The Stand: Henry Zaga Opens Up About Approaching Deaf Role "Truthfully and Respectfully"

CBS All Access' new adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand debuted on Thursday, but the eagerly anticipated limited series event is already drawing a bit of controversy with the key role of Nick Andros, who is deaf and mute in King's novel, being played by hearing actor Henry Zaga. Deaf community members have even called for a boycott of the series over the casting, but Zaga recently told ComicBook.com that he doesn't take the role lightly and explained the work that he put into the role to portray the character as "truthfully and respectfully as possible."

"To me as an actor, I had a lot of work to do and as a human being to open my heart to a culture, to a language and portray as truthfully and respectfully as possible," Zaga said. "And I was lucky to have wonderful Deaf friends who opened their hearts to me and took me to events and taught me ASL. I think the biggest thing we can do to portray a character like Nick is do our homework and respect, open your heart, open your mind to everything you can learn from people that have lived through those obstacles be it a communication one or you know so, yeah, I was lucky to know amazing Deaf people who were willing to take me through it and walk me through it."

Earlier this week, filmmaker Jade Bryan shared a statement on Twitter with more than 70 signatories stating that the casing of a hearing actor to play the Deaf character of Nick Andros was not acceptable and stated that "we will not endorse, watch, or support your miniseries on CBS All Access. We will share our displeasure of the casting decision and airing of the miniseries on CBS All Access with our Deaf community, signing community, friends, and family of Deaf individuals; together we make up 466 million worldwide."

This isn't the first time that concerns have come up about the casting. Back in 2019 when Zaga was announced in the role, concerns were raised about the choice. Model, actor, and Deaf activist Nyle DiMarco spoke out about the casting as did actor Jared Perez-DeBusk who also reached out to The Stand director Josh Boone and shared on Twitter his exchange with the director who explained that his intention was to honor the character in King's book -- in the book Andros can hear and speak in dreams as well as when he appears to another character as a ghost. He also indicated that Zaga was learning ASL and that there would be deaf consultants on set.

Zaga's comments about taking the role seriously also aren't the first time he's spoken about the character. He previously told Bleeding Cool that playing Nick was "an honor".

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"The Stand was an honor, just to put it lightly because I didn't even know that I had it in me to draw so much from Nick," Zaga said. "Nick's become such a special character. I'll have him with me forever. He sees that goodness in every person. The most evil person you meet, he would try and see the good in him or her and try to draw from that. He's really fearless in that way. He says no to The Devil himself, you know, and becomes the godly woman's right-hand man. And her voice as a deaf man. I learned so much from playing this character, from ASL, which is one of the most beautiful languages I could ever dream to learn. It's so expressive and so personal, too."

The first episode of The Stand, "The End", is now streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes arrive every Thursday.