Stephen King‘s seminal novel The Stand is once again getting the small screen adaptation treatment — this time with a nine-episode series coming to CBS All Access. King’s 1978 book is one of his most popular (and currently, most relevant) titles and centers on a group of survivors who have managed to make it through a catastrophic plague, the Captain Trips virus, that cost the other 99 percent of the world their lives. But those survivors must still contend with the supernatural villain Randall Flagg, aka the Dark Man.
CBS All Access announced a straight-to-series order for The Stand in January 2019, which marks the first time the story has been adapted since ABC’s four-episode The Stand miniseries in 1994. To keep you up to speed on everything ahead for this eerie apocalyptic series, here’s a look at everything we know so far about CBS All Access’ upcoming The Stand series.
It’s premiering this winter. CBS All Access has announced that The Stand will premiere on Thursday, Dec. 17, with new episodes dropping weekly. Unlike many other Hollywood productions, filming on The Stand was largely completed before widespread shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic commenced — although, per Vanity Fair, filming wrapped four days earlier than originally scheduled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first trailer gives us a taste of the aftermath. The first trailer for The Stand was revealed in late August and offered audiences a sneak peek at the survivors coming together and the villains making their own stand. Previously, CBS All Access revealed the first footage of The Stand at its ViacomCBS Upfronts presentation on May 19. That teaser, which has not yet been released to the public, showed much of the central cast — including James Marsden as Stu Redman, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail, Alexander Skarsgard as Randall Flagg, and more. Amid images of destruction and confusion, a voiceover warned, “There’s bitter days ahead. Dark man come to destroy all who stand against him. You must go and make your stand.”
The coronavirus pandemic made filming a strange experience. Actor James Marsden has discussed the experience of filming the series as the COVID-19 outbreak intensified. Marsden told TV Guide in June, “I’m still getting over the fact that it’s a show about the global pandemic that wipes out 99 percent of the population. Very eerie to me still.” Speaking to Variety in a podcast in early March, he said, “There are scenes in the beginning of The Stand where as soon as you see someone who looks normal sneeze or cough into their arm, everyone’s eyes in the room darts towards them. I see that in public now, and everyone kind of takes a few steps away from the person. It’s crazy. We’re in full panic mode right now.”
In late March, Stephen King himself even shared a chapter of the book on social media to demonstrate how viruses spread. Speaking to NPR, the author said, “I keep having people say, ‘Gee, it’s like we’re living in a Stephen King story.’ And my only response to that is, ‘I’m sorry.'”
The show will not make references to coronavirus. Although the story of The Stand is more relevant than ever, the series won’t be intentionally topical; according to Vanity Fair, the show will not reference COVID-19.
Stephen King approves of the scripts. King has offered high praise for what he’s seen of the series so far. “I’m excited and so very pleased that The Stand is going to have a new life on this exciting new platform,” King said in a statement when the series was announced. “The people involved are men and women who know exactly what they’re doing; the scripts are dynamite. The result bids to be something memorable and thrilling. I believe it will take viewers away to a world they hope will never happen.”
King is also going to rewrite the final coda and provide a new ending. Think you know how The Stand ends based on the book and the previous miniseries adaptation? Think again. According to CBS All Access, King “will write the last chapter of the series, providing a new coda that won’t be found in the book.” This new coda in the new series’ final episode is obviously top secret and gives fans of the book a new reason to tune in.
The script for that final episode is written. I was glad Josh Boone gave me the chance, because that final story has been in my mind for 30 years.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) August 2, 2019
It will begin after the plague. Although the source material begins before the plague devastates the world, and the TV miniseries version did the same, CBS All Access’ new The Stand series will pick up with the few remaining survivors, who are immune to the Captain Trips virus, cleaning up the devastation in a Boulder neighborhood, per Vanity Fair. The characters’ pre-plague lives will later be revealed through flashbacks.
It’s a true ensemble. In the TV miniseries version of The Stand, Stu Redman stood out as the Free Zone’s de facto leader, a man who took charge to lead other panicky survivors to Mother Abagail and help lead the fight against the dark man, who wants to bring their worst nightmares to reality. However, Marsden told TV Guide that fans can expect the action to be a bit more spread out in the upcoming adaptation at CBS All Access. “[Stu is] one of 12 leaders… He’s the leader of Boulder, of the Free Zone, [but] it’s an ensemble cast, but it’s very diversified, and everyone has their powers and their strengths and their stories that they’re telling,” Marsden said. “And as much as in the original book, it’s like Stu Redman is your Gary Cooper. I’m the voice of reason and steadiness and calm, and he is, but every character in our interpretation is going to complement one another and work together as a one-unit, one-force [group], which is pretty cool.” Marsden’s character Stu is one of several survivors who follow Mother Abagail, who metaphorically carries them on her frail shoulders as the group takes on the unspeakable powers of Randall Flagg in Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of the global pandemic.
The cast is solid. The ensemble cast of The Stand is impressive. The series stars James Marsden as Stu Redman, a prominent member of the Boulder Free Zone community; Alexander Skarsgard as Randall Flagg, the supernatural leader of the evil survivors who wages an elemental struggle with the Free Zone; Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, a survivor who is seduced by Alexander Skarsgard’s Randall Flagg, thanks in part to his lethal smile; Nat Wolff as Flagg’s sidekick Lloyd Henreid; Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail, the spiritual leader of the Free Zone survivors; Jovan Adepo as musician-turned-survivor Larry Underwood; Odessa Young as the pregnant Frannie Smith; Owen Teague as Frannie’s jealous friend Harold Lauder; Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor, a wealthy woman who is ill-prepared for the end of the world and attempts to escape superflu-infested New York; Henry Zaga as the deaf and non-verbal Free Zone hero Nick Andros; Brad William Henke as the sweet but barely literate Tom Cullen; Kat McNamara as the wild teen Julie Lawry; Eion Bailey as Teddy Weizak, a member of the survivors’ body crew; Hamish Linklater as Dr. Ellis, an infectious disease specialist with the military who wants to cure the epidemic that’s infected the world; Greg Kinnear as Glen Bateman, a widowed professor whose cranky exterior masks a heart of gold; and Daniel Sunjata as a military member named Cobb, who supervises Stu Redman. Musician and actor Marilyn Manson also told Revolver that he will be acting in the series, in addition to contributing to its music with a cover of The Doors’ “The End.” Rumor has it, he will portray the Trashcan Man whom King fans will remember from King’s novel and the 1994 miniseries.
The producers are major fans of the book. Josh Boone and showrunner Benjamin Cavell are writing and producing The Stand for CBS All Access. Boone is known for directing 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars, while Cavell is known for his work on series like Justified, Homeland, and SEAL Team.
Boone, who will direct the first episode and is an executive producer on the series, has revealed a longstanding connection to King and the novel story of The Stand. He said in a statement that his parents burned the book when they found him reading it as a child, leading him to request a new copy from King himself. “I stole my Dad’s Fed-Ex account number and mailed King a letter professing my love for his work,” said Boone. “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.”
Cavell serves as showrunner for The Stand alongside Justified‘s Taylor Elmore. He told Vanity Fair that the series will incorporate some of the most meaningful elements of the book. “It’s about the fundamental questions of what society owes the individual and what we owe to each other,” Cavell said. “Over the last however-many years, we have sort of taken for granted the structure of democracy. Now, so much of that is being ripped down to the studs. It’s interesting to see a story about people who are rebuilding it from the ground up.”
The Stand is the latest of several scripted TV series to come to CBS All Access, which is also home to The Good Fight, No Activity, Strange Angel, Tell Me a Story, Star Trek: Discovery, The Twilight Zone, and Why Women Kill.
The Stand premieres on CBS All Access on Thursday, Dec. 17.