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Photo Credit: James Minchin/CBS.


By Nate Millado

Benjamin Cavell was just 11 years old when he first read The Stand, Stephen King's magnum opus of good versus evil in a post-apocalyptic world. "It was so immersive and transporting; I remember just being kind of sad when it was all over," says the veteran writer and producer (Justified, SEAL Team) upon reaching the end of the weighty tome. Luckily, this is just the beginning of the end. Executive producers Cavell and Taylor Elmore reimagined The Stand as a nine-episode limited series for CBS All Access—with an entirely new coda, written by King himself. "He wanted a more satisfying climax for Frannie [Odessa Young]," Cavell explains. "I think it's quite beautiful."


Showrunner Benjamin Cavell\u200b

Showrunner Benjamin Cavell

Photo Credit: Morgan Seal/CBS All Access.

In King's 1978 book, a virus wipes out all but a fraction of the world's population. Sound familiar? The "eerie similarities" to the coronavirus aren't lost on Cavell. (The Stand wrapped principal photography in March before COVID-19 cases began to spike.) But Cavell insists The Stand has never really been about (the virus) Captain Trips. "The pandemic functions as a means to strip away all the protections and artificial comforts that people are used to relying on," he says. "There's this question of, well, if you're rebuilding from scratch, how would you rebuild ? "

Two survivors walk through a street filled with abandoned vehicles with no sign of other humans.

Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor of the the CBS All Access series The Stand.

Photo Credit: CBS Interactive, Inc.

King's book has also proved prescient when it comes to the timely fight for civil rights, from the Women's March to the peaceful protests against police brutality. "I wanted to write about bravery," the author has said. "At some point, people do have to make a stand." Cavell adds: "There isn't a savior coming. There's only us."

Masked men make an entrance.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.


Aside from a 1994 miniseries, many have tried (and failed) to adapt The Stand, with its grand themes and vast cast of characters. So how did Cavell and Co. crack the code? For starters, the limited series format really lends itself to novelistic storytelling. "This is the medium The Stand was designed for," Cavell says. Then there's the involvement of King , who wrote the final episode. "He wasn't looking over our shoulder by any means, but he was seeing scripts, talking about casting and directors. And [King's son] Owen was in the writers' room!"

Owen Teague and Odessa Young sit looking pensive on a couch in a darkened room.

Owen Teague as Harold Lauder and Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

Cavell hopes The Stand will resonate with today's audience the way it affected him the first time he read it. "There's something that Stephen King taps into—universal interests, universal fears, universal desires—that is so visceral. It's inspiring to want to be able to create that feeling in other people."

The Stand streams exclusively on Paramount+. New episodes of the limited series drop every Thursday.

MEET THE MAJOR PLAYERS OF THE STAND

Photo Credit: Marco Piraccini/Getty Images.

MOTHER ABAGAIL (Whoopi Goldberg)

A role EGOT-winner Goldberg has wanted to play for nearly three decades, Mother Abagail is a 108-year-old woman with a connection to a higher power. She appears in the dreams of the plague's "good" survivors and convinces them to head westward. "In any other hands, the character would come across as humorless or holier-than-thou," Cavell says. "But Whoopi brings a gravitas and, just as important, a sense of humor."

Photo Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images.

STUART REDMAN (James Marsden)

When we first meet Stu, he's in a locked room with hazmat-suited strangers. The good-natured Texan had an ill-fated encounter with Patient Zero but is somehow immune to the virus. Cavell likens the handsome, versatile actor to a classic movie star, like Clark Gable or Cary Grant. "James is able to imbue his characters with so much soul and conflict and inner turmoil; he makes it look easy."

Photo Credit: Francois G. Durand/Getty Images.

RANDALL FLAGG (Alexander Skarsgård)

The denim-clad, demonic Dark Man is the embodiment of pure evil, using his looks, charm, and magic to lure the lonely and weak to Las Vegas. "Alex is such a perfect fit because he's just so magnetic," Cavell says. "Just being around him, you sort of have the desire to go where he's going."

Photo Credit: Paul Redmond/Getty Images.

RAY BRENTNER (Irene Bedard)

The Stand 2020 adds more women and people of color to the cast, including this gender-swapped role of Ralph as Ray. "As soon as [Irene] steps on the screen, she's able to convey a life lived; before she's even spoken, you sort of feel the weight of her character."

Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

NADINE CROSS (Amber Heard)

A shy teacher drawn to the dark side. "Amber is fantastic," Cavell raves. She has "so many layers" to tackle what's essentially a dual role.

Photo Credit: Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic.

FRANNIE GOLDSMITH (Odessa Young)

An outbreak survivor who's 21 and pregnant—but will her baby be immune, too?

Photo Credit: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images.

LLOYD HENREID (Nat Wolff)

A murderous robber behind bars when the world (as we know it) ends, Lloyd becomes Randall Flagg's right hand.

Photo Credit: Rachel Luna/Getty Images.

HAROLD LAUDER (Owen Teague)

An outsider carrying an unrequited (and somewhat obsessive) torch for Frannie. "Owen and Odessa—their on-screen chemistry is amazing."

Photo Credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images.

LARRY UNDERWOOD (Jovan Adepo)

A self-centered musician who scores his first hit single just as the virus takes hold. Hedonistic but completely sympathetic, thanks to Adepo's pitch-perfect performance.

Photo Credit: Tasia Wells/Getty Images.

NICK ANDROS (Henry Zaga)

A young deaf, non-verbal man who finds himself in a position of authority. Cavell praises Zaga's "wonderfully expressive eyes that convey so many emotions."

Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

GLEN BATEMAN (Greg Kinnear)

When you're rebuilding a society, it's probably wise to have a widowed sociology professor around.

The Stand streams exclusively on Paramount+. New episodes of the limited series drop every Thursday.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

By Nate Millado

Forget ABBA and IKEA: Sweden's best export is actor Alexander Skarsgård. So when it came time to cast a mysterious man with "a lethal smile and unspeakable powers" in CBS All Access' highly anticipated limited series The Stand, Skarsgård was perfect for the role of mesmerizing villain Randall Flagg. "Alexander Skarsgård is so beautiful and he's so charming and charismatic," marvels showrunner Benjamin Cavell. "In a world in chaos, you can see how a guy like that might make people feel safe and protected. You sort of have the desire to go where he's going."

In anticipation of Alexander Skarsgård's latest tour-de-force performance, let us count the ways we love him so.

The epic limited series The Stand premieres Thursday, Dec. 17, exclusively on CBS All Access. All-new episodes drop every Thursday.

He Can Pull Off An Eye Patch

Skarsgård played Lady Gaga's murder-minded love interest in the music video of her 2009 hit "Paparazzi."

And He Can Rock A Loincloth

Shirtless Tarzan in the jungle

Skarsgård in a scene from the 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan.

Photo Credit: YouTube.

The actor gained 25 pounds of pure muscle to play iconic vine-swinging hero Tarzan opposite Margot Robbie.

He's Sweden's Sexiest

Alexander Skarsgard in a turtleneck at a press conference in London

Alexander Skarsgård at a February 2019 London press conference for his film The Aftermath.

Photo Credit: Vera Anderson/WireImage/Getty Images.

His native country voted him Sweden's Sexiest Man five times in a row! "Every single day, I walk up to that mirror and think, five times motherf---er, five times," he quipped in a 2015 interview with Mirror.

Acting Runs In His Family

\u200bAlexander Skarsgard and brother Bill Skarsgard wearing Ermenegildo Zegna

Alexander Skarsgård and brother Bill Skarsgård attend a magazine party in 2018 in Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Rachel Murray/Getty Images Entertainment.

Dad Stellan's film credits include Good Will Hunting, Marvel's Thor movies, and Mamma Mia!, while brother Bill terrorized kids as creepy clown Pennywise in Stephen King's It remakes.

He's Got A Sense Of Humor

In this hilarious bit for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, Skarsgård tells the host about an ancestor who once owned a bar, smoked a cigar, and played the guitar.

And He Knows How To Vamp

He really sank his teeth into his star-making (and often, ahem, revealing) role as True Blood vampire Eric Northman. Lucky for us, Skarsgård isn't shy about showing some skin.

He's Served In The Military

Alexander Skarsgard in Battleship

Skarsgård in a scene from Battleship.

Photo Credit: YouTube.

When he was 19, he enlisted in the Swedish Navy—and became a sergeant! Surely Skarsgård was able to tap into his military background for Battleship (opposite Rihanna in her big-screen debut) and Generation Kill.

He's An Emmy Winner

Alexander Skarsgard accepts the Emmy Award

Alexander Skarsgård accepts the 2017 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

Photo Credit: Trae Patton/CBS.

When you're in a series with stellar actresses including Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, and Nicole Kidman, it's kind of hard to stand out. And yet Skarsgård left an indelible impression on viewers—and Emmy voters—for playing Kidman's abusive husband, Perry, in HBO's buzzy Big Little Lies.

He's The Perfect Villain

Randall Flagg beside a neon sign

Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg in The Stand.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

Which brings us full circle to Stephen King's The Stand. In the post-apocalyptic epic, Skarsgård plays a mysterious man who woos the weak and vulnerable with his magic (literal and otherwise). He squares off against 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) and survivors of an eerily similar global pandemic. We can't wait to see what Skarsgård brings to Randall Flagg!

The nine-episode epic limited series The Stand premieres Thursday, Dec. 17, exclusively on CBS All Access. Catch new episodes every Thursday, only on CBS All Access!

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

By Nate Millado

A deadly virus ravages the world as survivors grapple with rebuilding society in light of a global pandemic. Sound eerily familiar?

Hard to believe that Stephen King's novel The Stand was published in 1978. Now CBS All Access has adapted his prescient, post-apocalyptic magnum opus into a nine-episode limited series, premiering on Dec. 17. It's the ultimate battle between good and evil: in one corner, 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg); in the other, Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), a charismatic man with a killer smile and unspeakable powers.

Watch caught up with The Stand showrunner Benjamin Cavell, who previews the highly anticipated epic.

The nine-episode limited series The Stand premieres Thursday, Dec. 17, exclusively on CBS All Access.

Under The Influence

Randall Flagg approaches Lloyd in a prison

Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg and Nat Wolff as Lloyd Henreid in The Stand.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

What was your first introduction to The Stand?

I think I probably read The Stand when I was 11. I just remember loving it. I know this book is, like, 1,200 pages long, but it was so immersive and transporting. Probably everybody who's grown up in the last, I don't know, 50 years who wanted to tell stories has been influenced by Stephen King. He's found, I think, some universal interests, universal fears, universal desires. It's hard to describe the extent of his influence and reach.

We're sure Stephen King has been part of your creative DNA.

Having read his books, I know that there's no question. There's something that he taps into that is so visceral, so deep. It's inspiring to want to be able to create that same feeling in other people.

Limited Series, Unlimited Possibilities

Larry and Rita wander an abandoned city street

Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood and Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor in The Stand.

Photo Credit: Best Possible Screengrab/CBS © 2020 CBS Interactive Inc.

The Stand was a miniseries in the '90s, and there were once plans to turn it into a multiple film franchise. But it's been notoriously difficult to adapt. How did you and CBS All Access crack the code?

The idea of The Stand as a two-and-a-half-hour movie—I don't even know how you would approach it. It seems to require the kind of really novelistic storytelling across eight, nine, or 10 hours that a limited series offers. This is the medium The Stand was designed for.

King's Blessing

Frannie Goldsmith in a dusty room

Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith in The Stand.

Photo Credit: James Minchin/CBS.

You produced Justified and created CBS' SEAL Team, so obviously this isn't your first time at the rodeo. How is a limited series different from those experiences?

Well, for one thing, we have Stephen King actually involved in this from the beginning, so we were adapting it under the eye of the author. He wasn't looking over our shoulder by any means, but he was approving scripts, involved with casting, and talking about directors. And [his son] Owen King was in the writers' room! To be able to adapt The Stand with the blessing of the guy who originally created it—that's pretty special.

Speaking of special, Stephen King wrote an all-new coda, which serves as the final episode. Why do you think he wanted to rewrite his own ending?

In the book, Fran doesn't go on the Stand, so he always wanted a more satisfying climax of her own. I think [the new coda] is quite beautiful.

Battle Lines Drawn

Masked men barge in during a scene from The Stand\u200b

Masked men barge in during a scene from The Stand.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

King said about creating The Stand: "I wanted to write about bravery. At some point, people do have to make a stand." Whether it's the Women's March or the peaceful protests going on right now, people have been making a stand. Do you feel like this series resonates even more in 2020?

I love your construction that, you know, essentially we're all over the place at this moment where we have to choose to take our own stand, just as the characters in the book have to choose. I certainly hope the series will resonate and look, I completely agree with you—for me, The Stand has never really been about a pandemic. I mean, of course it is, but the pandemic really functions as a means to strip away all the protections and artificial comforts that people are used to relying on. The protagonists in the book are forced to stand on their own; there is nobody else, there isn't a savior coming, there's only us.

Role Of A Lifetime

\u200bMother Abagail praying

Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail in The Stand.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

You've assembled an impressive cast, including James Marsden, Greg Kinnear, Heather Graham, and, of course, Whoopi Goldberg in a role she's wanted to play for nearly 30 years now. What does Whoopi bring to Mother Abagail?

This goes without saying, but Whoopi brings a kind of gravitas. But probably just as important is a sense of humor. In any other hands, the character of Mother Abagail could be sort of humorless and holier-than-thou.

Hex Appeal

Randall Flagg beside a neon sign

Alexander Skarsgård as Randall Flagg in The Stand.

Photo Credit: Robert Falconer/CBS.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Dark Man. What do you think of Alexander Skarsgård's interpretation of Randall Flagg?

Alexander Skarsgård is so beautiful and he's so charming and charismatic. In a world in chaos, you can see how a guy like that might make people feel safe and protected. Alex is a perfect fit in that role because he's just so magnetic; just being around him, you sort of have the desire to go where he's going.

Stand And Deliver

Tell us about some of the changes you brought to The Stand—like a gender-swapped version of Ralph Brentner.

It was important to us to update a number of things about the book in 1978. We we wanted to make a story that had more women and more people of color in our central cast than are featured in the book. One of the first things we wanted to do was make Ralph a female character. I've always loved Irene Bedard (Pocahontas, Smoke Signals). As Ray Brentner, Irene is so wonderful; she conveys a certain kind of lived-life when you see her on screen.

What part of the book were you most excited to bring to life?

Well, this may be obvious, but the final showdown in Las Vegas. The ways in which we were able to realize a lot of the vision of the book in a way that just, frankly, wouldn't have been possible in 1994. That was very exciting.

Last question: What is your memory throughout this whole Stand experience?

Wow, that's a wonderful question. I guess it's the moment at which I realized that everybody involved with the production, including these iconic performers, all felt just as determined to do right by our source material and ideas. That they really felt a stake in wanting to pull this off and bringing something new and special to it. And selfishly, the moment that stands out to me is the moment that that I proposed a change we wanted to make by Stephen King. And he essentially said,
"Sounds great. If you guys think that this change is the way to go, I defer to you." It's really hard to top that.

The nine-episode limited series, The Stand, premieres Thursday, Dec. 17, exclusively on CBS All Access.

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