Though Stephen King has written many, many books, The Stand is a title that very much stands out (no pun intended) as a favorite among his Constant Readers, and overall it’s easily one of his most popular. It’s why we are soon getting a brand new miniseries adaptation on CBS All-Access, created by Josh Boone and featuring an outstanding cast. That being said, there are a whole lot of people who aren’t overly familiar with the novel, and given that it’s pretty dense material it might end up being somewhat tricky for audiences watching the new show to keep track of the many, many characters.
If you put yourself in that category, we’re here to help you out.
Whether you’ve never picked up a copy of The Stand in your life, or have spent a number of years away from the material, this feature is for you. In order to prepare you for The Stand miniseries, we’ve put together this primer that will clue you in to the basics that you need to know about all of the main players. There are a lot of them, so let’s get started!
While all of the characters in The Stand have their own horror stories when it comes to the deadly virus known as Captain Trips (among many other names), the brave and tough Stuart Redman’s first interaction was quite significant, as he actually meets Patient Zero: a security guard from a Department of Defense laboratory that escaped when testing on the weaponized contagion went wrong.
Spreading the disease to his family and all he met along his journey, this man made it all the way from southern California to east Texas, which is where he crashes into a gas station where Stu and his friends are hanging out. The new CBS All-Access miniseries will see Stu played by James Marsden, and his journey on the show will begin with him being rounded up by government officials and transported to a Center For Disease Control facility where it’s discovered that he is one of an extremely limited number of people immune to the world-ending illness.
When we first meet Frannie Goldsmith (played by Odessa Young in the Stand miniseries), she is dealing with some serious issues that have nothing to do with the virus. At age 21 she has gotten pregnant, and she doesn’t have real feelings for the father of her child. Living with her parents in a small town in Maine, she winds up surviving the outbreak and watches as her family and just about everyone in town dies – the one exception being Harold Lauder (who we’ll get to in a minute). Together they understand the importance of companionship and leave Maine in hopes of finding survivors. This is how Frannie winds up meeting Stuart Redman, who becomes her true love.
The love between Frannie and Stu at the end of the world is a beautiful thing… but one person who doesn’t quite feel that way is Harold Lauder (who will be played by Owen Teague). There is an extent to which he is selfishly happy about Captain Trips, as he is obsessively in love with Frannie and wants desperately for her to return his sentiments. At first his feelings are mostly innocuous, but they certainly make the target of his affection uncomfortable. When they eventually meet Stu, however, Harold begins a significant personality change that takes him to a scary place.
Mother Abigail Freeman
With The Stand being a Stephen King story, the fact that it has elements of the supernatural should be of surprise to nobody, and right at the heart of it is Mother Abigail Freeman. The character, who will be portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg, is a deeply religious 108-year-old woman living on a family farm in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, and through a higher power she has a connection with all of the innately good people left on Earth following the deadly pandemic. All of these individuals wind up having dreams about Mother Abigail that convince them to travel westward to find her – first to Nebraska, and then eventually to Colorado to be a part of the new society known as the Boulder Free Zone.
The presence of real good means the presence of real evil, however, and that’s where Alexander Skarsgard’s Randall Flagg enters the picture. Alternatively known as The Dark Man, he not only has an influence over the dark-hearted, but is a master manipulator who works his literal and figurative magic over the weak and lonely in hopes of further expanding his own society in the remains of Las Vegas. His influence is almost limitless, with the exception being around Mother Abigail, who is human but possesses great power. It is his ultimate goal to destroy the society that has been established in Boulder, Colorado and rule what remains of humanity.
Set to be played by Henry Zaga on the CBS All-Access adaptation, Nick Andros is one of the most thoughtful, kind, and noble characters in The Stand. He is a deaf mute, which unfortunately not only makes communication a challenge at times, but also positions him as a victim of prejudice. In the book he uses a pad and pencil to express himself, and can read lips of people he’s conversing with. His compassion can get him in trouble at times, and does, but he is also unafraid to make hard and complicated decisions.
Tom Cullen, who will be played by Brad William Henke in the new CBS All-Access miniseries, first enters The Stand when Nick Andros finds him all alone in a small town in Oklahoma. Being mentally handicapped, he doesn’t quite understand what is going on with everything in the world, but he finds an incredibly supportive friend in Nick, who sympathizes with Tom because his own handicaps frequently make people think he is slow.
I won’t spoil too much here, but he becomes an important figure by the end of the book in the war between the Boulder Free Zone and Randall Flagg’s society in Las Vegas. He also frequently emphasizes statements by spelling what he believes are key words, but he is of the understanding that every word is spelled “M-O-O-N.”
One of the smartest men left alive after the Captain Trips outbreak, and the self-pronounced best painter in the world (he’s terrible – it’s just because everybody is dead and he assumes nobody else paints), Glen Bateman is one of the most important members of what becomes of the Boulder Free Zone, traveling westward in the party that includes Stuart Redman (who becomes his best friend), Frannie Goldsmith, and Harold Lauder. He is a good guy to have around at the birth of a new society because he was a sociology professor in the old world and knows a thing or two about how to expect humans to react in a crisis such as the one thrust upon the characters. He will be played by Greg Kinnear in The Stand miniseries.
Is Larry Underwood a nice guy? That’s not only a question considered by the various people in Larry’s life, but also by Larry himself – and the catastrophic events that plague the world only wind up heightening the internal crisis. Before the superflu he was on the verge of becoming a big deal in the music world, but in the aftermath he is left with nothing but guilt. As Larry (played by Jovan Adepo in the upcoming miniseries) travels his way across America, he has to have a reckoning with himself and decide who he wants to be and which path he wants to take.
One of the first true tests for Larry Underwood in the aftermath of Captain Trips is presented in his relationship with Rita Blakemoor, who he meets in Manhattan. Set to be played by Heather Graham, Rita is, to put it kindly, not tremendously well-equipped to endure the end of the world. She doesn’t have a great sense for survival gear, has a tendency to complain a lot, and also has a pill problem that the virus-driven apocalypse definitely doesn’t end.
Nadine Cross, who will be played in The Stand by Amber Heard, is one of the most complicated characters in the book, primarily because of her unfortunate draw to the dark side. She enters the story when she and her traveling companion, a silent young boy she calls Joe, start quietly following Larry as he makes his way north, and eventually they travel together west following an accidental trail left by Harold Lauder. Troubles increase as Randall Flagg amps up his attempts to seduce Nadine to his side, and her will to resist proves to be only so strong.
Despite being immune to the superflu, Lloyd Henreid nearly dies as a result of the outbreak because at the time he is imprisoned in a Phoenix municipal jail. A dim-witted petty criminal, he is left locked in a cage starving to death as everyone in the facility succumbs to Captain Trips, and he is forced to do some horrific things in hopes of continuing his life. In the big picture, this perfectly sets him up to be a key figure in the society created by Randall Flagg, as the villainous Dark Man is the one who winds up saving Lloyd. Played by Nat Wolff in the show, it’s expected that The Stand will follow the book and see the character become Flagg’s lieutenant.
The Trashcan Man
Rumored to be played by Marilyn Manson, The Trashcan Man (born Donald Merwin Elbert) will likely stand out as one of the oddest characters in the new adaptation of The Stand. A formally institutionalized schizophrenic, The Trashcan Man got his name following a childhood incident where he set a neighbor’s trashcans on fire, and he grew up to become an obsessive pyromaniac. He sees Randall Flagg as a god-like figure and becomes one of his most devout followers, going through hell to make his way to Las Vegas.
Sadly at present we don’t know when CBS All-Access will be airing episodes of the new Stand miniseries, but you can be sure that we here at CinemaBlend are keeping a close eye out for any and all updates about a premiere date, and will bring you the news as soon as possible! In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye out for more features as our excitement over the new Stephen King adaptation continues to motivate us to obsessively write about it.
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Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.