush on Fran. Does he want to protect her, or control her?  Other characters include Watchmen‘s Adepo who plays up-and-coming musician, Larry Underwood, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, and Daniel Sunjata as Cobb.

In the fall of 2019, Stephen King paid a visit to ABC’s The View to spread the news that one of the show’s co-hosts, Academy Award–winner Goldberg, will be playing Mother Abagail, the 108-year-old woman who ends up becoming the leader of the good survivors.

Whoopi Goldberg in THE STAND

(Photo by James Minchin/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

“She is very, very righteous and very good. But really flawed, I feel. I’ve been fighting with not making her the Magic Negro because she’s complicated” Goldberg told Vanity Fair.

Shadowhunters star Katherine McNamara plays evil survivor Julie Lawry. Lawry was pretty much a side character in Stephen King’s book. Shawnee Smith brought her to life in the 1994 mini-series, in a three-episode story arc that helped flesh out the role a bit.

How will McNamara’s Julie Lawry differ? The Arrow actress provided a little insight in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes: “We’re staying really true to the story, but they do make some really smart shifts. And Julie’s story is one of those shifts and it’s exciting just to play that out and to explore such a different character and a different world than what I’ve been doing for the last several years.”

Eion Bailey appears as Teddy Weizak – a role King played in the original program – and Hamish Linklater plays military disease specialist Dr. Ellis. Heather Graham (pictured below) takes on the role of one-percenter Rita Blakemoor, who wasn’t featured in the ’94 mini-series; instead, her personality traits were melded into that of evil Nadine Cross.

Jovan Adepo and Heather Graham in The Stand

(Photo by Best Possible Screengrab/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Kinnear’s Glen Batemen is the widowed, grief-stricken sociology professor previously portrayed by Ray Walston. The character was the entry-point into the story for King’s own thoughts on what could rise from the world’s destruction.

“He’s able to say these things that are part of my idea of the way that human nature works. First there’s chaos, and then there’s reintegration,” King told Vanity Fair. “So it’s a question of, do things reintegrate in a way that’s good, or do they reintegrate in a way that’s Hitlerian and bad? It could go either way, so I wanted to write about that. I wanted to put those two forces in conflict.”

And then there’s Marilyn Manson. The shock-rocker told Revolver that he partnered with Shooter Jennings to contribute a cover of The Doors’ classic “The End” to the series. Oh, and he’ll be acting in the series, too. The character he’s playing has been kept under wraps, leading many to speculate who he’ll play. Since the role of Randall Flagg has been claimed, we have to assume Manson will be sliding into the pyromaniac role of Trashcan Man.


The Coronavirus Won’t be Mentioned, but the Similarities to Real Life are Hard to Ignore

series THE STAND

(Photo by ABC/Courtesy: Everett Collection)

The name of the disease in The Stand is “Captain Trips,” and there are some notable differences between that virus and what the world is currently facing with COVID-19.  For one, the virus in King’s apocalypse kills nearly the entire population of Earth. Secondly, it was man-made and weaponized. But while the coronavirus won’t be mentioned at all here, it’s difficult to ignore some of the similarities between the fictional world and what we’re currently dealing with in real life.

“It was very surreal, obviously, to start to realize that there was a creeping pandemic the way there was at the beginning of our show,” showrunner Cavell told Vanity Fair.

There are two polarizing factions who eventually form in the story, and while we’ve not experienced anything supernatural (yet) during COVID-19, it’s worth noting the differing world-views and seething contempt with which these groups see each other – similar to how circumstances have been playing out in parts of America today.

“When you hear reports that 100,000 or 240,000 people are going to die, you’ve got to take notice, and it is going to be bad. It’s bad right now,” King added. “It’s brought the economy to a complete stop. In a lot of ways, I mean, you see the pictures of Times Square or London, and you say, ‘It really is like The Stand.’”


Stephen King Has Created a New Ending for the Updated Series

Author Stephen King with his book The Stand

(Photo by Shane Leonard/Doubleday)

King lent his expertise to the new miniseries by writing a new chapter to help close out the on-screen story. CBS All Access EVP of Original Content Julie McNamara revealed in August that King’s contribution will stray from the original source material, giving fans a completely new ending to The Stand.

“For fans of the book who wondered what became of the survivors of The Stand, this episode will contain stories taking them beyond the book,” Julie McNamara said.

King told The New York Times that he’s had this new ending in his mind “for years,” and that “I always wanted to find out what happened to Stu and Frannie when they went back.”

King took to Twitter in August to update fans on the project: “The script for that final episode is written,” he said. “I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.”


When will it premiere?

Keyart for The Stand series for CBS All Access

The production for The Stand kicked off in fall 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, surprising some Gastown residents with “highly visible graphic content.” Shooting was set to wrap in March, but they were forced to end production four days early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, CBS All Access announced that the series would premiere on Thursday, December 17. The nine-episode series will release new installments weekly for subscribers.


SPOILER ALERT: WHILE INFORMATION THAT FOLLOWS WILL BE FAMILIAR TO FANS OF THE STEPHEN KING’S NOVEL AND THE 1994 MINI-SERIES, SOME OF IT MAY BE CONSIDERED SPOILERS TO ANYONE WHO HAS NOT READ THE BOOK OR SEEN THE SHOW.


Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg and Nat Wolff series THE STAND

(Photo by Robert Falconer/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

For those who have read the book and seen the previous mini-series, the following is a refresher on some of the names, places, and conflicts in the source material.


WHEN IT TAKES PLACE

The answer to this question depends on the version of The Stand we’re referring to. King first released the novel in 1978, making the story in the book transpire in 1985. An unabridged edition of the book was released in 1990 and four years later, the CBS mini-series hit television taking the story into the ’90s.

Now, it looks like the upcoming series will take us into present day. This time around, the story will be told in a non-linear manner. Instead of beginning at the inception of the virus, showing civilization’s decline into madness, the CBS All Access mini-series will start smack-dab in the apocalypse after Captain Trips has ravaged almost all of humanity. It’ll be through Lost-like flashbacks that audiences will get introductions to important characters and be exposed to bigger pieces of the overall story.


WHAT’S THE BIG CONFLICT?

Owen Teague and Odessa Young in series THE STAND

(Photo by Robert Falconer/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

After the end of the world, what happens to the remains of civilization? Instead of simply following a group of survivors as they battle hordes of undead zombies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, King evokes a war between good and evil to decide humanity’s fate.

The Stand separates the remainder of society into two factions: those who follow the saintly 108-year-old Abigail Freemantle (aka Mother Abigail), and the ones who side with the sinister Randall Flagg.

In the newly released teaser trailer, the clip begins with Mother Abigail appearing to Frannie Goldsmith in the middle of a cornfield telling the pregnant woman to “come see me at Hemingford Home.” This is how Abigail brings her followers together, through dreams beckoning them to the fictional Nebraska town.

Flagg’s power comes in the form of manipulation and influence, appealing to the darker natures of humankind. It’s through the presentation of his supernatural abilities (necromancy, divination, and an uncanny influence over animals, to name a few) that brings an allure to the survivors who wish to exploit this barren landscape to create a new society built out of their own self-serving wants and desires. Flagg’s army sets up shop in the land of excess and sin, Las Vegas, Nevada, which is pretty on-brand for the Dark Man if you ask us.

Towards the end of the teaser trailer, we get a glimpse of Mother Abigail coming face-to-face with a menacing wolf on what appears to be her dining room table. In the book, Flagg sent wolves to murder a character named The Kid who was sort of a temporary sidekick to The Trashcan Man — a mentally disturbed individual who had a penchant for setting things on fire.

The Kid revealed to The Trashcan Man he had plans to overthrow Flagg once he arrived in Las Vegas. That didn’t go as planned, though, as Flagg succeeded in killing the guy. There has been no mention of this character appearing in CBS All Access’s upcoming adaptation, but by the looks of things, Flagg may still be using his wolf-controlling abilities to instill fear in his enemies.

Randall Flagg has appeared in roughly nine of King’s novels (eventually showing up as a dastardly wizard in the Dark Tower series — it’s theorized that he appears in more books under different names), but made his debut in The Stand. It’s been said the new series will take deviations from the book, which makes it very possible we’ll get different perspectives of the character — who is also known as “The Dark Man,” “The Hardcase,” and “The Man in Black,” among other monikers — which may provide a more connective glimpse at one of King’s more notorious boogeymen.

When all is said and done, the big conflict here is the struggle for ownership of the world; it’s a proverbial heaven-or-hell battle that will dictate the overall future of humanity.


LOCATIONS WE’RE LIKELY TO SEE

Owen Teague in series THE STAND

(Photo by Robert Falconer/CBS ©2020 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

The Stand is an expansive story that literally takes its readers from sea-to-shining-sea. Each character featured in the book begins in their own specific city before ending up in Boulder, Colorado — the city where the virus was created in the book, and the location where the big battle takes place.

Given that the new series was shot entirely in British Columbia, Canada, we’re unsure where the story will take us. We already know Mother Abigail resides in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, and Randall Flagg will set up shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. That said, here’s a rundown of where some of the characters are from.

Stu Redman — Arnette, Texas

Frannie Goldsmith and Harold Lauder — Ogunquit, Maine

Glen Bateman — Woodsville, New Hampshire

Tom Cullen — May, Oklahoma

Larry Underwood and Rita Blakemoore — New York City

Nadine Cross — South Barnstead, New Hampshire

Judge Ferris — Peoria, Illinois


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