The Stand: Brad William Henke on the Real-Life Inspiration for His Tom Cullen Portrayal

In the CBS All Access adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand, Brad William Henke plays Tom Cullen, a character who is very much the heart and soul of the story. A man with developmental challenges and intellectual differences, Tom ends up ultimately playing a significant role in the fight between good and evil and Henke's performance of the character is one built on humanity and nuance with the idea that Tom is more than his limitations. According to Henke, his take on Tom was inspired by a real-life friend's experiences.

Speaking with ComicBook.com, Henke explained how it was something a high school friend told him after suffering a head injury that influenced his portrayal of Tom Cullen.

"I went to high school with someone who, when they went to college to play football, they received a head injury. His name is Ed Reinhardt Jr. and I talked to him a few years later," Henke said. "And he said, 'in here, still me'. And that just made me just cry because he's stuck inside of there and he can't communicate. And so that really was, you know, the biggest thing is to not just be one dimensional. Yes, I want to be loved, but also I'm frustrated with that I can't communicate right. I'm frustrated with how I feel. So, there's just so many things going on."

He continued, "But the main thing is I want to be accepted by people. And what happens in the show is, you know, people like my main man Nick, accept me and inspire me and kind of rekindle a fire in me, you know, that I can do things."

Henke also explained that it was the challenge of the role that really attracted him to things as well.

"This felt like it would be such an amazing acting challenge," Henke said. "To do it right, it would be such a challenge. And that's what really attracted me. I felt like I could either, you know, create an amazing character or fall on my face. And that really excited me."

The Stand stars Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail and Alexander Skarsgard as Randall Flag, aka the Dark Man. The series also stars James Marsden as Stu Redman, Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith, Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, Henry Zaga as Nick Andros, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, Irene Bedard as Ray Bretner, Nat Wolff as Lloyd Henreid, Eion Bailey as Weizak, Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor, Katherine McNamara as Julie Lawry, Fiona Dourif as Ratwoman, Natalie Martinez as Dayna Jurgens, Hamish Linklater as Dr. Jim Ellis, Daniel Sunjata as Cobb, and Greg Kinnear as Glen Bateman.

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The first three episodes of The Stand are now streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes arrive every Thursday.