CBS All Access’ limited series, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, concluded filming just three days before COVID-19 shut down production worldwide earlier this year in March, yet the cast has noticed just how similar apocalypse in The Stand is to our current situation, including actor Nat Wolff, who plays Lloyd Henreid, henchman of the story’s supernatural antagonist Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård):
“I got spooked. ‘Oh, COVID -19 is just like the flu’ like in the show, and I’m reading about prisoners in Italy lighting toilet paper on fire to get attention – I had just shot a scene where I was doing that. I went into panic mode.”
However, showrunner Benjamin Cavill emphasizes that The Stand isn’t just about a pandemic. While the superflu (dubbed Captain Tripps) does wipe out over 99% of the human race (along with dogs, horses and a myriad of other different species), the true story is a fight between good and evil of Biblical (literally) proportions, or as Cavill puts it:
“Captain Tripps is the mechanism by which the world gets emptied out so that King can do his Lord of the Rings in the United States and set up a walk to Mordor.”
Mordor, in this case, quite fittingly, being Sin City itself Las Vegas, which is where Randall Flagg and his following of lost souls live, in contrast to Boulder, Colorado, where Mother Abigail, the maternal and virtuous counterpart to Flagg’s cruelty and depravity, resides with her own community. For those unaware, the main conflict resides here, with two conflicting supernatural forces scrambling to gather up what remains of humanity.
Yet a global superflu isn’t the only similarity to our current predicament, as two figureheads of contrasting ideals collecting followers like Pokemon cards is all too reminiscent of this year’s election, a comparison almost confirmed not only with Flagg’s incessant need to brand his symbol on on every Vegas monument, but also with his frequent ego-boosting rallies, all too familiar traits of a certain candidate. Actress Fiona Douriff, who plays a character by the name of Rat Woman, former showgirl and one of Flagg’s sycophants (and gender bent from the character in the novel), also compares Skarsgård’s performance to a “sexy Trump.”
While Stephen King first wrote The Stand over forty years ago, CBS All Access’ adaptation is updating the story for the modern day. While one could make the argument that this strategy is taking a timeless tale and transforming it into a summary of 2020, I’ll play devils advocate and say that having a global pandemic in recent memory will completely revolutionize the “Contagion” genre. And in reference to Randall Flagg, characters like him will always exist. Yet only time can tell!
The Stand will be released on CBS All Access next week on the 17th, and as a Stephen King superfan, I’m still pretty excited for it!