The first episode of CBS All Access' The Stand adaptation debuted on Thursday taking viewers once again into Stephen King's unsettling post-apocalyptic classic but while the story of a world ravaged by a horrific pandemic may be familiar this latest adaptation offered up some key changes from page to screen. Most readily apparent was the story structure, but there are some bigger changes on the way as the series continues, including a more diverse cast and some gender swaps as well. According to executive producer Benjamin Cavell says is about making The Stand reflect the world as it is more than King's original 1978 novel.
"I think, and King has said this, too, so I'm not breaking news, the original in 1978 is very white and male," Cavell recently told ComicBook.com. "And certainly in 2020 that just doesn't, it just doesn't play the same way and for it to feel as much of this time and this place and this moment as the original did when it came out it meant that the people who are populating this book needed to feel like this moment and this moment in America. And, you know, 2020 America doesn't feel like a whole bunch of white men and Frannie or something. It doesn't and so we took the character of Ralph Brentner and turned him into Ray Brentner and got just the phenomenal Irene Bedard to come and play and what an amazing presence she is."
He continued, "And Rat Man who is sort of, he's a little bit undefined in the book. It's kind of hard to find those touchstone characters in Vegas beyond Lloyd and Flagg, really. So, we really built up the character of Julie Lawry and the character of Rat Man, now Rat Woman played by Fiona Dourif, who I had seen in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and thought was just a complete revelation and a genius. And you know, we just got to take her and run so that's essentially why we made those choices. It feels like it adds so much."
Perhaps the most divisive change among fans thus far, though, has been the decision to tell the story in a non-linear fashion. According to Cavell, it's one that allows the story to focus on what the story is really about -- and it's not the catastrophic Captain Trips pandemic.
"The fact is for both of us, the book's not really about a pandemic," Cavell said. "I mean, there is a pandemic in the book and it kind of creates the circumstances for an empty world, you know, across which our characters can walk to Mordor, but you know the story is not the story of a pandemic. And that's a big part of why we are telling this in a nonlinear way, that we didn't want to just go through this very linear story in which the first three episodes are all about a pandemic and the kind of death of the world. I mean, this book is about what comes after and this elemental struggle between good and evil. And that was going to be the story we were telling whether there was a pandemic or not in the real world."
The first episode of The Stand, "The End", is now streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes arrive every Thursday.