The Stand's Owen Teague On Stephen King, Playing a Sociopath, and More
"He's a really sad character to me but also terribly interesting," Owen Teague says about his character in Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell's new adaptation of Stephen King's The Stand. In the post-apocalyptic epic, Teague plays Harold Lauder, a complex teenager slash budding sociopath.
We spoke with the actor about The Stand, being a Stephen King fan, and, hopefully, not playing any more psychopaths (for now at least).
You've been part of two Stephen King projects. Have you always been a fan?
I grew up reading his books, beginning in fifth grade, so I have been a Stephen King fan for most of my life. The Stand was one of the earlier ones that I’ve read, and I loved it. So I was very excited when I got the call to play the challenging role of Harold Lauder.
What was the audition process like for The Stand?
I talked to Josh Boone on the phone, and he told me what he was thinking about for the series and more specifically, his take on the character of Harold. We seemed to be on the same page for the role, so I sent him a tape. After that, I went in and read a couple of scenes with Odessa [Young], and that was it. Josh is also a huge King fan, which was clear the moment we started talking about the character and the story.
How did you prepare for the role?
I started with rereading the book. Obviously, the book was an important piece, and from there, it was about thinking the way that Harold thought and the way that he conducts himself in the world. I fleshed him out for myself as much as I possibly could. Part of that was online research; in terms of researching people like him and people who think like him. Another part was writing, since he has a journal in the book that he calls his manifesto. So, I started writing from the time I got the role until the time we stopped shooting. I really was working on Harold's manifesto, which seemed a bit weird, but it really helped me get his thinking straight, as well as get the timeline straight. Then there was the physical stuff; finding his walk, his posture, his way of speaking, and so on. I worked on just trying to make him feel part of me and tried to internalize as much of him as I could.
Did you watch the 1994 miniseries?
Not until I was done. I was very curious about it, but I'd never seen it. I didn’t want to pull from that miniseries because it was clear that we were making a different take on The Stand. We were updating it and having it take place in a different time period. We were making it our own. Once I was finished, I went back and watched the '94, and I really enjoyed it.
How would you describe Harold Lauder?
He's a very lonely kid who hasn't had a lot of support, or love, from his parents, his sister, or from people in his community while growing up. He doesn't really have friends. He has largely been ignored by his mom and dad. His sister thinks he's an embarrassing, disgusting piece of garbage. He's ostracized by the people at school and by people in Ogunquit, and this fills him with rage. He wears this hatred for other people and for himself as kind of a protective shell, and that's what ends up getting him in trouble in the end. He's also extremely smart and gifted with words and very practical, too, even though he doesn't seem like it. He's very good at learning how to adapt, which is what ends up being his strength in the apocalypse, as he's able to be resilient in the face of all this death and figure out the way forward when nobody else can.
What was the most challenging about bringing Harold to life?
I think it was finding the balance of light and dark, because he's a disturbed character but also fun on screen. He's got a lot of funny moments, and he can be a clown in some scenes. He's the weird one and the funny one—but in a dark way. I think that was the challenge for me; making the true sad darkness real for myself but also being able to play the crazy stuff. That was tough.
What makes this character different from the others you've played?
He thinks differently than pretty much anybody else I've played. I've played psychopaths, I've played people bent on revenge, but never for the reasons that Harold has, which to the rest of us probably seem pretty petty—you know "You stole my girl you. You guys didn't let me on the committee." It's not really something that someone else would try to kill someone over, but to Harold, those are very valid reasons to completely go off the deep end. So yes, this character was different.
What's next for you?
I just did a film in Montana, which is a beautiful story about two siblings. I actually did a couple of movies, but I'm not sure when those will come out ... sometime in the next year or two. Hopefully, I won't have another character like Harold for awhile. It's been nice to be able to step out of that zone of inhumanity and have roles playing better people.