The biggest takeaway from the latest episode of The Kingcast, in which former Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara opens up about his nixed plans for an epic adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, is this: Amazon done goofed up real good this time. If you’re a Stephen King fan, this week’s edition of The Kingcast is an especially frustrating listen—similar to the frustration of never getting to see Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of It. Mazzara spends the hour discussing his multi-season plan for The Dark Tower with hosts Eric Vespe and Scott Wampler, and the trio take an extremely deep dive into the material that will sound completely foreign to anyone unfamiliar with King’s magnum opus. To start, Mazzara lays out his basic narrative for the pilot:
The story of the pilot is basically Roland in the desert. The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed. In this version he’s chasing Marten because Marten was with Gabrielle [Roland’s mother] and he’s vowed his revenge. In the books, [Roland] gets his guns to kill Marten and then Marten sort of disappears from the narrative. So [Roland] chases Marten across the desert and ended up in Hambry. He meets Susan. In the pilot it’s the Feast of the Kissing Moon and she’s being presented to the mayor and she meets Roland on the road. Roland goes into Traveler’s Rest. He has the scene where the Big Coffin Hunters trip Sheemie and Roland gets into a classic western stand-off. The ka-tet catches up and we have Cuthbert use the slingshot and he takes out one of the Big Coffin Hunters. They go into the square and as they’re arguing, Roland explaining he’s there to find and kill Marten, Susan grabs him and they dance. They actually dance to a Flogging Molly tune, which I love. The Big Coffin Hunters come in and are chasing him through the square, but Roland sees Marten, so everything all collides in the end.
In addition to detailing the pilot (which few people have seen, though Mazzara shared it with Vespe and Wampler), Mazzara gets into his overall structure and approach to adapting the sprawling, genre-bending novels, as well as his ideas for future seasons:
If Season One ended with the death of Susan... In Wizard and Glass very quickly you go from the death of Susan to the death of Gabrielle, [Roland’s] mother. I felt that I needed a season to give me real estate so that Gabrielle’s death didn’t step on Susan’s and that it felt like an escalation. Roland fails to save Susan, but he actually shoots and kills his mother. In the book Gabrielle is not really a detailed character in a way that, say, Susan is, or even Rhea is. Gabrielle is really not fleshed out. She just doesn’t have as many pages attributed to her. I love that character. The actress we had for her was Elaine Cassidy, a fantastic Irish actress, and she did a really great job. So for Season 2, the war with Farson was building. I was maybe going to use the shapeshifter story (from Wind Through the Keyhole) as part of season 2 and get to the death of Gabrielle and either the fall of Gilead there or the fall of Gilead would be the season three premiere. Very quickly there would be a last stand at Jericho Hill and by episode 3.03 or 3.04 I was going to have Roland stumble out into the desert, follow him into the desert and then I was going to do a time lapse so that maybe you actually age Roland and switch actors. Then you have a new Roland reset the show at the top of season three, then go into The Gunslinger and by the end of that season go into The Drawing of Three.
Here it becomes really clear that Mazzara not only had some great ideas for The Dark Tower, but that he also has a firm handle on storytelling and had pretty much figured out how to deal with some of the novels’ trickier elements. Stephen King becomes a character later in The Dark Tower series, and Mazzara wasn’t shy about taking that on, explaining that he’d either get King to play himself (if he was down for it) or cast another actor to play King. And although Mazzara is largely diplomatic with regards to The Dark Tower movie from 2017 (early on he was developing his series to work in tandem with the planned film franchise), he notes that the film did a few things he explicitly wanted to avoid with his series—namely focusing too much on the mythology and sci-fi aspects instead of character-building.
Mazzara also divulged a few of the characters and plot developments he was looking forward to tackling the most, including how he’d handle Dandelo (a mystical villain whom many fans believe to be a relative of Pennywise from It):
I was really looking forward to Blaine. I had ideas for that. I was really looking forward to Callahan. In fact, I was hoping to take Callahan’s backstory from the time that he leaves ‘Salem’s Lot to the time he ends up in Mid-World, I wanted to do that as its own mini-series. I didn’t think you could fit that into the Dark Tower proper, so I wanted to split that off. I had plans to hire the best joke writers in Hollywood to write when Roland and Susannah meet Dandelo. I really wanted that to be laugh out loud funny. There were all these things I was jonesing to do.
Father Callahan comes up more than once in the episode; Mazzara reveals early on that his favorite King book is Wolves Of The Calla—another example of how and why he’s the right guy to take on an adaptation this sprawling an unwieldy, as material from that book would be some of the trickiest to adapt.