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Hail to Stephen King! UNDER THE DOME’s Creator Speaks

Stephen King is prolific, to say the least. George R.R. Martin, bless you, but if there is a workshop that would allow you to finish the A Song of Ice and Fire books on a Stephen King timetable, the world would breathe a happy sigh of relief. There isn’t a genre or medium that King hasn’t tried his hand at and arguably had some sort of success. He’s a man that created another persona just to see if people would read his books without his name attached. Whether you like his books or not, there is no arguing that King earns his acclaim.

And then, on top of all of this, he’s one of us. Stephen King is the very embodiment of Chris Hardwick‘s definition of the Nerdist ethos. King admires the works of others in a way that we can only dream of. His musings on pop culture for Entertainment Weekly are, by my account, required reading. He is an advocate for our culture and promotes creativity in everyone. King has even made his shorts available to student filmmakers in deals that have become known as “Dollar Babies.”

Now, thanks to Under the Dome, Stephen King is getting to try something a little different. King was recently on set in Wilmington North Carolina to see the first days of shooting of Season 2 of Under the Dome. As the first season of the CBS series covered most of his original book, the producers immediately went to King when it was decided the show would continue. From seeing King’s back-and-forth with the talent and producers on set, you can tell he is genuinely a fan of the new ideas the production brought to the table.

When we got to speak with him inside the Sweetbriar Rose Diner set, we immediately touched on the idea of writing for the show and building on their interpretation. “It’s really interesting,” said King. “I think that some of the purists who read the book get a little bit upset, or a little bit like, ‘Where are we?’ You know, because they see things that are different, and they say, ‘Well, that wasn’t in the book,’ or ‘This wasn’t in the book.’ But when I write a book, I’m not a plotter. I’m more, let the story go where the story wants to go. So for me, it was really interesting to see things go in a different direction.”

King further elaborated that a time difference would be the one of the biggest changes to his work and thus there would be a lot more detail to delve into. He clarified the thought with an analogy that could come straight from 1408, “Because, for me, a book is like a room that has all these doors, and every one leads to an interesting, different destination. So they took it and they were really up-front with me to begin with. They said, ‘We want to take this in an entirely different direction.’ And one of the things about the book was that when I started the book, I had an idea that it would probably cover several months, and you’d get a chance to see the food supplies run out, and all of these different challenges. The book – you go where the book leads you. For me, the way that it led me was the whole course of the action covered less than a month. So this is an interesting way to follow it and see where it goes.”

The author also appreciated the details producers have added that allow for deeper characterization. “They’ve been able to develop the characters and the characters’ back stories in a way that I couldn’t. For instance, Big Jim’s wife, who is just mentioned in the book as somebody who died, and he might have been involved in what happened to her – you never really get a chance to explore that. In the series, we get a chance to really explore that.”

One show that King said helps prove that strictly adapting the source material isn’t your only option is The Walking Dead. Like a lot of us, he’s been comparing the two and has no issue with the changes they’ve made for television. He quickly pointed out one of the most noticeable changes he was a fan of. “For instance, the Governor in the comic books is a guy who’s got an eye patch, and he’s kind of a hippie kind of guy – motorcycle dude and everything, and they went in an entirely different direction for the show, and it was good.”

As a fan of pop culture, King has his own set of writers and directors that he admires, so we had to ask him about his relationship with former show runner Brian K. Vaughan. While he may no longer be on the show, during our interview Stephen’s admiration for his colleague was clearly on display, “I loved his Y: The Last Man. That was great. I knew when I heard that he was involved that it was something that I really wanted to see him adapt, so yeah, you’re right. I like all different kinds of media. I like TV, I like movies, I like all that stuff, and I’m really interested in the whole idea of taking something that one person does, like me, in a room, and you build it out and you get a whole bunch of different writers involved and you see where they want to take it. So it’s really interesting.”

Perhaps it’s that Baum-esque love of adaptation that creates so many diverse opportunities for interpretation. After some prodding the writer filled us in on some of his favorites. “Well, Dead Zone the TV series was really an interesting thing, and I liked that a lot. I thought that was terrific. Haven is good too. I’m trying to think, something that really, really stood out. In terms of movies, Frank [Darabont]‘s adaptation of Shawshank and The Green Mile were terrific. And I loved The Mist. I loved what Frank did with that.” 

As we look to the future there is one novel adaptation we are definitely anticipating: The Cell. We prodded King for updates on the film and how faithful their interpretation will be. He filled us in and even noted a difference he’s excited about, a new ending. “Well, they’re not being totally strict, but it follows the arc of the book. I wrote the original screenplay, and it got adapted a couple of times, and each time that a new writer gets involved, it moves in a little bit of a different direction. But I’ll tell you one thing – the ending of the movie is so crazy and so great. The last scene is going to linger in peoples’ minds. The book is dark, but the movie is darker. It’s really – it’s a blast.”

The Stephen King-penned Season 2 premiere of Under the Dome airs Monday June 30th.

What’s your favorite moment of Under the Dome, Season 1? What are you looking forward to in Season 2? Let us know in the comments below.

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