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In The Stand, Nadine Cross and Randall Flagg have a very… special relationship. He, a unique kind of supernatural evil, first reached out to her when she was young, and once he got his claws in they stayed buried – and the grip only tightens as the world falls apart following the Captain Trips outbreak. Audiences have seen this poisonous bond start to grow in the new CBS All Access adaptation, the characters respectively played by Amber Heard and Alexander Skarsgard, and the former had nothing but great things to say about her scene partner when discussing their roles during an interview last month.
Participating in a roundtable interview with Amber Heard last month during the virtual press day for The Stand, I took the opportunity to ask about take on Nadine’s relationship with The Dark Man and her experience working with Alexander Skarsgard. Without giving too much away, she credited a lot of the authenticity of the material on screen to her costar, saying,
My character has had a relationship with and has been trying to prepare to deal with, or been repaired by [Randall Flagg] her whole life… I don't want to spoil anything, but I wouldn't have been able to do it without the charisma of the actor who played it. Alex [Skarsgard] just really made that horrible part of ourselves so infinitely, sexy, and attractive and that's the only way to do it, I think.
The temptation of Randall Flagg was something that Amber Heard clearly thought a lot about in the making of The Stand, and she didn’t hold back when it came to analyzing what it is about the character that makes him work as such an effective antagonist – both in the new streaming series and in Stephen King’s original novel.
As noted by the actor, Randall Flagg isn’t some kind of horned demon who instills fear through chaotic violence. Instead, he not only looks like a human, but plays on what is arguably the most human aspects of his targets: their flaws. He seduces people by appealing to their most craven instincts, and encourages not the emotional low road, but the emotional easy road. Said Heard,
What's interesting about how King created this character is that he is more real than the devil. He's meant to serve as a surrogate for our temptations, our baseline desires and impulses, the less empathetic, the less socially conscious, the less and pathetic version of ourselves. But he's still supernatural enough, ‘cause it's Stephen King, hello. But he's just in the between zone between full demon/demonic force/supernatural and therefore unrelatable, and then someone you can kind of relate to.
Randall Flagg’s seduction approach varies from target to target, as seen over the course of both Stephen King’s The Stand and new adaptation, because different things appeal to different people. Above all else, though, he is charismatic, and that’s what Amber Heard finds “genius” about the portrayal by Alexander Skarsgard. She continued:
He does represent that inner part of ourselves that wants to cheat or wants to cut this corner or wants to react out of anger or aggression, whatever. He represents all of that. And that's what's so beautiful about the character that King created. And Skarsgard, the genius of him is that he can play that while being infinitely, likable and charming. And I think that was the only way to really do this, and the reason I think only he could really pull this character off the way he did.
Amber Heard further explained that it’s the captivating nature of Randall Flagg and Alexander Skarsgard that makes the character sinister. When he’s putting life’s options on the table, he makes it hard for you to not take the long road to his slowly growing kingdom in Las Vegas:
This person occupying this space of the ultimate temptation, the ultimate part of ourselves that we want to look away from, that we want to overcome, that we want to be better than, what's the point of having that if it's easy to turn away from? What's the point of overcoming that if it's easy to defeat? The whole charm and the whole intrigue of it is that it's difficult to resist.
At this point in The Stand miniseries, audiences have really only seen Randall Flagg as a background player – which is very much in line with the structure of the book – but that’s going to change a great deal in the weeks ahead. Flagg’s role is only going to get bigger and bigger in the second half of the adaptation, and that very much includes further developments in his relationship with Nadine.