Whoopi Goldberg made some modern updates to her 108-year-old character Mother Abigail in CBS All Access’s limited series “The Stand,” saying she has made her more reflective of the times in which we now live.
“She couldn’t be the magic Negro,” Goldberg said in Friday’s virtual New York Comic-Con panel for “The Stand,” the upcoming adaptation based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name originally published in 1978.
“That was fine 40 years ago, but she had to be a real person. She had to be much — you had to be able to feel her, you had to know her. You had to understand where she was coming from, why she made the choices she made. How she thought she was supposed to do things,” she explained.
“I needed her not to be the little old Black lady who has all the information. She doesn’t. She’s hopeful that she’s right, but she’s not positive. She’s told everybody where to come, how to meet her — but now what? And then God stops communicating. It becomes this whole other conversation in her head. But her exterior is, ‘Listen, I got this. Trust me.'”
Mother Abigail’s advanced age and what era she would have come from in King’s novel wasn’t on her mind while making the series, Goldberg noted.
“We’re not in the ’70s. The world of Mother Abigail in the ’70s minus the 100 [years] would be very different, I think, than now,” she said. “So what Mother Abigail recognizes is that change comes all the time; it’s a constant. It’s the one thing that you always know is going to be there. So when she is sort of awakened in her divineness, when it comes, she’s like, ‘OK, this is what I’m supposed to do. And then she forgets she’s not God; she’s the messenger.”
That said, Goldberg is clear on the significance of power in the story and the effect it can have.
“It’s something that happens to people. Power can sometimes make your mind think that you’re in charge, and that’s kind of the thing she has to figure out. ‘How do I do this and not make it about me leading the people, but make it about me, through God, leading the people where they need to go?'”
Speaking about the show’s central villain, Randall Flagg, A.K.A. The Dark Man, played by Alexander Skarsgård, Goldberg added, “That’s very different from the person she’s going up against, because he does think he’s God.”
Watch the full video of the panel above.