'The Stand' Producers Explain Why the Series Is More Than a Pandemic Story (Exclusive)
By Zach Seemayer
With the world ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, it's easy to look at the new TV adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand and see how the show might mine its own central story of an apocalyptic virus for deeply unsettling chills. However, The Stand is about so much more than a pandemic -- and it's true villain is much more insidious.
Based on King's sprawling 1978 novel -- which has repeatedly been deemed one of the greatest books of the century by numerous critics and reviewers -- this latest take on the epic saga follows the timeless battle of good versus evil amid a world gone mad.
After a global viral plague decimates the world's population, a group of survivors (played by the likes of James Marsden, Jovan Adepo and others) band together under the guidance of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg), who claims to be an agent of God and goodness. Meanwhile, the worst of the surviving remnants of humanity are gathered together through the sinister machinations of Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), a man with nightmarish powers and an ominous moniker, The Dark Man.
Now, in the wake of the real-world viral outbreak, the setting of The Stand has become eerily familiar in a way the show's creators never intended. ET's Rachel Smith recently spoke with executive producers Ben Cavell and Taylor Elmore, who opened up about filming a story about a pandemic during the burgeoning phases of what would become an actual pandemic.
"We wrapped principal photography in Vancouver on March 11, with daybreak on March 12," recalled Cavell, who is also the co-creator and co-writer of the timely miniseries. The date is remarkable, as March 11 is also the day the coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic.
"I remember when the notices started coming out. We were shooting in Vancouver, and they started putting up COVID -19 precautions," Elmore shared. "It was like, 'Wow, it'd be so weird if this thing got really bad!' And then, well, cut to, you know, nine months later."
He added, "I think it just sort of infused a sense of, like, 'We really need to get it right with the reality.' With sort of like, how people react in these sort of circumstances."
While the viral outbreak of The Stand is undeniably frightening and disturbing -- particularly in the moments in which the fictional events mirror real-life occurrences -- the producers stress that it is much more than a story about a virus, or even about the apocalypse.
"For both of us, I know, The Stand is not really fundamentally a book about a pandemic, you know? It's really about this elemental struggle between good and evil, or the forces of light and dark," Cavell explained. "Captain Trips [the nickname for the virus in the novel] is just a mechanism to empty out the world so that our heroes can walk to Mordor."
So while The Stand features a population-decimating pandemic, it isn't actually about the pandemic, it's about humanity and human nature, cast against the backdrop of total viral devastation. "We just were always focused on doing right by this iconic book that was the reason that we wanted to do the project, and the thing that had been our sort of guiding light from the beginning," Cavell added.
That being said, Cavell acknowledged, "The events of the real world kind of dove-tailing with it is disturbing."
The Stand premieres on Thursday, Dec. 17 on CBS All Access.