In 1994, Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic novel The Stand was turned into a miniseries on ABC. Twenty-six years later CBS Access is streaming their version of the iconic story, premiering on December 17th, 2020.
The miniseries is based on King’s ‘uncut’ version of the novel. It follows the handful of survivors after a plague that has wiped out most of humanity. They split their allegiances between Mother Abagail and the evil Randall Flagg, known as the Dark Man.
The miniseries stars James Marsden, who plays Stu Redman; Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith; Whoopi Goldberg portrays Mother Abagail; Amber Heard as Nadine Cross and Alexander Skarsgard is the evil Randall Flagg, aka the Dark Man.
James Marsden, Whoopi Goldberg, Odessa Young and Amber Heard spoke with the TV Critics Association about their new series.

Questions for Stephen King

James, did you get the chance to meet with Stephen King?

The Stand - James Marsden
James Marsden as Stu Redman in The Stand ©2020 CBS Interactive, photo by Robert Falconer

James Marsden: I’ve always been a huge fan of Stephen King. I didn’t get to actually meet the man in person. Hopefully that’ll happen at some point. I think that his presence was always felt on the set. There was communication with him by the showrunners. He always seemed very pleased with our adaptation and where we were going with it.

I’d love to have a conversation with him and dive really deep into the genesis of The Stand. Where it all came from in the back of his mind. We let the scripts lead the way and we felt very strongly about the writing and just went from there. I think that his blessing was felt throughout the shoot, and that was enough for me.

The Stand - Owen Teague and Odessa Young
Owen Teague as Harold Lauder and Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith in The Stand ©2020 CBS Interactive, photo by Robert Falconer

Odessa and Amber, were there any questions you wished you could have asked King about the story or your characters?

Odessa Young: I think that The Stand for (Stephen King) felt like a really compulsive story. He knew exactly what he wanted to say. He knew how to say it, and he let himself just go for it.

There weren’t that many questions that needed to be asked. I feel like the story is so fruitful in in these conclusions. Any questions that you have about certain characters or their motivations are answered in the most satisfying ways.

Amber Heard: I want to echo what Odessa said. King is the easiest author from which you can pull any sort of inspiration or guidance as a character. He offers such a rich depth of material that basically the job is done for you. You just have a wealth of options and depth of information.

Long Life

Whoopi, Mother Abagail is 108 years old. What is the secret to her longevity?

The Stand - Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail in The Stand ©2020 CBS Interactive, photo by Robert Falconer

Whoopi Goldberg: Listen, it’s all in the in the lineage. I myself am 108. And my skin looks amazing, because I have the genes. And that’s the key.

She’s got a little God dust on her too. You know you can’t look that good without a little God dust. And the same for Alexander (Skarsgard). He looks great (as the Dark Man), because he’s got some devil dust on. That’s how I’m looking at it, so it balances out.

Who else doesn’t Age?

Aside from Whoopi, who doesn’t age or change throughout the miniseries, the show jumps back and forth so much. There are time differences. Your looks change, your loyalties change. Who was the best at keeping track of today we’re five months back?

James: When you shoot a movie or shoot a TV show you shoot it out of order anyway. (When) the storytelling takes us on a nonlinear approach it’s a little more interesting. I would always call Ben (Cavell) or Taylor (Elmore, Executive Producers). They were the greatest sounding board as far as any questions (about the) timeline.

It was important that we all had great clarity on that. That was something that Ben helped us out with along the way… and the wardrobe department, the hair and makeup teams.

Odessa: My job was very easy. It was if I was pregnant, it was one time period. And if I wasn’t than it was before I got pregnant. That was my whole job.

Reshoots

Amber, didn’t you film after the quarantine went to effect?

The Stand - Amber Heard and Gordon Cormier
Amber Heard as Nadine Cross and Gordon Cormier as Joe in The Stand ©2020 CBS Interactive, photo by Robert Falconer

Amber: Yes, we had some reshoots because our filming got cut off at the end because of COVID. We couldn’t complete a few scenes. We did shoot in August, I believe, outside of Las Vegas.

Connecting in a pandemic

Could you talk about the surreal situation of shooting in the world that was going on around you?

Amber: It’s very bizarre to get your hair and makeup done from basically people in hazmat suits. For a film about a pandemic of sorts that shuts down the world, it’s a very surreal experience.

It’s eerie, especially when so much of our job is about connecting and intimacy. It’s really difficult to do that on terms that are set by a lot of red tape and plastic masks. But it’s necessary.

Monster under the bed?

Whoopi, it’s sort of remarkable that in all of the movies you’ve done, you’ve never really done a horror film.

The Stand - Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abigail in The Stand ©2020 CBS Interactive, photo by Robert Falconer

Whoopi: Listen, I’ve been begging for 30 years, but who’s gonna think I’m a bad guy? Who’s gonna think I’m the monster under the bed? Nobody.

So it wasn’t something you were avoiding or had reservations about?

Whoopi: Not at all. I moved into people’s homes to scare them so that I could get this part. I’ve been trying to do this since the original miniseries came out. But I found out that Ruby Dee was my age now when she did Mother Abagail. So it’s worked out great.

If it had come any sooner, I would have probably just messed it up. I’ve been looking for a horror movie to do my whole career. What I love more than almost anything is a good scare.

Soundbyte

Amber and James were asked why they think so many people are fascinated by horror films – click here to listen to their answers

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.