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The Stand TV series makes necessary updates to the 40-year-old book, stars say

By James Comtois
The Stand

M-O-O-N. That spells update. Although Stephen King's epic post-apocalyptic novel The Stand is a revered masterpiece, it is also more than 40 years old and, well, times have changed. The cast of CBS All Access' upcoming TV adaptation knows this, and during the virtual panel at New York Comic Con on Friday, they talked about some of the ways the series will correct, change, or expand on the original novel. 

Executive Producer Taylor Elmore said that one of the fun opportunities they found in adapting King’s novel was to “update the things that are 40 years old that you come across in the book with a little more of a modern lens,” and portraying “the world like it is now, not like it was in 1978.” 

“It gave a lot of opportunities to deepen characters and cast against type,” Elmore added. 

Among one of the characters that needed an updating from their portrayal in the book? Abagail Freemantle, aka Mother Abagail. In King’s novel, Mother Abagail is a 108-year-old black woman who draws survivors of the superflu to Colorado through people’s dreams and serves as the voice of God. King has received and acknowledged criticism that the character is an example of the “magical negro” stereotype. And according to Whoopi Goldberg, who plays Mother Abagail in the limited series, that portrayal just wouldn't fly. 

“We’re not in the ‘70s,” she said during the panel. “She couldn’t be the magic negro. That was fine 40 years ago. But she had to be a real person.” 

Goldberg continued. “I needed her not to be the little old black lady who has all the magic information. She doesn’t.”  

The Stand follows the survivors of a deadly plague that wipes out most of humanity as they're forced to take sides in a confrontation between good and evil; the former represented by Mother Abagail (Goldberg), while the latter by Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), aka the Dark Man. 

As outdated as some elements are, Executive Producer and Showrunner Benjamin Cavell also noted during the Q&A how relevant the story still is, and assured fans that they “did not make this show in response to COVID,” since the series was written and prepped in 2018, and production wrapped in March just prior to most productions going into lockdown.

“I think it’s a testament to how universal the book is and how prescient it is,” Cavell added.

The Stand premieres on Dec. 17 on CBS All Access.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of New York Comic Con Metaverse 2020.