Honestly, we never thought we'd see the day that Josh Boone's long-long-long-developing adaptation of The Stand would actually happen – not for lack of wanting it to, either. Back in 2014, when Boone was plotting a four-movie adaptation of the post-apocalyptic epic, our resident King-heads put together a list of actors we felt were perfect for the lead ensemble. Five years later, Boone's adaptation is finally happening – for realsies, this time! – as a 10-episode limited series on CBS All Access (you know, the place where you can watch Star Trek: Discovery).
As such, our original list has become somewhat outdated, and we've got a few new ideas about who should star in this highly-anticipated adaptation of The Stand. Fellow King experts Scott Wampler and Russ Fischer joined me in fan-casting the hell out of what could easily be the next great television event.
Read on for our picks, and share yours in the comments below.
Frannie Goldsmith: Back in 2014, I couldn't imagine anyone playing Frannie except Brie Larson, whose just seemed like such an effortless choice. But now I have some different ideas about who should play the pregnant and incredibly kind young protagonist. It would be a very good role for someone like Kaitlyn Dever (Larson's co-star in Short Term 12) or Julia Garner, but an even better one for Kiersey Clemons. The rising star of Hearts Beat Loud and Sweetheart (which recently premiered at Sundance) could definitely pull off Frannie – a character who undergoes a transformation from naive to resilient, forced to grow up far too soon thanks to an unexpected pregnancy and, uh, ya know, the friggin' super-flu apocalypse. Plus it would be nice to see a more diverse cast. It's not as though King (or most authors, really) specifically writes his characters as white; that's just the skin color most (read: white) imaginations default to. Let's change that. –Britt Hayes
Stu Redman: I have two words for you: Scoot McNairy. It's hard to divorce the smalltown Texan and first person known to be immune to the super-flu from Gary Sinise's portrayal in the TV miniseries. And McNairy is basically the new Sinise, if you think about it. Besides, there are few actors capable of playing stoic small-town southerners with poignant character arcs like McNairy (an actual Texan!), who's done as much in Halt and Catch Fire and more recently on True Detective. (Bonus points if they cast him and we get to see his tramp stamp. Yes, he has a tramp stamp.) –Britt
Randall Flagg: For years, the prevailing consensus was that Matthew McConaughey should take on the role of Stephen King's most iconic villain. Then The Dark Tower came along and ruined that pairing forever; maybe McConaughey really was born to play that part, but we're never gonna see it happen under a director who knows what he's doing, in a film that deserves the performance.
So let's set McConaughey aside. Who else has the sweaty, magnetic, dangerously sexy skills one might need to bring Randall Flagg to life? We suggest Walton Goggins (note: this was actually BMD contributor Britt Hayes' idea; I'm just stealing it and presenting it on everyone's behalf, because it's a great one), a dude who's spent the past decade delivering one excellent performance after another. He's certainly got the "scheming" thing down (see also: HBO's Vice Principals), and lord knows he's got the sort of charisma that'd inspire a whole army's worth of people to move out to Las Vegas.
Hell, put this guy in a jean jacket and a pair of cowboy boots and we might just move out there, too. –Scott Wampler
Larry Underwood: He could have been Jackson Maine. Larry Underwood is a caricature of the one-hit wonder, a singer who knocks the ball out of the park on his first swing, then acts like he's earned a ridiculous rock star lifestyle. He’s an indulgent manchild – but at least he's self-possessed enough to realize it before too long. While he’s written as young-ish in the book – probably in his mid/late 20s – when I imagine Jason Clarke playing the part it all clicks. With Clarke in the role, Larry has been working a little bit longer to make it, so convinced of his own talent that he takes advantage of everyone around him to realize his dream. His success is not a gift from the universe, but something he truly thinks he deserves. We know Clarke is scarily good when it comes to playing entitled dicks (hey, go see Serenity!) but he can add huge weight to the character’s later evolution into a family man and community leader. –Russ Fischer
Nick Andros: The part of Nick, the deaf and mute young man who falls into the role of local Arkansas sheriff before joining the rest of the ensemble, requires an actor who is very expressive and a little on the younger side. Casting someone like Nat Wolff (who I really like) seems a bit obvious, so why not diversify the cast yet again with Hayden Szeto, Hailee Steinfeld's exceedingly charming co-star from The Edge of Seventeen. That dude is entirely charisma – so much so that he kept me watching that dumb Truth or Dare movie long after I wanted to turn it off. –Britt
Harold Lauder: If King had written The Stand in more recent years, Harold would've been an incel who writes inflammatory misogynistic screeds on Reddit. The socially inept young dude who romantically obsesses over Frannie (to say the least) needs to be played by someone who can make you feel uncomfortable. Harold is described as being a larger guy with bad skin, but I don't think those aspects are necessary – you just need an actor who seems harmless enough but can also play a total creep. My vote goes to Barry Keoghan from Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Just go watch the spaghetti scene or the basement sequence and tell me I'm wrong. –Britt
Nadine Cross: Nadine is the dark-haired lunatic who's been saving her virginity because she believes she's destined for "greatness." She eventually teams up with Harold, who falls under her spell, and the pair go to join up with Randall Flagg because of course they do. After her stellar and incredibly complex performance on the second season of The Sinner, Carrie Coon is legit the only person for this job. Do not argue with me. You know I am correct. –Britt
Trashcan Man: Matt Frewer's Trashcan Man was one of the highlights of Mick Garris' 1994 miniseries version of The Stand, and one of the few elements that still holds up in 2019. He's a live wire, all gangly limbs and breathless mutterings and wild eyes. For the new Trascan Man, I'm going with someone who certainly has the skills to pull all that off...but who typically keeps things a little more contained: Michael Shannon.
Listen, Michael Shannon is, by all accounts, an absolute sweetheart. But he's also a giant weirdo, which is the first thing we oughtta be checking off the list when determing the next winner of the Trashcan Man sweepstakes. Second thing on that list needs to be intensity, which...I mean, come on. Shannon's nothing if not intense. Recall the bug-eyed, coiled-spring lunacy he brought to Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water, now wrap it in a tattered trenchcoat and picture Michael Shannon lighting gigantic gasoline storage containers on fire.
More importantly, picture Michael Shannon screaming, "My life for you!" Isn't that something you'd like to see? It's something I'd like to see. Make it so, Josh Boone. –Scott
Glen Bateman: This is the only fan-casting from 2014 that I haven't changed. Jeffrey Wright is the ideal choice for Glen, the eccentric retired professor. Wright is just so great at delivering expository dialogue in a scholarly manner, especially in front of a chalkboard. It's such a specific talent, and one shared by very few actors – actually the only other actors who nail this kind of thing on the reg are Jared Harris and Brian Cox. (That said, if you get Carrie Coon for Nadine, it might be fun to have her husband, the great Tracy Letts, as Glen.) –Britt
Tom Cullen: When we did these picks four years ago, I picked Jesse Plemons for Tom, and y'know what? I'm sticking with that choice. Here's what I said at the time, with a few minor tweaks:
Like Matt Frewer's Trashcan Man, Tom Cullen was pretty much nailed by Coach's Tom Fagerbakke in the Mick Garris adaptation. I picture Tom, and I see a big, dumb lummox in overalls, quizzically staring off into the middle distance out from under a mop of blonde hair. For a while I tried going for something else entirely – a wiry, nervous, dark-haired bumpkin with a less imposing physicality, and I pictured Sam Rockwell pulling this off. But is Sam Rockwell simple-looking enough? There's a cunning to that dude's face, and I don't see that meshing well with Tom. With Tom, you can leave or remove the overalls, the blonde hair and the size, but you really should maintain that sense of sweet idiocy. And with that in mind, I quickly arrived at Jesse Plemons.
Because I never watched Friday Night Lights, the first time I encountered Plemons was on AMC's Breaking Bad, where he played a sociopath by the name of Todd. At first glance, I admit I dismissed Plemons as yet another in the long line of less-talented Matt Damon clones currently being bred in Hollywood, but Plemons' work on Breaking Bad quickly disabused me of that notion. Plemons is good – really good. Even in Todd's worst moments, he was able to invest the character with an undercurrent of naive sweetness, and he quickly became one of my favorite parts of the show. He's an endearing presence, and a lot of that has to do with the way Plemons looks. True, he might be a smidge too young for the character as originally written in King's novel, but I don't think the age matters much: Tom just needs to be simple, sweet and able to pass himself off as a bad guy when it comes time to slip behind enemy lines in The Stand's final act. I think Plemons is the guy for the job. –Scott
Mother Abagail: The Stand has several problems, and many are directly tied to Mother Abagail, the 108-year old magical child of freed slaves who is chosen by God to lead the side of light. Abagail is a real nice lady and one of the biggest cliches in fiction. I wonder, in 2019, how many actors would politely decline (and privately mock) any offer to play the part as written in the novel. Writers have suggested race-bending Abagail as a way around some of the innate problems with the character. I’d rather see this adaptation address the issues by tightening the story’s focus on the Apocalypse as a battle for the soul of America. This adaptation of The Stand could directly address racism and questions of class that King’s novel often side-steps. I keep thinking of Betty Gabriel, not just because of the nature of her role in Get Out, but because of what I see in her eyes in that movie, and in Upgrade and Counterpart. Any actor will have to wear extensive makeup to create Abagail's look, and I'd love to see what Gabriel could do with the role. –Russ
Lloyd Henreid: Ol’ rat-eating Lloyd is a surprisingly memorable character in King’s novel. This guy could be a stock right-hand man, but he also shows us that Flagg's forces aren't entirely convinced by his con, especially as things start to go south in Vegas. Lloyd is all about self-preservation, but he's not entirely evil. On the D&D alignment chart, he’s chaotic neutral, but edging towards pure neutrality. If the Boulder clan had found him first there’s a chance he would have struck out with them and ended up as a sullen but not unproductive member of the light side. So I’m looking at Jeremy Strong, whose role on Succession is a pointer towards how Lloyd needs to be smarmy and self-serving, and entitled but not entirely confident. Strong can say a lot with a single glance, and act as a barometer for Flagg's approval rating as the post-apocalypse draws on. –Russ