Stephen King doesn’t pop up in all of the adaptations of his work, but when he does it is always delightful. From poor soul Jordy Verrill in Creepshow, to the incredibly annoying caretaker in Sleepwalkers, to the blunt shopkeeper in IT Chapter Two, it’s always wonderful to see his face. One of his best cameos in recent years is in the first season of Mr. Mercedes, where he can be spotted in the sixth episode as a murdered line cook – but what you probably don’t know is that the Master of Horror ended up facing one of his greatest fears so that he could film it.
While Stephen King is an expert at scaring readers and audiences, one thing that personally chills him is flying in airplanes. As such, he demonstrated some bravery when he agreed to travel from his home in Maine to South Carolina to visit the production of Mr. Mercedes’ sixth episode. What wasn’t planned was his spur-of-the-moment cameo forcing a race between his return flight and an oncoming storm.
Mr. Mercedes director/producer Jack Bender told me this story late last month when I had the chance to speak with him in promotion of the show’s third season arriving on Peacock. Being a fan of the show and Stephen King’s cameo, I specifically asked about how he came to play a bleeding corpse in a serial killer’s fantasy. As Bender explained, it wasn’t a planned thing, as the author had only gone to the set to observe, but he had an idea of how he could be included:
Stephen was on the set that day watching, and I said, 'Hey, Stephen, do you want to be in the scene?' And he said, 'Yeah!' And I said, "Okay!' And I've got some great pictures of him standing on the set with me, with the hatchet in his back and all that stuff. So we came up with the idea, and I said, 'Ok, well, let's do a shot where a bunch of waiters and people are just dead and there's blood on the floor. And the steady cam will creep along and come up to Stephen totally dead.' And it was pretty great.
The scene in question is definitely not for younger viewers or the faint of heart. In it, the show’s titular serial killer a.k.a. Brady Hartsfield (Harry Treadaway) is featured having a lunch meeting with the manager at the electronics store where he works, and two executives. While discussion goes on about Brady’s ideas for the future of the company, the psychopath drifts off and imagines chopping up everyone in the restaurant – including the members of the kitchen staff.
It’s great stuff, but during the production day there was a ticking clock, as Stephen King felt a strong urge to travel before the weather could get too bad. As Jack Bender explained, though, there was not only the filming process that took up time, but also King’s remarkably polite behavior with fans on set. Said the filmmaker,
He was game, he had to fly out quickly, and a storm was coming... We got it all done, and it was great, but there was a bunch of people wanting to take pictures with him, and he was very gracious, as he always is. And then finally I said, 'No, he's gotta go! He's gotta go!' He says,' Yeah, I gotta beat this storm!' We've talked a lot about his fear of flying among other things.
Obviously the story has a happy ending, and now fans just get to enjoy Stephen King’s amazing cameo forever.
If you haven’t already seen it, now is definitely your chance, as Season 1 of Mr. Mercedes is available for free on Peacock, and the same will be true of Season 2 starting this Thursday, March 4. That date also marks the launch of Season 3 on the subscription service, so there's a lot to be excited about!