Owen Teague started filming CBS All Access’s new adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel The Stand in September 2019. The post-apocalyptic epic takes place following a deadly, weaponized virus that wipes out over 99 percent of the world population. Six months later, The Stand would complete filming mere weeks before filming crews shut down internationally due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It makes watching The Stand today an even headier experience.
But pandemics aside (and, of course, COVID-19 is no Captain Trips), the limited series holds significant cultural and political parallels to today’s world. Those parallels compelled life-long Stephen King fan Teague about the project.
“[Harold] very much fits into the alt-right movement. The way that Flagg [Alexander Skarsgard] is portrayed fits in with Trump and those kinds of politics. Someone that can take power and can attract that sort of following,” Teague explained. “While Flagg is obviously not quite like Trump in many ways, he’s still that sort of demagogue who wants complete control and complete loyalty and power. He plays on your fear and your hatred, which is exactly what Trump does.”
Teague’s portrayal of Harold Lauder ranks among his best work to date. He captures Harold’s twitchy anxieties and jealous obsessions in an eerily precise way. The role is a significant departure for the actor who typically inhabits the lonely or troubled brooders of Bloodline or Mrs. Fletcher or outright psychopaths like It‘s Patrick Hockstetter.
Harold’s capacity for, but total lack of, empathy fascinated Teague as a character.
“Harold is very aware of what other people are thinking and feeling, and that’s his big problem. Does he care so much? He does have capacity for empathy. He just doesn’t use it. It’s never been something that served him well because he’s always needed to defend himself and make himself feel safe. I hadn’t played someone whose insecurity caused so much destructive pain.”
To create Harold Lauder beyond the descriptions in the scripts, Teague sought additional inspiration from King’s original novel, particularly in the way King describe’s Harold’s physicality. Far heavier than the slim Teague, the novel’s Harold clocks in at around 240 pounds. Given the size difference, it became important for Teague to figure out a way to portray that heaviness without relying on changes in his physical appearance. That heft manifests in Teague’s walk and overall stance.
But the driving force behind Teague’s interpretation of Harold centers in the excitement and the new possibilities he feels in a post-pandemic world. Tortured by bullies and shamed by his sister, Captain Trips strips away most of what made Harold miserable. The pandemic, in a sense, marks a very fresh start for Harold Lauder.
One in which life becomes an epic adventure.
“It’s exciting for him, and he has a weird practicality to him where he’s very good at improvising things and figuring out his way forward under these incredibly uncommon circumstances. I think that’s really fun for him: figuring out the path to Atlanta, siphoning the gas, figuring out the mopeds, collecting the maps, putting together his outfits,” Teague shared. “Being Apocalypse Man is a project for him. It’s like his own adventure. He gets to be the heroes of these books that he’s read. When there was a pandemic in real life for me, I did not feel like Robinson Crusoe.”
The Stand is now streaming on CBS All Access.